Navy SEAL Experience for civiliansPosted: Updated:
Think you've got what it takes to be a Navy SEAL?
A new urban combat training center in north Phoenix that used to only specialize in training military and law enforcement, is now open to civilians.
It's more than just the chance to learn and play in TacVille. The new state-of-the-art, two-story simulated Iraqi village is decked out with hidden alleys, trap doors, bunkers and rooftop lookouts. You can also sign up for special mock missions with former Navy SEALs, military snipers and other law enforcement experts.
Eli Crane did the last nine of his 13 years in the Navy with SEAL Team 3 and deployed on three missions to Iraq.
"I was very impressed with it because in many ways, it replicates a lot of our training sites," Crane said.
He was one of the drill instructors at TacVille's first Navy SEAL Experience.
Rigo Durazo runs TacVille and the Tacflow Training Academy.
"They're like, 'Wow, he's not really much different than me,' and I say, 'nope,'" Durazo said.
"There's no secret. Other than their commitment to a belief and a passion. They're just normal people who are willing to do extraordinary things," Durazo said.
He says it comes down to instinct, commitment and discipline.
"This is what we call combat geometry. There is a science to movement," Durazo said.
He's spent more than 20 years training only military SWAT teams, secret service, undercover and special assignment officers, threat assessment and tactics to stay alive.
Now, to keep that business alive, he's opened a 20,000 square-foot facility to civilians.
"They're just getting a small taste of problem-solving under stress," Durazo said.
"Always be cognizant, if we get shot right now, think, 'Where am I gonna go? What am I gonna jump behind?' All of you better be thinking about it because if you're not, you're gonna get caught with your pants down and it's gonna be bad," Crane told his group of trainees.
The first mock mission: take out two terrorists who've stormed the embassy.
The sounds of battle and bullets flying fill the warehouse as they pump in audio of combat gunfire to up the adrenaline.
Teams make their way through the mock town looking for enemies upstairs, out windows, around every corner and quickly learn the value of working as a team.
"That's friendlies on the left! Don't shoot," said participant Ryan Denton.
A longtime paintball and Airsoft enthusiast, this is his first time in this scenario working with and learning from real-life former Navy SEALs.
"It makes you more appreciative of them putting their lives on the line, having bullets fly over their heads and keep charging forward," Denton said.
"I mean, they look like they could kill you with a paperclip but I think it's the mental thing, the not quitting, not giving up, never stopping," he said.
Crane and the other instructors start by going over basic safety drills.
"If you guys think this is a little cheesy, the best of the best do this right here. Before Navy SEALs learn how to shoot, we carry around these same shapes with us for months before we ever get weapons," Crane said.
He shared simple strategies on weapon safety.
"Never ever, ever put your trigger finger on the trigger unless you're getting ready to engage the target," Crane explained.
Also key is understanding the elements of combat like how over-watch snipers are used to set up cover for ground assault crews.
"It's kinda like a big porcupine moving through the street with a bunch of little spines pointed everywhere," Crane said.
You're taught tactical maneuvers, like clearing a room, or bounding down a street with your swim buddy, or partner, taking turns communicating and watching for fire as you take cover behind the next obstacle to advance.
And it's real easy to get amped up in the moment.
"The adrenaline dump kicks in and the stress, even when you're not being shot at yet," Durazo said.
"You have to have the mindset like, 'If this were real,'" Denton said.
Good thing it's not because he's got several nickel-sized bruises from getting shot with the compressed foam rounds.
You're given unlimited ammo and use realistic magazines that have to be removed and reloaded.
In the next objective, participants have to rescue the hostage.
Denton's team comes under heavy fire but manages to rush the embassy and retrieve the hostage, only to be ambushed at the base of the stairs.
"You shot the hostage!" they shout in angst.
Crane said while the urban setting is similar, this is just a fraction of a taste of the real thing.
TacVille is air conditioned, the ammunition isn't live, and it's meant to be a fun, learning experience.
"If you shoot the wrong guy here, you come out and laugh about it. If you shot the wrong guy over there, you're gonna have a bad day and you're gonna be in trouble," Crane said.
Close to home
Debbie Lee's son Marc, was the first SEAL killed in action in Iraq.
"These were the sounds Marc heard," she said of the gun blasts and screaming going on around her.
His death was depicted in the Hollywood blockbuster, "American Sniper."
"He gave all of his future, all of his tomorrows so we could have our todays," Lee said.
Part of the proceeds from the TacVille Navy SEAL Experience benefit her charity, America's Mighty Warriors.
And for one Arizona family, it's not role play.
It'll soon be real life.
"It's very real" said Shawn Evans.
And this dad, who enrolled to participate with his two teen sons, should know.
Evans has 23 years of experience in law enforcement.
He's also a former deputy and state trooper from the Verde Valley.
Now his sons are ready for the real-life version.
16- and 18-year-old brothers Stephen and Tim Evans say they're regular gamers but this is so much more than real-life "Call of Duty."
"I've always wanted to enlist ever since I was little," said Tim Evans.
Both plan to join the Air Force.
"I feel very honored, it was a really good experience just to learn from them and have all their experience telling us what to do and how to do things differently," said Stephen Evans. "Really helpful, especially since I have two years 'till I get to enlist."
"What I try to inspire in my boys is that there is a sacrifice," Shawn Evans said. "To understand that you could lose your life any time you put yourself behind a weapon."
You don't have to have any military or law enforcement background to go through this new one-of-a-kind training for civilians at TacVille.
Rates start at $65 and they include all your gear.
Next month, TacVille's running another fundraiser. You can sign up online now for the American Snipers Patriot Day benefiting AmericanSnipers.org
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