MAXTON — The pungent odor of gunpowder and clouds of smoke drifted across training grounds near the Laurinburg-Maxton airport Thursday as 100 North Carolina state Troopers fired round after round in preparation for the day they may have to use deadly force to protect themselves and others.
On the last day of the training session that started Monday, firearm instructors barked orders as troopers readied carbine rifles, lowered themselves to the ground and fired shots aimed at targets lined up several yards away.
The military-style training was a new experience for the highway patrolmen, who contacted the Gryphon Group, which provides active-shooter scenarios for those who are trained to carry a weapon, a few months ago with interest in learning how to better respond if a mall or school were to come under attack.
“We want to expose them to scenarios that will make them into effective problem solvers,” Frank McBee, vice president of Gryphon. “… They’re going to be better decision-makers when they’re done.”
Earmuffs worn by Troopers and instructors softened the deafening shots as bullets collided with a target. After a call of cease fire, Troopers lowered their rifles and made their way across the field to check the results of their shooting before moving on to yet another range that would challenge their accuracy.
Sgt. John Lewis, lead firearms instructor for Troop B, which encompasses counties from Robeson to the coast and north to Harnett, said the program was teaching Troopers to “move for cover and to shoot at certain distances.”
Lewis said that the sessions were used to teach how to handle intense and dangerous circumstances, such as a shooting at a public place.
“We’re preparing our guys,” he said, adding it helps prevent his team from getting “tunnel vision.” Troopers, he said, have to learn how to be more aware and prepared to handle unexpected and dangerous circumstances.
Patrolman moved on to other shooting ranges, some of which featured fences blocking the troopers’ view of targets — allowing them to practice aiming at a violent or armed subject that may be out of their line of sight.
The Gryphon Group owns 500 acres but they reserve 185 acres for shooting ranges. They offer training in foreign weapons, explosives and driving ranges and provide troopers with their instructors, targets, projectors and classrooms.
On one of the driving ranges McBee said that many soldiers are injured or killed when riding or driving in military vehicles because they haven’t learned how to effectively operate them. When troops are practicing driving along the simulating scenarios they have out in the field, they have to learn how to become more proficient drivers before they “go into war zone.”
“We want them to be aggressive, but not reckless,” McBee said.