- Associated Press - Monday, April 28, 2014

FORT SMITH, Ark. (AP) - Local law enforcement, members of the Arkansas National Guard and the Navy teamed up for simulated training and search-and-rescue exercises during a recent demonstration and ceremony at the new Combined Arms Collective Training Facility at Fort Chaffee.

Construction on the $26 million facility began in 2011 and was completed in January. The facility has 18 buildings and is designed to mimic a real-life urban area, complete with a municipal building, school, bank, police department, religious center, residences and an auto service center.

The individual classroom-like rooms in each building, made of concrete blocks, are not fancy, but the facility provides what is needed for training in an urban environment, according to Maj. Matt Snead, public affairs officer for the Arkansas National Guard.

“Soldiers like training in the field, but this is necessary to train for these real-world type of situations,” Snead told the Times Record (http://bit.ly/1eYjL08).

Snead said Fort Chaffee is one of 11 posts in the National Guard with a Regional Collective Training Capabilities designation, a necessary training aiming point for Army units across the nation to meet required training standards.

Members of the Fort Smith Police Department, the 188th Fighter Wing, the 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team and the Navy conducted a live presentation demonstrating different domestic and combat scenarios, including an active-shooter event at the school, performed by the Fort Smith SWAT unit with help from members of the Northside High School drama club, who assisted in the mock rescue exercise.

The final event was a full-scale multi-unit training event involving the Guard, Air National Guard and the Navy.

“The training here provides very realistic scenarios, and the complex is set up to simulate a lot of our combat situations,” 188th Wing Commander Mark Anderson said after the 188th’s search-and-rescue team performed a rescue operation scenario at the event.

“You train like you fight, and that’s why we’re here, to be prepared.”

Though the facility has seen limited use for training exercises from the Guard and the Navy prior to the recent exercise, Snead said it will available to civilian law enforcement agencies, fire departments, emergency management agencies and every branch of the military.

Anderson said having the facility in Fort Smith will not only benefit the 188th, but will be economical as well.

“The big thing for us is we always look for an opportunity to train in a realistic situation, so having this here and being able to do it so close to home is a great value to the taxpayers,” Anderson said.

Ivy Owen, executive director of the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority, applauded the performances of each unit that participated in the event and called the facility a good investment and marketing tool for the region.

The complex features 189 cameras, allowing users to observe and record training for post-training review, a feature that will be useful for the Fort Smith SWAT unit.

“It’s very difficult to find good training in our area,” said Maj. Dean Pitts with the Fort Smith Police Department. “Not only is it isolated with lots of area to perform different tactical training exercises, it has cameras that will allow us to see our mistakes. A training environment is the time to correct mistakes to improve our response in the field.”

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