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Range Days in Paradise

Two weeks of NRA firearms instructor training with the Honolulu PD was more than a tropical vacation.

January 01, 2004  |  by Joe Kerper

NRA instructors tested students’ judgment in deciding when to fire and trained them to scan the area after firing to remain aware of their surroundings.

After two weeks of NRA firearms training with members of the Honolulu PD, I never managed to add anything to my list of negatives besides "frequent need for sunscreen." Hey, spending 14 days training in Hawaii is a tough job.

Each five-day instructor course, developed by the NRA's Law Enforcement Activities Division (LEAD) includes night firing, one-hand firing, extensive drills in shooting while under stress, a multitude of classroom exercises, and a host of other workouts. They also follow a similar lesson plan, so it's easy for students to move from basic schools into advanced NRA training without skipping a beat.

"Training is cheap insurance," says Robert Jaeger, a firearms instructor who heads up the Honolulu PD's outdoor shooting range facility, which, as you might imagine, sits amid an extinct and picturesque volcano crater, complete with an ocean view.

"I wanted to get the NRA in here because I've been through their courses in the past, and I think that they have a lot to offer," Jaeger says. "You can't beat the cost of the training. It's about half of what other folks charge," adds the perpetually smiling Jaeger, who took part in both the handgun/shotgun and patrol rifle instructor courses.

All kidding about mai tais and hula dancers aside, training is just as important for the Honolulu PD as it is for the cops of any other major American city. Hawaii isn't a hotbed of criminal activity, but the state's cops have their fair share of enforcement woes. Vehicle theft, property crime, and drug-related offenses are common, just like they are in many cities on the mainland.

Weighing in with nearly 2,000 officers, the Honolulu PD is responsible for law enforcement on Oahu-the state's most populated island. That's a jurisdiction that includes 900,000 permanent inhabitants-not counting the nearly yearlong influx of tourists-and encompasses Hawaii's capital city of Honolulu and Pearl Harbor, the military command center of the Pacific and one of the world's largest military bases.

Advanced firearms training is something that the Honolulu PD is taking more and more seriously. "After our recruits get out of the academy, they're placed with a field training officer for another four to five months," says Jaeger. Additionally, all Honolulu patrol officers annually attend a three-day training refresher course, which covers subjects like firearms, CPR, pathogen protection, and hazmat incidents.

"I booked both of these NRA courses because they take the best teaching methods and lessons in the law enforcement community and present them in one complete package," Jaeger explains. "Another plus to the NRA system is that they are really unbiased. They want to give you the best instruction out there, period. Most private programs push their products and techniques on you regardless of their overall efficiency or ease of use," he adds.

So what's so special about what the NRA offers law enforcement agencies? "The one-on-one training is a real bonus; you get instant feedback," says Sgt. Thomas Carreiro, an HPD SWAT team member and firearms instructor. "This course really forces you to keep your fundamentals sharp, it hones your muscle memory, and, most importantly, it prepares you for what you and your students might find out on the street."

"The real job of the instructor is to help the shooter become more proficient," says Bill Campbell, an NRA LEAD instructor, who adds that the only way to become a better instructor is to get out there and do it. "We're not here to teach you how to shoot-you better be able to do that before you get here. We're here to help you learn how to better teach your fellow officers how to shoot, how to survive on the street, and how to walk away from a gunfight," Campbell adds.

Scott Yang, a plainclothes officer who works in the department's Waikiki District Crime Reduction Unit, signed up immediately when he heard that the NRA program was coming to Oahu. "I jumped on this opportunity as soon as I heard that the HPD had hired the NRA to come and teach these courses," he says. "They're the oldest firearm training organization out there, and I figured that this was the time to get my instructor certification."

Students were expected to shoot accurately despite outside stimuli and to have at least one dummy round in each magazine to learn how to clear dud rounds and to quickly reload.

Dummy Rounds

The NRA Handgun/Shotgun instructor course is a base-level instructor course that takes students through an increasingly fast-paced combination of classroom instruction, shooting drills, one-on-one interaction, and frequent role-playing exercises. Students put in a few hours with the books in the morning and then head out to the range to practice what they read about earlier that day.

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