SEPULVEDA AIR NATIONAL GUARD STATION, Calif. -- Chaos. Screaming. More gunshots. Yelling. Crying. People running past the security forces Airman as they see the active shooter. Their heart pounds and adrenaline races as the shooter turns and points their weapon -- Pow pow!
Relying on their training, the Airman’s heartbeat continues to race after neutralizing the target. Looking around for other threats before holstering their training weapon, the Airman takes a deep breath, pulls off their headset and says, “Wow, that felt pretty real.”
The Street Smarts VR training system arrived at the 195th Wing’s Security Forces (SF) office at the Sepulveda Air National Guard Station (SANGS) in Van Nuys, California, in late September 2021. 195th Wing Commander Col. Robert M. Sage, tested out the virtual reality (VR) system at SANGS during his October unit training assembly tour to experience the technology and the training value it brings to the wing.
The VR technology is part of a cost-effective innovation plan to help implement SF training for both SF defenders and SF augmentees stationed at the 195th's eight geographically separated units (GSU) located throughout the state of California. SF Airmen now have an additional training tool to learn to react quickly and safely to potential threats and dangers that could occur while defending their bases and communities as a part of the California National Guard.
“Security forces are usually the first to respond to a situation and that requires extensive training and confidence in that training, by trusting the information given to you, trusting your gear and knowing how to use it,” said Staff Sgt. Alex Tranchina. “Street Smarts VR allows a better understanding of the information that is being taught to you and the equipment that’s being given to you. When you become more confident and skilled in your tools, tactics and timing, that directly relates to the de-escalation of violence.”
As the combat arms NCOIC for the 195th Wing, Tranchina said he is always looking for better ways to train Airmen and better prepare them for state-wide security forces situations and the potential for non-combat arms personnel outside of security forces to become engaged in domestic operations.
According to the Street Smarts VR website, this virtual reality-based simulation training platform offers an immersive, full-body experience with real-time feedback, so a unit can prepare for high-risk situations and worst-case scenarios safely, affordably, and with repeatability.
“This type of virtual reality training isn’t new to the Air Force, but it is new to the Air National Guard,” said Eric Goldberg, a business development executive with Street Smarts VR. "As of October, 9,000 defender users at 45 active-duty Air Force bases and across 10 MAJCOMS are meeting SF training requirements with Street Smarts VR.”
Additional Air National Guard units have been adopting their VR training system since the 195th helped to bring this VR innovation and training to the ANG community, said Goldberg.
“Col. Scott and Staff Sgt. Tranchina of the 195th spearheaded the implementation efforts of Street Smarts VR into the Air National Guard security forces career field,” said Goldberg. “The 195th and Street Smarts VR are truly getting after the true spirit the multi-capable, multi-functional Airman in future ACE (Agile Combat Employment) efforts.”
VR training enables their security forces Airmen to learn more quickly by experiencing real-world, heightened situations in a safe environment, said Tranchina. Training includes numerous types of scenarios and equipment options including lethal and less-lethal weapons to enhance reactionary responses, focused decision-making, and de-escalation techniques for potentially violent situations.
“This equipment is a unit-level and wing-level training multiplier,” said Tranchina. “It’s given us the ability to give quality and quantity training to all of our Wing members at a moment’s notice. We have the ability to enable commanders to tailor their training plans and give NGB and the governor’s office the ability to have highly trained and qualified individuals be ready to support domestic operations at a much higher level than our peers.”
In addition to producing highly-trained defenders, using VR as part of a forward thinking, innovative approach to readiness also uses resources more efficiently by bringing the training and the trainers directly to the Airmen at their units.
“This VR suite will enable our security forces to be mentally and procedurally prepared for physical engagements resulting in effective defense of our bases and personnel,” said Col. J.C. Scott, 195th Wing Vice Commander. “As well, the vision for us has always been, we (the 195th), expect to be a training hub for California when it comes to sharing this valuable training resource/capability with other Guard wing security forces.”