Our new ‘Must Read’ section is dedicated to sharing the words of some of the top bloggers from within the emergency services, NHS and armed forces – both past and present.
The blogs are hand-picked by our team but do not necessarily represent the views of Emergency Services News.
Instead, they reflect the experiences of individuals who have first-hand experience of what they are writing about.
Today’s blog is written by a serving armed response officer:
‘After passing the 12-week long Firearms Course we have to complete regular training to maintain your Firearms status within the department.
‘In my police force, we train every 5 weeks. This is as well as a 6 monthly fitness test and annual health check. The fitness test is the 15m bleep test.
‘For those that don’t know what this is, it consists of two lines 15m apart which you run between. There is an audio recording that bleeps. You set off running at one line and when the bleep sounds, you need to be at the other line and turn and run back.
‘Each level stays at the same pace but each level is faster than the one previously.
‘So, the more levels you complete, the faster you are running. To standard Police fitness test is to run until level 5.4. The firearms fitness test is currently to run to level 9.4. To reach level 5.5 you will run between the two lines 36 times and be running at 10.5 km/h. Level 9.4 equals 76 shuttle runs to a speed of 12.5 km/h.
‘One big reason that we have a higher level to reach is that we have to keep our fitness levels reasonably high.
‘We carry much more weight in kit than other departments. Our ballistic vest are heavier than the standard stab proof vests. We carry weapons and ammunition. We wear ballistic helmets and may carry shields, additional ammunition, door entry equipment and heavy first aid bags that include an oxygen cylinder and defib.
‘This kit that we routinely carry is between 3 and 7 stone in weight depending on which bits we need at the time. Plus we then need to be able to deal with any situation that we are faced with.
‘The health check we complete consists of eyesight and hearing tests, blood pressure and weight checks. A urine sample is given and checked. Every 5 years we have to provide a full GP report from our personal Doctor.
‘The training days will either be a shooting day or a tactics day. We have tactics to deal with subjects on foot, subjects in vehicles or in buildings.
‘We train to deal with subjects out in the open countryside or in urban environments. Within each tactic there are different ways of completing it. For example, with a vehicle there are different ways to get it to stop and once stopped, different ways to deal with the occupants.
‘We will be given a specific tactic to perform but with contingencies, if we need to change it quickly.
‘Therefore, we all need to be singing off the same hymn sheet. We must know how to perform every task in every tactic that we can use.
‘Unless absolutely necessary we will never put on a tactic with just one ARV. We will always look to have 3 or 4 ARV’s. That’s for all tactics, for subjects on foot, in a vehicle or in a building.
‘We, as ARV Officers, therefore need to be switched on and alert to what our specific role is as well as knowing what everyone else is doing.
‘On a training day we will be wearing full kit, sometimes in a private setting or sometimes in the public and will have a number of Firearms Training staff watching and evaluating what we do. We will be run through several different scenarios from simple to complex. The days can be very full-on and tiring both physically and mentally.
‘We also have to pass regular qualification shoots. These are with 5 different weapons for the standard ARV Officers. We also have Officers with a specialist role within the department that will have different weapons and qualifications to pass as well as the ARV ones.
‘The qualification shoot consists of shouting from different distances, different shooting positions within different time settings. There is a high pass mark to achieve and the scoring is very strict. We have an outdoor shooting range so we will shoot in all weather conditions. We also use another Police Force indoor range occasionally to practice in different light settings for example.
‘Qualification day is a strange day.
‘Usually, on a training day we travel in a couple of minibus style carriers and the banter is relentless. Qualification day is usually much quieter. There are people on the teams that are naturally very good shots and will never have a problem in passing.
‘There are others that need to focus more and will generally be getting in their own little zone, readying themselves. My view is that we can all pass or we wouldn’t be in the department. We have all had to pass these shoots to get where we are.
‘I try not to think too much about it or it can get into your head and mess you up.
‘If you don’t pass the qualification with any weapon, your firearms permit for all weapons is withdrawn immediately. You will then have a number of development shoots over the next few weeks and you will be allowed to retake the qual shoot.
‘If you pass, you are reinstated straight away. If you fail, it’s time to leave the department!
‘Our department is very strict on the training, fitness test and health checks being completed and on time.
‘For example, the health check is every 12 months and if we go 1 day passed our firearms permit is withdrawn and we cannot carry a gun. We are a very professional department and rightly so.
‘We train often, keep our fitness up and have to pass qualification shoots.
‘If you want to be in this department and stay here, you have to work hard to maintain the levels required’.
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