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Staying sharp: An inside look at the TASER Training Academy

Keep your skills sharp at the TASER Training Academy Master Instructor Course — trainers, that means you, too

San Antonio, Texas, is known for many things: great Mexican food, the Alamo, and the Riverwalk to name a few. During the week of May 21st 2012, it was home to the TASER Training Academy Master Instructor Course.

Seasoned Master Instructors, as well as those attaining an initial Master Certification, descended on the Lone Star state from all corners. The certification is valid for three years, and allows those certified to train instructors within their respective agencies, as well as conduct compensated courses, on behalf of TASER International.

Recently assigned as the department lead for all items TASER, I was one of the newly-minted Master Instructors on May 25th. In preparation for attendance, I asked around and got a multitude of stories, some true others embellished. A few of these accuracies I will divulge, some you will have to see for yourself.

The true heart and soul of the Master Instructor course is the Senior Master Instructors. Senior Masters are hand selected by TASER International from the ranks of active Master Instructors. Whether assigned to instruct a block, oversee the delivery of drills, or the all encompassing task of Squad Leader, these are the boots on the ground that keep the wheels turning.

My first contact with the staff was meeting my squad leader, Chris Myers, in the lobby of the hotel the night before day one. Chris is a veteran of Seattle’s WTO riots and brings a wealth of knowledge to the training arena.

Present at every training evolution we were involved in, as well as conducting nightly study sessions in preparation of the daily written tests, Chris took his role seriously, evidenced by a zero failure rate in his squad, (yes they do fail instructors from the course).

I did not have the opportunity to meet all the assigned Senior Instructors, but a few stood out.

John Rose is a Senior Master from the Mid West. Those who know me will attest to the fact that I’m a firm believer in stress inoculation, non-static training and always seeking to engage the mid-brain. Some do it well, and some excel. John excelled. His drill was the lead in to the culminating Stress Course on Friday.

Students are outfitted with safety equipment, a training version of the TASER device, a handgun and paint marking rounds.

Placed in a room, students are rapidly engaged one at a time by a variance of threats from four opposing angles. Some deadly, some non-deadly, and some no-threat role players take turns presenting the student with decision making scenarios. It is easy to the see the rapidity required in transitioning between weapon systems.

This type of basic, inexpensive training is far too absent in most training programs.

Randy Revling of Green Bay, Wisconsin, presented a relatively new block, the Instructor Development Course. In the past, I have attended courses labeled as ‘instructor’ level that required no teach back, and provided no segment on how to deliver material to your most formidable critic – peers. Randy closed the gap in this area.

Over the course of his four-hour block, we had discussions regarding challenges facing the training community, and were given the opportunity to present assigned material. Randy took a novel approach. We were presented with a ‘problem’ and then allowed to design a drill to solve it, then and there. Designing a drill in the presence of your peers, presenting it back, and allowing for critique – what better way to test your mettle as an instructor?

The culminating exercise of the week is the Stress Course. The brainchild of Chief Instructor Hans Marrero, the course puts into practice everything learned during the week, all while keeping students constantly moving. Students move from station to station, finding a new set of circumstances at each arrival.

In the heat of Texas, the course proved to be challenging, physically as well as mentally. Those who have completed the course can attest to this; for those who have not, I won’t steal the thunder of the TASER Training Academy.

Complete the course, and let me know what you think.

The Master Instructor Course is currently being conducted three times per year, in various locations around the country. All personnel assigned are dedicated to training law enforcement personnel. I did not detect a hint of salesmanship during any portion of the course. The instructional areas are broad and well placed.

Ranging from legal updates and medical research to live cartridge drills, I have merely scraped the tip of the iceberg. I know the real question; do they require an exposure? I honestly don’t know if it’s required.

First-time Master Instructors are easily identified by color coded name badges. At the end of day two, they asked all inaugural instructors to line up for a TASER X2 exposure, and no one refused. Were we required to do it? By my standards we were.

Be safe and train often.

Ken Hardesty served seven years in the U.S. Marine Corps before deciding to pursue a career in law enforcement. He has served continuously for fourteen years in large California agencies. His assignments include Detention, Patrol, Field Training Officer, Specialist Officer, Academy Recruit Training Officer, Basic Academy Coordinator and In-Service Training Officer. Ken is California POST certified to teach Firearms, Defensive Tactics, Chemical Agents, First Aid/CPR and Patrol Response to Active Shooter. Additional certifications include, National Rifle Association Tactical Shooting Instructor, Surefire Low Light Instructor and PepperBall Instructor. He is a court-certified expert in Illegal Weapons, and serves as a subject matter expert for the State of California in the areas of Firearms and Chemical Agents. Ken teaches Incident Response to Terrorist Bombings for the Department of Homeland Security as well as Leadership and Firearms/Chemical Agents Program Evaluation for the California Commission on POST. Ken is Charter Member and on the Board of Advisors for NLEFIA. Ken enjoys spending time with family and is the proud father of two.

Contact Ken Hardesty.