Strategic Operations - News


A collection of news and press items featuring Strategic Operations, Inc.



The Cut Suit®and AMOPS Annual Meeting and Medical Conference
March 5-8, 2020
Las Vegas, NV

Posted March 18, 2020

Representatives of Strategic Operations participated and supported demonstrations at the annual meeting and medical conference of The Association of Military Osteopathic Physicians and Surgeons. This was a premier educational event for the military medical professional and offered both basic and advanced sessions for military physicians and students in any stage of their career.

On Saturday March 7, attendees traveled via bus to Touro University Nevada to observe various simulated surgical procedures performed inside the Tang Regional Center for Clinical Simulation building. The Strategic Operations Cut Suit® was featured during a portion of this demonstration lead by the instructional expertise of Dr. Anthony Laporta, MD, FACS, Rocky Vista University.

AMOPS 2020 Annual Meeting & Medical Conference Wrap Up


Col Jennifer L. Ravenscroft, DO, FACOFP
AMOPS Immediate Past President

As great as Thursday and Friday was, a wonderful treat was in store for AMOPS attendees on Saturday. AMOPS partnered with Touro University Nevada for an excellent simulation symposium. A special thank you to Shelley Berkley, CEO and Senior Provost for Touro’s Western Division; Ray Alden, PhD, Provost of Touro University Nevada; Wolfgang Gilliar, DO, Dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine; and David Clegg, Administrative Director of Clinical Simulation for letting AMOPS use the Touro University Nevada Simulation Center.

David Clegg planned the simulation symposium which included an OB/GYN postpartum hemorrhage, femoral fracture with ortho fixation, emergency appendectomy, and a gunshot wound with emergency laparotomy scenarios. Mr. Clegg brought in Anthony J. LaPorta, MD, Col (Ret), USA, Professor of Surgery and Military Medicine at RVUCOM, and Tuan Hoang, MD, CAPT, USN, Command Senior Surgeon, Naval Medical Readiness Training Command, 29 Palms to lead the simulations. AMOPS attending physicians performed the simulation scenarios with the assistance of student members. Strategic Operations (Steve Markham) provided the cut suits and training crew (Gino Ortiz and Jethro) at no cost. Mock Medical Simulated Surgical Instruments (Dari Dingel-Fehr, CPhT, CST) provided the surgical instruments at no cost.

Read Newsletter (PDF)


Willow the dog is on the job, sniffing out Internet crimes against children

Posted February 21, 2020 (From The San Diego Union Tribune - 2/18/2020 - Original Article)

(Website Note: Strategic Operations also offers an environment for agencies in training detection dogs. Willow is just one of many dogs who have had the opportunity to hone their detection skills here at STOPS San Diego.)

The 2-year-old electronic scent detection dog has been on the job since November and already has been on a half dozen searches

By KAREN KUCHER
FEB. 18, 2020 6 AM

Two-year-old lab Willow alerts to a cabinet where a hard drive is hidden while practicing searches with San Diego District Attorney’s Office Criminal Investigator Ron Burleson in the Internet Crimes Against Children task force office. Willow is trained to detect data storage devices such as hard drives, thumb drives and flash cards. (John Gibbins/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Since she started her new job in San Diego a couple months ago, Willow the English Labrador has already proven her worth to handler Ron Burleson.

The 2-year-old pup, specially trained to sniff out electronic storage devices, has gone out on a half dozen warrant and probation searches with Burleson, an investigator with the county District Attorney’s Office.

On one outing, she found a cellphone that law enforcement officers had missed.

“We are confident we are going to be able to find things that were missed before,” he said.

The pair is assigned to San Diego’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, a group that draws upon resources from local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to target offenders who use the internet to sexually exploit children.

Decked out in a special vest that touts her electronic detection abilities, Willow looks for a distinct chemical compound used in electronic devices like cellphones, thumb drives, hard drives and memory cards. Such devices are often hidden by predators and can be difficult for law enforcement officers to find.

“We know when she hits, she’s hitting on storage media because there’s nothing else (the chemical she detects) would be used for,” he said.

When an electronic detection dog determines the unique odor is present, they will sit down to alert their trainers. When the dog is correct, he or she is given a food reward.

These specially trained dogs have assisted in high-profile cases including the arrest of former Subway spokesman Jared Fogle in 2015, who was convicted on child pornography and other charges. A dog named Bear helped investigators find thumb drives hidden at Fogle’s home.

Burleson said 31 dogs have undergone similar training to become electronic detection dogs, and Willow is the first one assigned to Southern California.

According to her online bio, Willow initially trained as a service dog but underwent a “career change” to become an electronic detection K9.

In a video produced by county District Attorney’s Office, Willow and Burleson are shown searching a room. Storage cards and cellphones are hidden in a box of plastic toys, in a cabinet and underneath a bean bag chair.

“Show me, show me,” Burleson says in the video as the canine investigator makes a find. “Oh, what a good dog!”

Willow, who cost more than $12,000, was paid for by a grant from the San Diego Police Foundation, Burleson said.

When she’s not finding hidden devices, Burleson said, Willow can help in other ways, too.

Sometimes law enforcement officers serve search warrants at a suspect’s home where children are around. “The dog there can act like a therapy dog and can be there to calm the kids down and bring some comfort to them,” Burleson said.

She also serves as an unofficial therapist in the task force’s Kearny Mesa office.

“When I’m not doing a search warrant, she’s there in the office. She goes from cubicle to cubicle, looking for someone to throw the ball for her,” he said. “When we are having a bad day looking at some of this evidence, (the dog) is kind of a nice addition.”

Burleson has three other dogs at home, where Willow lives. Because she’s a working dog, she is treated differently, particularly around mealtime.

Willow eats three cups of dog food a day, all of it from Burleson’s hand. “She never eats out of a bowl,” he said. “The only time she eats is out of my hand. I’m hiding stuff and we are searching for it and then she gets her reward.

“I’ve got to do that a couple times a day. It is definitely worth it, but it is a lot of work.”


Transforming Tactical Combat Casualty Care to Civilian Providers via Medical Simulation

Posted January 23, 2020 (From HealthySimulation.com January 9, 2020 - Original Article)

Today’s emergency casualty care builds on lessons learned in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and active shooter and mass casualty tragedies in the civilian world. Lessons learned from tactical combat are crucial for the civilian space to understand and train for in today’s world. This information transfer has lead to unique government supported initiatives and innovative training products which are crucial for healthcare simulation programs to understand and incorporate. Here below, Strategic Operations’ Kit Lavell reviews the latest developments in education, training and medical simulation technologies designed to save lives in our contemporary world.

Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC) guidelines were developed more than twenty years ago but matured during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. TCCC is based on Care Under Fire, Tactical Field Care, and Tactical Evacuation Care to address the three most preventable causes of death on the battlefield (and as discussed below, also on highways, in industrial accidents and active shooter and mass casualty tragedies): hemorrhage; tension pneumothorax; and airway obstruction (Butler, 2017). The TCCC skills have been proven safe and effective, and even somebody without medical training can perform them.

Massive hemorrhage is controlled with tourniquets, hemostatic dressings, junctional devices, and pressure dressings. The airway is managed by the rapid and aggressive opening of the airway to include cricothyroidotomy for difficult airways. Respiration and breathing are managed by the assessment for tension pneumothorax and the aggressive use of occlusive dressings and needle decompression devices to relieve tension and improve breathing.

As TCCC was applied in Afghanistan and Iraq in Role 1 Care (immediate and at a battlefield Medical Treatment Facility), the survival rate for a preventable death wounded, i.e., someone who was not killed outright, was about 95%. A preventable death is someone who has died from massive extremity hemorrhage, a tension pneumothorax, and/or airway obstruction. This was a significant increase over previous wars and resulted from TCCC being applied in the “Golden Hour” before being evacuated to Role 2 Care for surgery.

Over the last decade or more, TCCC techniques have filtered down to civilian trauma treatment and training, especially the use of tourniquets, hemostatic dressings, junctional devices, and pressure dressings. On October 6, 2015, the White House unveiled its “Stop the Bleed” campaign to encourage bystanders to act as immediate responders. Collaborating with the Departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services, FEMA, the private sector, nonprofits, and the medical community, the “Stop the Bleed” initiative aims at raising awareness of life-saving techniques and providing public access to tools for bleeding control already used by EMS and the military.

Additionally, this campaign is a culmination of partnerships between the National Security Council at the White House, American Heart Association, American Red Cross, American College of Surgeons (ACS), Hartford Consensus, National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (NAEMT) and others. “Stop the Bleed” campaign’s goal is to train millions of Americans over the next decade.

Since its release date, June 25, 2019, the 2nd edition of the (NAEMT) Tactical Emergency Casualty Care (TECC) course teaches EMS practitioners on all levels how to respond to and care for patients in a civilian tactical environment. TECC is a set of best practice treatment guidelines for trauma care in high-threat prehospital settings. The guidelines are built from lessons learned by the U.S. and allied military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and were brought to the civilian sector via the Committee on Tactical Combat Casualty Care (Co-TCCC).

Train for TCCC with Nasco’s Rescue Randy

Nasco Healthcare recently introduced the Casualty Care Rescue Randy, an affordable, rugged, field-deployable, full-body manikin designed for enhanced realistic training on TECC procedures, powered by Strategic Operations Hyper-Realistic® technology. The Casualty Care Rescue Randy is designed for use by civilian EMS, EMT, Law Enforcement and other civilian and military medical first responders.

The manikin has articulated joints, mimics a human body’s weight distribution, holds three to four liters of simulated blood, has a foot-operated pump (an electronic pumping system is optional) to deliver blood to femoral, brachial, inguinal and carotid wounds, and allows for treatment interventions using extremity and junctional tourniquets, wound packing and pressure bandages. Airway management is accomplished with Nasopharyngeal, Oropharyngeal, and Cricothyroidotomy. Tension pneumothorax with Needle Decompression at the 4th/5th intercostal space in the anterior axillary line and at the 2nd/3rd intercostal space in the mid-clavicular line. A penetrating chest wound allows for an occlusive dressing to be applied.

The Casualty Care Rescue Randy’s skin is user repairable, and unlike other manikins, it does not have a “target” that “guides” the provider where to place the needle. The provider must visually locate and properly palpate to determine correct placement. Casualty Care Rescue Randy comes with simulated blood, repairable neck skins, repairable tracheas, and a repair kit. There is a tremendous need for realistic, user-repairable manikins to teach first responders proper tactical medicine techniques – that are affordable – and rugged enough to be used in the field.

“We use Casualty Care Rescue Randy manikins in the classroom and field portions of our NAEMT and POST-certified tactical medicine courses,” says Wyatt Sabo, Medical Training Program Manager at Strategic Operations in San Diego. “First responders can practice life-like training solutions for real-life situations.”

Expansion of Specialized Training for TCCC from the DHA

Last summer, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs chartered a working group of members of the Defense Health Agency (DHA) and other military services responsible for developing a structured Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC) curriculum for all service members (ASM). TCCC ASM was released on August 1st and will be the first level of four-tiered standardized TCCC curricula to be completed. The TCCC ASM course follows the MARCH algorithm and covers five lifesaving skills (rapid casualty assessment, tourniquet application, hemostatic dressing, pressure dressing, and airway maneuvers) over 6 hours that will serve both as the minimum standard of care for all service members and act as the foundation for the four-tiered TCCC program (Remley, 2019).

The second tier, Combat Lifesaver (CLS), was released on December 31, 2019 and follows MARCH PAWS, which helps familiarize TCCC concepts and lifesaving skills to render medical aid to a trauma casualty. The course provides information through a short lecture followed by interactive, hands-on training and formal evaluation. The CLS TCCC Course encompasses tactical trauma assessment, bleeding control interventions, airway and respiratory management techniques, and proper lift, drag, and carry methods. The course also covers the prevention and treatment of shock, burns, eye injuries, splints, pain management, critical communication, and medical documentation practices. Upon completion of this 40-hour course, students will be qualified at a TCCC basic level.

They are based on the MARCH PAWS algorithm:

M – Massive bleeding

A – Airway

R – Respiration

C – Circulation

H – Hypothermia/Head


Pain

Antibiotics

Wounds

Splint

Strategic Operations is an authorized NAEMT Training Center that hosts numerous medical training courses; LEFR, TECC, TCCC, and TMT. The Law Enforcement First Response (LEFR) is a course that teaches first responders and allied professionals the primary medical care interventions, which can save an injured person’s life until conventional EMS arrives. The TECC 2nd edition course delivered by STOPS is certified by the ACS and is consistent with the most current guidelines established by C-TECC.

The 40-hour Tactical Medicine Technician (TMT) course prepares SWAT medics and Rescue Task Force (RTF) deployments to mass casualty and active shooter situations. Strategic Operations uses the crawl, walk, run teaching methodology that takes the students from the repetitive practice of core TACMED skills and progress through the full hyper-realistic stress inoculation scenarios using the Casualty Care Rescue Randy.

References:

Butler, F. K. (2017). Two Decades of Saving Lives on the Battlefield: Tactical Combat Casualty Care Turns 20. Military Medicine, 182(3/4), e1563–e1568.

Feldman, R. (2019). Committee for Tactical Emergency Casualty Care.

Remley, M. (2019). Changes Coming to TCCC Training. Infantry 108(2), 47-49.

Stop the Bleed – Campaign – AEMS.

Tactical Combat Casualty Care Guidelines (2019). Committee on Tactical Combat Casualty Care (CoTCCC).

Tactical emergency casualty care (TECC): Course manual (2nd ed.). (2020). Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.


A hyper-realistic active shooter and mass casualty simulation helps to prepare for the real event

Posted January 20, 2020

Dozens of first responders took place in a simulated active shooter and mass casualty event on Saturday in Kearny Mesa. Local firefighters, paramedics, and police participated in the event to teach educators and clinicians how to conduct similar scenarios for crisis training across the country. The training exercise was for attendees of the International Meeting on Simulation in Healthcare conference (IMSH 2020) taking place in San Diego. The San Diego conference included healthcare educators and clinicians from across the world.

The event took place on the backlot of the former Stu Segall Productions TV studio. The simulation included hyper-realistic explosions and actors portraying active shooters, bombers and point of injury casualties.

The event also included a new "Cut Suit®," a training suit that can be worn by people to simulate actual surgical procedures.

"Paramedics will perform life-saving procedures on people wearing the Cut Suit at the point of injury," said STOPS Executive Vice President Kit Lavell. "And doctors will perform surgery on live humans in the operating room. Of course, they will be wearing Cut Suits."

Watch the video on CBS8 Website



8th Annual Intensive Surgical and Trauma Skills Course (ISTSC)

Posted June 6, 2019

A unique emergency room in San Diego was inundated all week recently with trauma casualties and very sick people requiring surgery, and second year medical students performed surgeries. The trauma resulted from overturned cars, active shooters and improvised explosive devices. Real firefighters, paramedics, and police were the first responders at the scene.

All this occurred at Strategic Operations on the back lot of Stu Segall Productions TV/film studio and the ER and operating rooms are simulation labs constructed for a very unique – one of a kind in the nation – Intensive Surgical & Trauma Skills Course (ISTSC). Forty-two surgeries were performed on live humans – wearing Strategic Operations’ human-worn simulators called “Cut Suits®,” the only hyper-realistic open surgical simulators in the world.

Read More about the 8th Annual Intensive Surgical and Trauma Skills Course (ISTSC)


Mass Casuality Exercise - Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada

Posted June 6, 2019

(ST/OPS Canada ) conducted a Mass Causality exercise in partnership with the City of Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada. These full scale emergency exercises prepare police, fire, and EMS to respond to a major crisis.

Chat News Today Canada reported on this unique and vital exercise.

Read More and Watch Video


Realistic Trauma Training Hones Surgical Teams

Posted December 18, 2018 (From Proceedings - December 2018 issue)

With up-to-date intensive curriculum in an immersive environment, simulations can improve medical readiness and patient outcomes.

Read More (PDF)


Damage-Control Medicine

Posted December 18, 2018 (From Seapower Magazine, December 2018 issue)

Immersive Training Prepares Medical Personnel for Future En-Route Care, Evacuation Scenarios

Read More (PDF)


Smithsonian Channel - Clip from Air Warriors: Season 6: Episode 5 - featuring Kit Lavell

Posted September 17, 2018

Strategic Operations' Kit Lavell describes a mission in Vietnam 1971, in which they were instructed to head back in to battle in their OV-10 Bronco only to realize they were out of ammunition.

Watch Clip from Smithsonian Channel


Strategic Operations in the News - Simulated Attack Response - FOX 5 San Diego Coverage

Posted May 11, 2018

On 29 April through 4 May 2018 students from Rocky Vista University College of Osteopathic Medicine (RVUCOM) military medicine track will be joined by students from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences College of Osteopathic Medicine and the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific (COMP) at Western University of Health Sciences.


Strategic Operations in the News - Intensive Surgical Skills and Trauma Week - KUSI San Diego Coverage

Posted May 11, 2018

On 29 April through 4 May 2018 students from Rocky Vista University College of Osteopathic Medicine (RVUCOM) military medicine track will be joined by students from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences College of Osteopathic Medicine and the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific (COMP) at Western University of Health Sciences.


Intensive Surgical & Trauma Skills Week (ISTSC) at Strategic Operations May 1-4, 2018

Posted May 8, 2018 (From Medical Training Magazine May 1, 2018

A unique emergency room in San Diego, California will be inundated with trauma casualties and very sick people requiring surgery May 1-4, and second year medical students will be those performing surgeries. The simulated trauma scenarios will result from overturned cars, active shooters, a high-rise fire and improvised explosive devices. Real firefighters, paramedics and police will be the first responders at the scene.

Read More


The Seventh Annual Hyper-Realistic® Intensive Surgical & Trauma Skills Week (ISTSC) will be conducted at Strategic Operations April 29 to May 4, 2018

Posted April 26, 2018 (Press Release)

Second Year Medical Students Immersed in Week-Long Series of Life or Death Scenarios Involving Overturned Cars, Active Shooters and IEDs

SAN DIEGO — April 29, 2018 — A unique emergency room in San Diego will be inundated all week with trauma casualties and very sick people requiring surgery, and second year medical students will be those performing surgeries.

The trauma will result from overturned cars, active shooters, a high-rise fire, and improvised explosive devices. Real firefighters, paramedics, and police will be the first responders at the scene. All this will occur at Strategic Operations (STOPS) on the back lot of Stu Segall Productions TV/film studio and the ER and operating rooms are simulation labs constructed for a very unique – one of a kind in the nation – Intensive Surgical & Trauma Skills Course (ISTSC).

From 29 April to May 4, Rocky Vista University College of Osteopathic Medicine (RVUCOM) in Parker, Colorado, Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences (KCUMB) and the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific (COMP) at Western University of Health Sciences will conduct the ISTSC at STOPS’ Simulation Lab. Overhead catwalks and video camera systems enable live viewing and after action review. Forty-five live-action, Hyper-Realistic® simulations of both medical and surgical problems will be created, immersing the participants from point of injury all the way through the ER and OR.

Thirty-five surgeries will be performed on live humans – wearing Strategic Operations’ simulators called “Cut Suits®.”

Thirty-six second-year medical students, many teaching faculty and visiting surgeons and physicians, as well as surgical and ER residents and staff from Balboa Naval Hospital and local hospitals will participate.

“Medical students commonly state that they do not truly understand or recognize a textbook description of a disease or a syndrome until they experience the clinically applicable version of it,” said Strategic Operations Executive Vice President Kit Lavell. “In efforts to reduce the gaps in knowledge and technical skills prior to starting third-year clinical clerkships as well as improve competencies and confidence, this week-long ISTSC mimics a General Surgery rotation.

Lavell said the ISTSC will utilize the “Cut-Suit®,” a human worn surgical simulator, stress-immersion, and other educational modalities in an effort to better prepare medical students for their third-year surgical and emergency medicine rotations. RVUCOM was the first medical school to incorporate the “Cut-Suit®” into medical student education, and when integrated into an ISTSC, it can provide that hands-on experience prior to clinical clerkships by presenting real-life scenarios to medical students in a flexible, safe, efficient and cost-conscious manner.

Rocky Vista University (RVU) is a health sciences university located in Parker, Colorado. RVU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine (RVUCOM) was founded in 2006 and opened its doors in August of 2008, enrolling students in its four year program of study leading to the Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) degree. The University is located in a 145,000-square-foot contemporary facility on twenty acres, housing the latest in classroom, lecture, laboratory and audiovisual equipment, with additional instruction conducted at numerous teaching hospitals throughout the state of Colorado. Rocky Vista University provides quality healthcare education while inspiring students to serve with compassion, integrity and excellence. For more information, visit www.rvu.edu or call 720-875-2804.

Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences graduates more physicians annually than any other medical school in Missouri. Active in the Kansas City medical community since 1916, KCUMB is one of the oldest and largest of the nation’s 29 colleges of osteopathic medicine. KCUMB is known as a leader in osteopathic medical education, with an educational environment that emphasizes both academic excellence and the education of caring physicians who place their patients’ needs above all else. For more information, visit http://www.kcumb.edu/about/ or call 816-654-7000.

The College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific (COMP) was established in 1977 in Pomona, California as a direct and important response to a critical shortage of primary care physicians in the western United States. COMP remained as the only osteopathic medical school west of the Rocky Mountains for 18 years. In 1996, COMP was restructured into Western University of Health Sciences (WesternU), which is one of the largest graduate schools for the health professions in California. In 2011, WesternU expanded and opened COMP-Northwest in Lebanon, Oregon to provide medical education to the Pacific Northwest. After 40 years, they have graduated over 5,294 physicians with the majority choosing a career in primary care medicine. For more information, please visit www.westernu.edu or call (909)623-6116 for the Pomona campus or (541)259-0200 for the Lebanon campus.

About Strategic Operations

Strategic Operations Inc., on the lot of Stu Segall Productions, a full-service TV / movie studio in San Diego, Calif., provides “Hyper-Realistic®” training services and products for military, law enforcement and other organizations responsible for homeland security. The company employs state-of-the-art Hollywood battlefield special effects, combat wound effects, medical simulation systems like the “Cut Suit®,” role players, subject matter experts, and training scenarios to create training environments that are the most unique in the industry. Over the last 15 years Strategic Operations has provided Hyper-Realistic® training support to more than 850,000 military – and civilian first responders – in the U.S. and Canada. For more information, visit www.strategic-operations.com.

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Advanced Surgical Skills Package (ASSP) to be on display at IMSH

Posted January 15, 2018 (Press Release)

Strategic Operations To Announce New Surgical Skills Product — The Advanced Surgical Skills Package (ASSP) at 2018 International Meeting on Simulation in Healthcare (IMSH) January 14-16 in Los Angeles

Surgeons Will Perform Surgery Using ASSP a Live Human Wearing a Surgical Simulator (‘Cut Suit’) at the Los Angeles Convention Center

LOS ANGELES – January 15, 2018 – Strategic Operations (STOPS) will announce an innovative new surgical simulation product — the Advanced Surgical Skills Package (ASSP) — at the International Meeting on Simulation in Healthcare (IMSH) January 14-16 at the Los Angeles. Convention Center. IMSH is the most important healthcare simulation conference of the year.

The ASSP will drop into the STOPS human-worn simulator, known as the Cut Suit, as a plug-and-play module to provide high fidelity anatomy for specific surgical procedures such as repair of damaged spleen, damaged liver, perforated small bowel or any other trauma or pathology requiring open surgery. Additional ASSPs will be introduced for other abdominal as well as thoracic surgical procedures.

CAE Healthcare is the global distributor of Strategic Operations medical products. At the CAE booth #300 at 12:45 PM on Monday January 15, a surgeon will perform a splenectomy using the ASSP.

STOPS developed the human-worn surgical simulator (Cut Suit) to provide hyper-realistic continuum of care training and education. “Instead of practicing on a manikin, first responders at the point of injury can perform life-saving procedures on a real person wearing the Cut Suit. The victim can be transported to the emergency room where physicians can safely practice treating a live person wearing the Cut Suit with life-threatening injuries. In the operating room, surgeons can perform realistic surgeries on live humans wearing the Cut Suit without injuring them,” According to STOPS Executive Vice President Kit Lavell.

Since its introduction five years ago the Cut Suit has been an important advance in creating hyper-realistic, immersive simulations for medical training and education.

The ASSPs will be shipped to Cut Suit clients with pre-paid returnable cases, complete with instructions, DVDs, surgical blood and other accessories – on a daily rental basis. No need for the client to repair – only flush with water and ship back in the postage pre-paid container. ASSPs will be available in this spring.

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Strategic Operations host American College of Surgeons Stop The Bleed Course

Posted October 19, 2017 (Press Release)

Contact: Kim A. Merrill
Merrill Marketing/Communications
(858) 547-1865
kim@merrillmarcom.com

NEWS FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Strategic Operations Hosts American College of Surgeons Stop the Bleed Course
Medical students will learn bleeding control techniques in a hyper-realistic active-shooter scenario at San Diego movie set.

SAN DIEGO (20 October 2017) — Members of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) and other qualified instructors will train 40 medical students in life-saving bleeding control techniques this Sunday October 22, from 7:30 to 10:30 AM during a training session, hosted by Strategic Operations on the lot of the former Stu Segall Productions TV/Movie studio. Under simulated circumstances, ACS surgeons will teach medical students to control serious bleeding with tourniquets and wound packing on live actors posing as seriously injured bystanders in a hyper-realistic active-shooter scenario with movie-style enhancements including gunfire, explosions, and medical special effects.

These simulated injuries on live humans will be treated at the point of injury and the patients next transported to a realistic emergency room, and then on to the operating room where mock operations will be performed on the Human Worn Surgical Simulator known as the “Cut Suit.”

The training session is part of the “Stop the Bleed®” initiative, which began in 2015 and puts forth Presidential Policy Directive 8 for national preparedness, which targets preparedness as a shared responsibility of the government, the private and nonprofit sectors, and individual citizens. Enhancing survivability from active shooter and other mass casualty events by turning bystanders into lifesavers is at the core of Stop the Bleed training. This initiative grew out of the a cross-disciplinary group of stakeholders called the Hartford Consensus convened by the American College of Surgeons after the Sandy Hook mass shooting tragedy, and is now being promoted nationally by the ACS Committee on Trauma and Department of Homeland Security. The Hartford Consensus advocates that “no one should die from uncontrolled bleeding.”

The 40 participants taking the training course are among a group of more than 300 medical students who are in San Diego this week to attend the American College of Surgeons annual Clinical Congress, which convenes at the San Diego Convention Center, October 22-26. The Clinical Congress is one of the largest educational meetings of surgeons in the world and is expected to draw at least 13,000 attendees, including surgeons, allied health professionals, and industry representatives.

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Camp Dodge, Iowa - Cut Suit Use

Posted August 11, 2017

Camp Dodge, Iowa – Capt. Vanessa Lagrange, Medical Training OIC, shows the various prosthetics used during training in the medical treatment facility portion to with LTG Charles D. Luckey, Chief of Army Reserve and Commanding General, United States Army Reserve Command, while touring the Sustainment Training Center at Camp Dodge Joint Maneuver Training Center in Johnston, Iowa on July 19, 2017. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael McGhee/Released)


Team Australia EMS Students and JEMS Editorial Staff visit Strategic Operations in San Diego, California

Posted August 11, 2017 (Original article: July 19, 2017)

By AJ Heightman, MPA, EMT P
Editor in Chief, JEMS

This week the JEMS Editorial Staff spent time time with 19 paramedic students and EMS system supervisors from Australia and New Zealand who are in the United States on a cooperative tour with assistance from JEMS and other agencies to provide an extreme educational experience for their degree paramedic students.

Read Article


Medical Training gets 'Real' on the Big Stick

Posted July 31, 2017

SAN DIEGO (NNS) — The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt’s (CVN 71) Medical department participated in a medical readiness inspection involving the most realistic simulations ever employed aboard an aircraft carrier, July 24.

Read Article


Great Big Story - "History Will Remember the Inventor of Liquid Ass"

Posted June 28, 2017

How did a prank product become part of military training technology? This is the story of the one and only "Liquid Ass". (With an appearance by Stu Segall of Strategic Operations.)


5th Annual Intensive Surgical Skills Course Week (1 May - 6 May) at STOPS
A Letter from an Attending Medical Student

Posted May 18, 2017

I would like to share with you my experiences in San Diego this past week. I was able to participate in “hyper-realistic” training for mass-casualty emergencies with 29 other medical students from two other schools. It was an experience that is difficult for me to put into words, and an attempt at fleshing out my thoughts is going to be a challenge. But hey, here’s to trying!

On day one, we were asked to write down what motivated us in medical school. And we were asked again on the last day. And I wrote down the following:

Day 1: “Success”

Day 6: “To save someone one day”

And that is a pretty accurate description of my week down in San Diego. I could stop here and leave it at that, but there’s so much depth to my training that I don’t want to short-change anyone and keep it for myself. Sure, I lost one week of “dedicated board prep” for our little adventure. But our experience was so much more than that. It was more of an existential journey, as cliche as that sounds, for my motivation in studying medicine. And to be honest, recently my motivation has been lacking, as one may tell with my simple half-hearted answer of “success” (which at the time, I thought was a pretty decent answer, because I wanted to prove myself — but that’s another story). So let me explain by putting you in my shoes for half of a day here.

Imagine for yourself, the following scenario:

You are the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed straight-out-of-medical-school Army physician who is relieving a colleague of a currently stable 45-year-old male patient who came in a few hours ago from a blast injury. Let’s face it — you haven’t experienced trauma before. The chaos around you is new to you, but it seems to have cooled down. The patient has two fractures: a left-humeral and left-femoral fracture. He lost 1L of blood which was replenished with 2U type-matched blood and 1L IV crystalloid fluids and was also given 2g Ceftriaxone IV. Xrays show complicated angular fractures of both extremities. He had a negative FAST exam and no head trauma. After the hand-off, you get to know the patient — his favorite movies, his recent trip to Baltimore — where hey! That’s where you’re from!… when all of a sudden he starts bleeding profusely from the loosened tourniquet on his lower leg and begins to have a massive seizure. You are the physician.

Before you can think, two other colleagues rush to jump on the bleeding leg tourniquet, compressing it with their knees and yanking the tourniquet tight. The patient’s seizing and it’s your job to stop it. You can’t remember the drug to give the patient. You’re freaking out. From past experiences, the only real-life seizures you’ve seen were managed with waiting it out. So that’s all you can think of doing. But your patient doesn’t stop. He’s foaming at the mouth. He’s shaking all over and blood is all over your hands.

He’s in status epilepticus.

You don’t know what to do. You can’t remember how to help this patient. Even though you’ve been taught, over and over, about Ativan.

“Ativan!” someone shouts at you, “give that patient some fucking Ativan!!!!” and your body’s running for you towards the medication cabinet.. But it’s not anywhere. “How much Ativan are you going to give??”, and you realize you can’t remember the dose. Wait, were we even taught what the dose was? And then you remember. You’re not a physician. You’re a second year medical student, playing the role as a physician. You don’t know. You can’t even find the make-believe vial labeled Ativan. You weren’t required to know based off your curriculum. In panic, you ask your fellow doctors, AKA other second year medical students, who are now trying to escort out the worried-onlookers who rushed into your ER. No one can help you. And your patient is seizing, frying his brain right in front of you. And it’s your fault you don’t know. The REAL Navy physician supervising you has such a disappointed look on his face that reads: your lack of knowledge is killing this man.

Your mind is blank.

“If you don’t know what to do, look it up!! You have a phone!!” the Navy physician finally yells at you. So you stumble for your phone. In your nervousness, you can’t type right. You keep typing “atrivab doxage”, or “attivam dpsagr”, until finally you get it right. You find it: 0.5 mg to 2 mg IV. You rush to your patient to administer 1mg IV Ativan, and they finally stop seizing. You order more tests — FAST exam, chest XRAY, non-contrast head CT…

And you finally breathe again.

—-

This was the scenario I had on my last day at STOPS, and was by far the most motivating, and educational day for me there. “Success”? sure. But to me, I don’t care about proving myself anymore. One day I will be presented with a patient like him. In a real scenario, the knowledge I SHOULD have had may not come because of my lack of motivation to study all those years ago — which is right now. And that is why, my motivation for medical school has drastically changed. I am EXCITED to study for boards. The more I learn, the more deaths I can prevent from my own ignorance. There is no substitute in education for hands-on experience. That is what motivates you.

At least that’s what now motivates me. And as a last note: now I will never, ever forget to now give a seizing trauma patient a dose of Ativan (which, I was told later, should have been 2mg because it was such an emergency, hehe). As I said on my Facebook post, I am so grateful for this week’s experience. I can’t wait to get out on rotations and apply this knowledge to actually help people, and “to save someone one day”.

Theresa Price, OMSII
2LT, US Army, MC
WesternU, COMP

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ABC 10 News: Medical Students train for Mass Casualty Events

Posted May 5, 2017

ABC 10 News (San Diego) coverage of a mass casualty training event at Strategic Operations.


NBC 7 News: Active Shooter Drill Trains Medical Students With Hyper Realistic Simulations in Kearny Mesa

Posted May 5, 2017 ( Original Article - May 2, 2017)

"This hyper-realistic hospital environment is intended to allow for the willing suspension of disbelief," stated Stu Segall, who previously worked in Hollywood as a TV producer.

By Cassia Pollock

An active shooter simulation was held in Kearny Mesa Tuesday, featuring actors with multiple mock injuries and hyper-realistic medical simulations, said a representative for Strategic Operations.

Thirty students in their second year of medical school gathered at Strategic Operations at the 4000 block of Ruffin Road at 1 p.m., as part of emergency training for medical students from across the nation.

There were also Emergency Response staff from Balboa Naval Hospital and Kaiser Permanente, as well as law enforcement and Fire Department first responders.

It’s part of a week-long series of life or death scenarios such as flipped cars, active shooters and improvised explosive devices, for the Sixth Annual Hyper-Realistic Surgical Skills Week, according to Strategic Operations.

Real firefighters, paramedics and police were also involved in the simulations.

“Medical students commonly state that they do not truly understand or recognize a textbook description of a disease or a syndrome until they experience the clinically applicable version of it,” said Strategic Operations Executive Vice President Kit Lavell, in a statement.

The series was held on the back lot of the Stu Segall Productions TV/film studio and a specially constructed emergency room for the unique Intensive Surgical Skills Course (ISSC). This course is the only one of its kind in the nation, according to Strategic Operations.

The shooter drill featured live actors wearing the Strategic Operations “Cut Suit,” according to Strategic Operations. Thirty-five surgeries were performed on the “Cut Suits.” Law enforcement are first responders in the simulation which includes victims being treated in mock emergency care and simulated surgeries.

President of Strategic Operations, Stu Segall, intended to design a super realistic hospital environment with operating rooms and the ER for medical students and doctors.

This hyper-realistic hospital environment is intended to allow for the willing suspension of disbelief, stated Stu Segall, who previously worked in Hollywood as a TV producer.

Saliva samples were collected from the students, doctors and first responders before and after the hyper-realistic demos, so they can be used to measure stress levels, according to Strategic Operations.

Overall, the series is used to help medical students learn real-life skills they can’t pick up in a textbook.


STOPS Cut Suit - Beaver Creeks's Birds of Prey World Cup Downhill

Posted March 14, 2017

By Paddy O'Connell - From the Deep Winter Issue

The radio squawks and your heart is a 10-pound sledgehammer. A racer on Beaver Creek’s Birds of Prey World Cup downhill course compressed awkwardly at 67 miles per hour and tomahawked through the orange safety fencing. You arrive to bloodstained snow. A femur bone—splintered like a broomstick—protrudes from the skier’s right thigh. Blood garden hoses from the wound. The patient screams in agony. His femoral artery is severed. He will die in less than five minutes if you can’t stop the bleeding. It’s all up to you.

OK, breathe. This is only a drill. The skier is a med student from Rocky Mountain Vista University School of Medicine (RMVU) wearing a Strategic Operations’ Cut Suit, a hyper realistic field surgical simulator. Even the fake blood looks, feels, and smells authentic. Another med student remotely squirts liter after liter of fake blood out of the prosthetic wound. This is the most intense of the five on-mountain training scenarios Dr. Larry Gaul, United States Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) Chief Medical Officer, and Dr. Tony LaPorta, professor of surgery at RMVU, are using to train 70 World Cup volunteer doctors in emergency medical procedures at a Beaver Creek seminar.

USSA has employed the Cut Suit for the last five years, to recreate World Cup injuries. The compound femur scenario comes from Aksel Svindal’s 2007 Beaver Creek crash, which nearly cost him his leg and career. The quick response of the medical staff saved Svindal. The context, and the realism of the Cut Suit produces the emotional, psychological, and physiological reactions physicians experience in a crash like Svindal’s—and force them to fight through them. “The Cut Suit creates that same stress,” says Kit Lavell, Executive Vice President of Strategic Operations. “The body engages the fight or flight response. Participants exhibit the same real life response to trauma: tunnel vision, auditory exclusion, loss of fine motor skills.”

The goal isn’t to eliminate those stressors. Performing while a patient is bleeding to death is inherently stressful. But, says Lavell, with training, you can perform better under pressure.

Back in real time, blood is sprinkling the snowpack. You drop next to the shrieking skier, ask his name, tell him who you are, and that you’re here to help. Your chest swells with quick, short breaths. Your hands shake as you pull on blue latex gloves. But you’re in the zone when the cuff snaps on your wrist. The racer’s head jerks back and he bellows as you dig your left knee into his hip crease and put pressure on the laceration with your right hand. The warm, quick flow of blood pulses through your fingers at first, but slows as you weight your knee. A toboggan with a full medical kit and tourniquet is on the way. You are the first responder at a World Cup—and you just saved a skier’s life.


Grunt written by Mary Roach

Posted January 16, 2017

Grunt tackles the science behind some of a soldier's most challenging adversaries―panic, exhaustion, heat, noise―and introduces us to the scientists who seek to conquer them.

As detailed in one chapter, Mary visits Strategic Operations to observe a Hyper-Realistic® training scenario where amputee actors help prepare Marine Corps medics for the shock and gore of combat wounds.

Available from Amazon


Email Feedback: Realistic Training Better Prepares One for Stressful Environments

Posted January 15, 2017

(On January 12, 2017, Dr. LaPorta received an email from one of his students who went through ISSC two years ago and who graduates in May. 1st Lt Anthony Garzone USA will be going to Ft Gordon on active duty after graduation.)

From: Anthony Garzone
Sent: Thursday, January 12, 2017 12:57 PM
To: Dr. Anthony LaPorta
Subject: trauma

Dr. LaPorta,

I hope this email finds you well. I just wanted to let you know about an experience I had this morning. I was on my way to work in the Springs when I witnessed a car hit 5 small children. One girl was trapped under the back wheel. Myself and several guys lifted the car off her and I went to work. I took charge instinctively and immediately started my primary survey.

The whole time I could hear your voice along with everyone else’s voice from cut suit week yelling in my head to “Do they have an airway?! Make them breathe!” etc etc.

I felt comfortable and calm during the event and with help from a stranger I was able to do a full primary and secondary survey. As well as, give a good coherent sign off to both the 911 dispatch as well as the EMTs once they arrived.

I must admit, I do not think I would have been as calm or confident (or even knew what the hell I was doing for that matter) without the basic training we got in San Diego.

With that, I wanted to say thank you for your hard work and what you and the rest of the guys do at cut suit week for us students. I did not realize the true value of it until today.

Anthony Garzone


Firm Offers Cut Suits as Real Plus to Medical Training

Posted December 31, 2016 ( Original Article: September 9, 2016)

Doctors clad in head-to-toe surgical gear clustered around an operating table in a brightly lit room at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Lying in a pool of blood on the table in front of them was 30-year-old David Escobar, who just had a tracheotomy tube inserted into his throat as the doctors accessed his chest to control bleeding.

The only signs that this emergency surgery was anything other than real were the video cameras circling the patient and the smattering of onlookers craning their necks to watch the procedure. Escobar is, in fact, a technician at the Women’s Guild Simulation Center for Advanced Clinical Skills, and he’s donned a $60,000, state-of-the art surgical training apparatus called a Cut Suit so that new and veteran doctors can sharpen their knife skills.

“If you have a real human being laying there, in a real operating room, and they’re cutting into what they think is a real person, that sticks in their mind,” said Russell Metcalfe-Smith, health systems manager for the simulation center. “It doesn’t have to be a real patient, but it’s a real experience.”

The Cut Suit has traditionally been used as a practice tool for military, law enforcement, and first responders, but an increasing number of medical schools and hospitals have been purchasing it for hands-on training. Cedars began using the suits a few months ago, investing in this new technology with the expectation it will pay off in both lives saved and reduced financial costs for patients, hospitals, and the health care system as a whole.

Medical error is the third leading cause of death in the United States, resulting in more than 250,000 deaths a year, according to a report released in May from Johns Hopkins University researchers.

Dr. Alistair Phillips, co-director of the Guerin Family Congenital Heart Program at Cedars, likened the necessity for medical simulation to that of pilots learning to fly. For example, Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger had practiced the famous emergency landing he executed on the Hudson River in 2009 in a simulation session prior to the actual event, said Phillips. While doctors can practice procedures on mannequins, the Cut Suit, worn by a live person, provides an added level of realism that allows residents to immerse themselves in the experience.

“Even though you’re cutting into, basically a costume, … there’s a person there,” said Phillips. “Team-based simulation is the future of medical education.”

Medicine meets Hollywood

The simulation center opened three years ago at Cedars, and the 10,000-square-foot space includes two fully functional operating rooms, an intensive care unit, an OB/GYN unit, and a trauma bay. Each room is set up to mirror an actual facility, complete with lifelike mannequins that have heartbeats, blink, talk, and breathe, and can even be used to practice obstetric procedures and heart surgery.

Over the course of a year, more than 20,000 staff and visiting medical personnel will use the simulation center’s services, said Metcalfe-Smith, from top-notch surgeons sharpening their skills to cleaning crews practicing decontamination of hospital rooms. In addition to internal medical staff, the center has hosted training sessions for local schools and emergency service teams, including paramedics from the Beverly Hills Fire Department.

“We can reduce the amount of error by making sure staff are confident and competent here in the simulation facility,” he added.

Even if a medical mistake isn’t fatal, it can result in costly, long-term health or financial complications for a patient and health care provider, said Metcalfe-Smith.

That’s where the Cut Suit comes in.

Cutting-edge

Designed and manufactured by San Diego-based Strategic Operations Inc., the Cut Suit is made of plastics and elastomers including silicon and urethane, a much safer material on which to practice than human tissue.

“If you can’t make a mistake, you don’t know how to recover from it,” said Kit Lavell, Strategic Operations’ executive vice president.

The company was founded in 2002 as part of Stu Segall Productions, a TV and film studio that specialized in action and adventure flicks. The studio saw a sharp decline in production demands after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, so Segall decided to repurpose the hyper-realistic sets, props, and special effects to go into the business of military and law enforcement training.

“We created a unique blend of military and Hollywood,” said Lavell.

Strategic Operations has been developing the surgical Cut Suit over the last five years, he said, building a three-dimensional, interactive training tool with skin that can be sliced open and ribs that can be broken. The surgical Cut Suit comes equipped with synthetic blood designed to look, and even smell, like the real thing and uses a patented “Liquid Ass” smell that gets released when an incision is made into the bowels.

Growing industry

While national medical school standards set by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education require residents in certain programs have access to simulation, the way in which this training is fulfilled is at a school’s discretion.

USC’s Keck School of Medicine doesn’t use Cut Suits, said Dr. Maura Sullivan, executive director of the surgical skills training and education center in the department of surgery.

Although they do provide a valuable level of realism, she said, it’s important to focus on what best serves the curriculum and get past the bells and whistles of new simulation technology.

“It’s expensive, and these products all cost money, so you have to decide the risk- benefit ratio,” she said.

In addition to cost, simulation mannequins and technology are still synthetic, said Sullivan, who believes in using real flesh whenever appropriate. That’s why at USC, she opts to teach with human cadavers, which cost anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000 each and can be used to practice six to seven procedures.

“It is more cost-efficient for us and we just tend to like practicing on human tissue,” she said.

USC has the added luxury of being able to store the cadavers for extended use, as the school has access to the crypts at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center.

Whatever the method, the ultimate goal of medical training is to develop simulation scenarios that mimic actual clinical settings, Sullivan said, allowing doctors to practice technical skills, beef up their confidence, and learn how to respond in high-stress situations.

Strategic Operations’ surgical Cut Suit is just one facet of this rapidly growing industry.

In September of last year, Strategic Operations signed a distribution deal with CAE Healthcare, an international manufacturer of simulation technologies. In addition to Cedars, the Cut Suit is being used at a few dozen hospitals and medical schools throughout the country.

The suit is reusable and can be stitched or “welded” after each use, so it can be practiced on about 300 times before requiring replacement skin or organs, said Metcalfe-Smith. He touts it as a common-sense approach to improving quality of care that will save money for patients, doctors, and health care systems in general in the long run.

“We are going to see a reduction in problems, we are going to see a reduction in adverse events, we are going to start delivering better care,” he said.


Dr. Laporta at Trauma Conference International 2016

Posted August 1, 2016

Dr. Anthony Laporta addresses an audience at TraumaCon 2016 (simulcast internationally as well), when he was interrupted with a phone call about an active shooter event at Strategic Operations.


Strategic Operations Supporting the International Special Operations Forces Week

Posted May 31, 2016

On May 25th, 2016 U.S. and International SOF conducted a combined, tactical, scenario-driven demonstration as part of International Special Operations Forces Week and the Special Operations Forces Industrial Conference (SOFIC).


‘Cut suits’ Give a Slice of Realism to Training

Posted May 25, 2016 ( Original article: May 24, 2016)

By Gary Warth - The San Diego Union Tribune

Image: Kevin Slink simulates traumatic injury in a new “cut suit” while being treated by Ian Jang in a demonstration at Palomar College.(Charlie Neuman)

Escondido — “I got a guy with a GSW to the chest and an open fracture GSW to the left leg,” the medic yelled as he knelt over a “gunshot victim” at Palomar College’s Escondido Education Center on Tuesday morning.

“He’s got smoke inhalation burns, so I’m going to do have to do a trach on him,” he continued, quickly shifting to address his play-acting patient. “Don’t talk, all right? If you get any pain, just tap me. We’re going to put a tube down into you, OK? It’s going to help you breathe.”

The tracheotomy procedure and treatment of the GSWs — gunshot wounds — were simulated, but still a bit difficult to watch for the squeamish.

The “victim” was wearing a newly acquired $37,000 “cut suit” purchased with a grant from the county Board of Supervisors. It feels like flesh, bleeds realistic-looking fake blood when punctured, has internal organs and gives students a more authentic experience when training to treat victims in emergency situations.

The college will use the suit in its emergency medical education department, which offers a Tactical Combat Casualty Care course and a Law Enforcement First Responder course.

The courses were developed by the military and have been adapted to address similar high-threat responses such as SWAT operations, active school shooters, barricaded subjects and wounded officers.

The overall county grant was $71,000, and the remainder will be used to help pay for two baby manikins that also will be used in emergency training at the school.

Pete Ordille, a faculty member with the emergency medical education department, said hyper-realistic training is needed in an era of active shooters, riots, bombings and other violent incidents.

National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians issued a directive in 2013 calling for more qualified training sites to teach programs based in military medicines, Ordille said.

The American College of Surgeons also has called for better emergency training, and in 2008 it launched a Trauma Quality Improvement Program. The National Trauma Institute estimates that traumatic injuries kill about 190,000 Americans per year and account for about 2.3 million hospitalizations.

San Diego-based Strategic Operations, a company known for conducting realistic battlefield simulations for the military, created the cut suits.

“It allows a first-responder to perform real procedures on a live human, which is different from a manikin,” Ordille said.

The 20-pound suit allows a first-responder to practice several procedures, such as hemorrhage control with a tourniquet or clamps and a surgical cricothyroidotomy to clear breathing.

The demonstration Tuesday included a gory procedure on a bullet wound, complete with a flowing stream of blood, and a procedure called a thoracentesis, which involves inserting a long needle into the chest to remove fluid.

The actor wearing the suit screamed and squirmed at times as the man working on him try to calm him and keep him alert.

“Keep talking to me, Eric,” he said to the patient. “Keep talking to me. You’re doing good, buddy.”

The suits also have been used to train medical students in trauma care. Last year, about 100 doctors, students and emergency personnel from out of town trained with the suits at the back lot of Stu Segall Productions studio in Kearny Mesa.

San Diego County Supervisor Dave Roberts, who attended the demonstration in Escondido on Tuesday, said the training by Palomar College will pay off in helping the region become better prepared for emergencies.

“At the County of San Diego, we consider this an investment in public safety and emergency care for the entire region,” he said.

As an added plus, buying the suit from Strategic Operations helps support a local company, he said.

“When I heard they were actually manufactured by a local company, I said, ‘Bingo, this is the perfect recommendation for the Board of Supervisors,’” he said.


"Cut Suit" Makes Drill Frighteningly Realistic

Posted May 25, 2016

Mannequins are often used for training in disaster preparedness drills, but Palomar College has acquired an advanced piece of equipment that creates an extremely realistic simulation of great bodily injuries. CBS News 8’s Shawn Styles has the details in this video report.

Watch the video on CBS8 Website


Local Restaurant Featured in Iconic Movie to Celebrate the 30th Anniversary - Kit Lavell Interview

Posted May 12, 2016

A classic 1980s movie that featured scenes filmed inside a San Diego restaurant is turning 30 next week and anniversary celebrations have already kicked off. “Top Gun” was released on May 16, 1986, featuring Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis in leading roles.

Movies such as "Top Gun" has resulted in increased interest of military service. Strategic Operations' Kit Lavell talks about the influence of Hollywood on the military.

Watch the video on NBC7 Website


Strategic Operations Hosts Active Shooter Drills

Posted May 10, 2016 ( Original CBS8 Report - May 9, 2016)

Members of San Diego’s medical community are now better prepared to respond to active shooter and other trauma casualties, after a unique training.

Medical students, along with ER residents and staff from Balboa Naval Hospital and UC San Diego Medical Center participated in a series of life or death scenarios involving active shooters, overturned cars and IED’s last week. They performed hyper-realistic drills with real firefighters, paramedics and police at Strategic Operations on the back lot of Stu Segall Productions, which is a TV and movie studio in San Diego.

“There’s not a lot of opportunities to practice live active shooter scenarios in a very realistic setting,” said Kit Lavell with Strategic Operations. “You make your mistakes in the training environment here that’s hyper-realistic, so your first experience in the real world should be no worse than in the last training you did in a hyper-realistic environment. That’s what saves lives.”


Journal of Emergency Medical Services - Time is Blood

Posted April 11, 2016 (April 2016 Issue)

In the April 2016 issue of the Journal of Emergency Medical Services, A.J. Heightman, MPS, EMT-P, shares his knowledge and experience with training civilian emergency responders to save lives.

Read Article (PDF Download)



San Diego Business Journal - Preparing for the Unpredictable

Posted March 28, 2016 (originally published March 21, 2016)

Brittany Meiling covers the IMSH training event from January 2016.

Read the Story (PDF)


IMSH Daily - Hyper-Realistic Saturday Workshop

Posted January 19, 2016

The International Meeting on Simulation in Healthcare (IMSH) is a scientific conference that explores the latest innovations and best practices in healthcare simulation. IMSH provides the tools and resources healthcare professionals need to advance their skills, impact change in delivery systems and practice, and, ultimately, to improve patient safety.

Strategic Operations was featured in the Monday, January 18, 2016 Edition of IMSH Daily.

Read the Article (PDF)


The Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery

The marriage of surgical simulation and telementoring for damage-control surgical training of operational first responders - A pilot study

Posted November 25, 2015 (From November 2015 - Volume 79 - Issue 5

Hemorrhage is the leading cause of preventable posttraumatic death. Many such deaths may be potentially salvageable with remote damage-control surgical interventions. As recent innovations in information technology enable remote specialist support to point-of-care providers, advanced interventions, such as remote damage-control surgery, may be possible in remote settings.

Read More (The Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery Website)

Read Paper (PDF)


San Diego Business Journal – Co. Adds Civilian Training to Its Simulated Scenario Offerings

Posted October 19, 2015 (originally published October 19, 2015)

Brittany Meiling provides an overview of civilian Hyper-Realistic® training at Strategic Operations.

Read the Story (PDF)


Military Training Technology Magazine - Industry Interview

Posted October 13, 2015

Kit Lavell, Vice President of Strategic Operations Inc., answers questions about the latest in military training technology.

Read Article (PDF)


CAE and Strategic Operations - Trade Press Release

Posted September 18, 2015

CAE Healthcare announces exclusive distributor agreement with Strategic Operations for medical simulation trauma surgical suits

Montreal, Canada, September 18, 2015 – CAE Healthcare announced today that it has signed an exclusive rights agreement to distribute the Strategic Operations (STOPS) Surgical Cut Suit and other simulation training products in all parts of the world outside the United States. Designed for point-of-injury care, the Surgical Cut Suit allows first responders and physicians to practice performing surgical and emergency procedures on patients with simulated traumatic, life-threatening injuries.

Based in San Diego, USA, STOPS simulates medical response field scenarios through the “magic of Hollywood,” with hyper-realistic training environments that include special effects, role players and simulated wounds. STOPS has developed a line of medical products that can be worn by actors or Standardized Patients (SPs) to allow real-time interaction with a trauma patient. The Surgical Cut Suit and Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC)/EMS Cut Suit vest can also be zipped around a manikin to add realism to a scenario.

“Strategic Operations has created a spectacular line of simulation products that complement our portfolio and can be used in conjunction with Standardized Patients and our patient simulators to add versatility to trauma training scenarios,” said Dr. Robert Amyot, President of CAE Healthcare. “Like CAE Healthcare, Strategic Operations has employed subject matter and clinical experts to create training tools for emergency medical scenarios that are common but impossible to practice on live patients with the shared goal of saving more lives.”

“We are pleased to be part of the CAE Healthcare extensive portfolio of training solutions,” STOPS Executive Vice President Kit Lavell said. “Our products are very complementary and I believe the market will respond enthusiastically to this new synergy.”

The TCCC/EMS Cut Suit was developed for treating the three primary causes of death on the battlefield: hemorrhage, airway compromise and tension pneumothorax. The Surgical Cut Suit allows practice on a patient with severe internal bleeding or organ damage from point-of-injury through transport and surgical intervention. STOPS recently garnered media attention when the Cut Suit was used in a gravity-free environment in the skies above Ottawa, Canada to simulate damage control surgery in the ultimate austere environment – space. (http://www.lfpress.com/2015/07/24/space-surgeon and http://www.gizmag.com/medical-team-attempts-simulated-zero-gravity-surgery/38330/)

“The Surgical Cut Suit is part of a unique educational curriculum that Rocky Vista University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Colorado developed with our help,” said STOPS President Stu Segall. Besides pathologies, Surgical Cut Suit procedures include hemorrhage control by tourniquet or by suturing and stapling of internal organs, arterial ligation or clamping, surgical cricothyrotomy, needle thoracentesis and suturing of internal organs and skin and peripheral IV access. Both suits can be customized based on the scenario and are repairable for multiple uses.

STOPS has also created a blood pumping system that can be controlled remotely, blast trousers for treatment of severe bleeding injuries that are above the knee and above tourniquet placement and also a 6-in-1 TCCC trainer, an upper torso that provides training for multiple procedures to clear airways and restore breathing.

CAE Healthcare and Strategic Operations will demonstrate the products at upcoming military and civilian medical conferences and at the International Meeting for Simulation in Healthcare (IMSH) in San Diego in January of 2016.

About Strategic Operations

Strategic Operations Inc., on the lot of Stu Segall Productions, a full-service TV / movie studio in San Diego, Calif., provides “Hyper-Realistic®” training services and products for military, law enforcement and other organizations responsible for homeland security. The company employs state-of-the-art Hollywood battlefield special effects, combat wound effects, medical simulation systems like the “Cut Suit,” role players, subject matter experts, and training scenarios to create training environments that are the most unique in the industry. Over the last 13 years Strategic Operations has provided Hyper-Realistic® training support to more than 750,000 military, law enforcement, and civilian first responders. STOPS Tactical Training Canada LLC, a subsidiary of Strategic Operations, has headquarters in Alberta, Canada. For more information, visit www.strategic-operations.com.

Follow us on Twitter @StrategicOps.

About CAE Healthcare

CAE Healthcare offers cutting-edge learning tools to healthcare students and professionals, allowing them to develop practical experience through risk-free simulation training before treating real patients. CAE Healthcare’s full spectrum of simulation solutions includes surgical and imaging simulation, curriculum, the LearningSpace audiovisual and center management platform and highly realistic adult, pediatric and baby patient simulators. Today, approximately 9,000 CAE Healthcare simulators and audiovisual solutions are in use worldwide by medical schools, nursing schools, hospitals, defence forces and other entities. www.caehealthcare.com

About CAE

CAE (NYSE: CAE; TSX: CAE) is a global leader in the delivery of training for the civil aviation, defence and security, and healthcare markets. We design and integrate the industry’s most comprehensive training solutions, anchored by the knowledge and expertise of our 8,000 employees, our world-leading simulation technologies and a track record of service and technology innovation spanning seven decades. Our global presence is the broadest in the industry, with 160 sites and training locations in 35 countries, including our joint venture operations, and the world’s largest installed base of flight simulators. Each year, we train more than 120,000 civil and defence crewmembers, as well as thousands of healthcare professionals. www.cae.com

Follow us on Twitter @CAE_Inc


Pour la presse spécialisée

CAE Santé annonce un accord de distribution exclusive avec Strategic Operations pour des combinaisons de simulation en traumatologie (Cut Suit)

Montréal (Canada), le 18 septembre 2015 – CAE Santé a annoncé aujourd’hui qu’elle a signé un accord exclusif avec l’entreprise Strategic Operations pour distribuer leurs combinaisons de simulation en traumatologie (Cut Suit) et d’autres produits de simulation destinés à la formation, et ce, à l’échelle mondiale, à l’exception des États-Unis. Conçue pour simuler les soins sur les lieux d’un accident, la combinaison de simulation chirurgicale en traumatologie (Surgical Cut Suit) permet aux premiers intervenants et aux médecins de s’exercer aux procédures d’urgence médicales et chirurgicales sur des patients avec des lésions traumatiques et blessures sévères simulées.

Strategic Operations, une entreprise de San Diego (États-Unis), simule des scénarios d’intervention médicale sur les lieux d’un accident en faisant appel à la magie d’Hollywood » avec des environnements de formation ultra-réalistes comprenant des effets spéciaux, des acteurs et des blessures simulées. Strategic Operations a mis au point une gamme de produits de simulation médicale que des acteurs ou des patients simulés peuvent porter pour permettre une simulation interactive en temps réel avec des patients simulés victimes de traumatismes. Les combinaisons de simulation chirurgicale en traumatologie (Surgical Cut Suit) et de simulation en secourisme en situation de combat (Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC)/EMS Cut Suit) peuvent également être mises sur un mannequin pour augmenter le réalisme d’un scénario.

Strategic Operations a créé une remarquable gamme de produits de simulation qui s’ajoute à notre catalogue et que nous pouvons utiliser de concert avec des patients simulés et nos simulateurs de patients afin de diversifier les scénarios de formation en traumatologie, a déclaré le Dr Robert Amyot, président de CAE Santé. Comme CAE Santé, Strategic Operations a fait appel à des leaders d’opinion et des experts cliniques pour mettre au point des outils de formation pour des scénarios de soins médicaux d’urgence qui sont courants, mais pour lesquels il est impossible de s’exercer sur de vrais patients, dans le but commun de sauver plus de vies

Nous sommes ravis de faire partie de la vaste gamme de solutions de formation de CAE Santé, a affirmé Kit Lavell, vice-président exécutif de Strategic Operations. Nos produits sont très complémentaires et je crois que cette synergie sera accueillie favorablement par le marché.

Les combinaisons de simulation chirurgicale en traumatologie (Surgical Cut Suit) et de simulation en secourisme en situation de combat (Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC)/EMS Cut Suit) ont été mises au point pour traiter les trois principales causes de décès sur les champs de bataille : hémorragie, obstruction des voies respiratoires et pneumothorax sous tension. Les combinaisons de simulation chirurgicale en traumatologie permettent de s’exercer sur un patient simulé atteint d’une grave hémorragie interne ou de sévères lésions d’organes, des lieux d’un accident jusqu’au transport du patient, en passant par l’intervention chirurgicale. Strategic Operations a récemment attiré l’attention des médias lorsque sa combinaison de simulation a été utilisée en état d’apesanteur dans le ciel d’Ottawa (Canada) dans le but de simuler une intervention chirurgicale de sauvetage dans l’environnement le plus hostile : l’espace. (articles en anglais : http://www.lfpress.com/2015/07/24/space-surgeon et http://www.gizmag.com/medical-team-attempts-simulated-zero-gravity-surgery/38330/).

La combinaison de simulation chirurgicale en traumatologie (Surgical Cut Suit) fait partie d’un programme de formation unique offert à l’école d’ostéopathie de la Rocky Vista University, au Colorado, et mis au point avec notre aide, a ajouté Stu Segall, président de Strategic Operations. En plus des pathologies, la combinaison de simulation chirurgicale en traumatologie permet de simuler diverses procédures : maîtrise d’une hémorragie à l’aide d’un garrot ou en suturant ou agrafant des organes internes, ligature artérielle ou clampage artériel, cricothyrotomie, thoracentèse par trocart, suture d’organes internes et de la peau ainsi que l’établissement d’un accès veineux périphérique. Les deux combinaisons sont personnalisables selon le scénario voulu et peuvent être réparées en vue d’utilisations ultérieures.

Strategic Operations a également mis au point un système de pompe pour du sang simulé que l’on peut commander à distance, des combinaisons de simulation de lésion secondaires à une explosion pour simuler le traitement d’hémorragies graves au-dessus du genou et au-dessus d’un garrot, un outil de formation en secourisme en situation de combat 6 en 1, ainsi qu’un torse simulé servant à offrir des formations sur diverses procédures visant à dégager les voies respiratoires et à rétablir la respiration.

CAE Santé et Strategic Operations feront une démonstration de ces produits à des conférences en médecines civiles et militaires à venir et à l’International Meeting for Simulation in Healthcare (réunion annuelle sur la simulation en soins de santé) qui aura lieu à San Diego en janvier 2016.

À propos de Strategic Operations

Strategic Operations Inc, dans le giron de Stu Segall Productions, un studio cinématographique complet basé à San Diego (Californie), offre des services et des produits de formation ultra-réalistes (Hyper-RealisticMC) aux organismes militaires, aux organismes responsables de l’application des lois et aux autres organismes responsables de la sécurité intérieure. L’entreprise fait appel à des effets spéciaux cinématographiques pour simuler des situations de combat et des blessures de combat, des acteurs, des leaders d’opinion, des scénarios de formation et des systèmes de simulation médicale tels que la combinaison de simulation en traumatologie (Cut Suit) dans le but de créer les environnements de formation les plus uniques de l’industrie. Au cours des 13 dernières années, Strategic Operations a offert des services de formation ultra-réalistes à plus de 750 000 premiers intervenants d’organismes civils, militaires et organismes responsables de l’application des lois. STOPS Tactical Training Canada LLC, une filiale de Strategic Operations, a son siège social en Alberta, au Canada. Pour de plus amples renseignements, visitez le www.strategic-operations.com .

Suivez-nous sur Twitter à @StrategicOps

À propos de CAE Santé

CAE Santé fournit des outils d’apprentissage de pointe aux étudiants et aux professionnels de la santé, ce qui leur permet de s’exercer sans risque à l’aide d’une plateforme de simulation avant de mettre en application leurs aptitudes sur de réels patients. La gamme complète de solutions de simulation de CAE Santé inclut la simulation chirurgicale et la simulation de l’échographie, les programmes, la plateforme audiovisuelle de gestion de centres LearningSpace et les simulateurs de patients (nourrisson, enfant et adulte) hautement réalistes. À l’heure actuelle, près de 9 000 simulateurs et solutions audiovisuelles de CAE Santé sont utilisés dans le monde par des écoles de médecine, des écoles de soins infirmiers, des hôpitaux, des forces de défense et d’autres entités. www.cae.com/fr/sante/

À propos de CAE

CAE (NYSE : CAE; TSX : CAE) est un chef de file mondial en prestation de formation dans les domaines de l’aviation civile, de la défense et sécurité, et des soins de santé. Nous concevons et intégrons les solutions de formation les plus complètes de l’industrie, grâce aux connaissances et au savoir-faire de nos 8 000 employés, de nos technologies de simulation de renommée mondiale et de notre réputation en matière de service et d’innovation technologique s’échelonnant sur sept décennies. Notre présence mondiale est la plus vaste de l’industrie, avec 160 établissements et centres de formation situés dans 35 pays, y compris les activités de nos coentreprises, et le plus important parc de simulateurs de vol au monde. Chaque année, nous formons plus de 120 000 membres d’équipage civils et militaires, ainsi que des milliers de professionnels de la santé. www.cae.com

Suivez-nous sur Twitter à @CAE_Inc


Military Training Technology Magazine - Training for the Urban Terrain

Posted July 15, 2015

"With the future military operations expected to occur in the world's burgeoning cities, military trainers and their industry partners are stepping up efforts to develop effective technology and formats for military operations in urban terrain (MOUT) training."

Read Article (PDF)


Damage Control Surgery in a Weightless Environment

Posted June 26, 2015

Torso bleeding remains the most preventable cause of post-traumatic death worldwide. Remote damage control resuscitation (RDCR) endeavours to rescue the most catastrophically injured, but has not focused on prehospital surgical torso hemorrhage control (HC). We examined the logistics and metrics of intraperitoneal packing in weightlessness in Parabolic flight (0g) compared to terrestrial gravity (1g) as an extreme example of surgical RDCR.

Read Paper (NCBI Website)


Fourth Annual Intensive Surgical Skills Course (ISSC) Week - May 2015

Posted May 25, 2015

This annual event was held at the Strategic Operations facilities and featured the patented Human-worn Surgical Simulator ("Cut Suit") and Hyper-Realistic, immersive, interactive simulations form point-of-injury (overturned cares, high-rise fires, industrial accidents for civilian scenarios - to RPGs, IEDs, and explosions for military scenarios), with Federal and local firefighters, police, SWAT Teams, EMTs, paramedics, and military personnel participating.

Strategic Operations, Inc. (STOPS) developed this course with Dr. Anthony J. LaPorta and Rocky Vista University (RVU) Osteopathic School of Medicine in Colorado.

The American College of Surgeons/AEI in March 2015 called the ISSC curriculum a “best practice.”

Other Coverage

KPBS San Diego - 25 Medical Students Come To San Diego For Real-Life Training

The San Diego Union-Tribune - 'Cut Suits' add realism to trauma training


Emergency Simulation Trains First Responders

Posted July 28, 2014

SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) – Local first responders took part in an ultra-realistic emergency drill Monday involving an explosion with mass casualties.

The drill was staged by Strategic Operations, a part of the Stu Segall movie production company. Creators at the Kearny Mesa lot use movie techniques to make the training more realistic. They say the more real the training environment, the better the body adapts to stress.

“To get the heart rate up and to be able to work under actual stressful environments. To make the correct decisions at the correct time,” physician’s assistant trainee Kellen Gumm said.

This is the 12th year Strategic Operations has staged this type of training.


Face of Defense: Troops Train with Surgical 'Cut Suits'

Posted May 20, 2014

By Army Staff Sgt. Carrie A. Castillo
Army Reserve Medical Command

FORT MCCOY, Wis., May 20, 2014 – Medical Readiness and Training Command members from San Antonio employed a special piece of equipment during a military medical exercise held here from April 26 through May 16.

(Image: From Right, Army Maj. (Dr.) Sina Haeri, medical surgeon, San Antonio and Army Lt. Col. (Dr.) Raymond Frost, Columbia, Missouri, 320th Medical Company, 324th Combat Support Hospital, San Antonio, cut into a patient wearing a cut suit to conduct a simulated emergency laparotomy. Acting patient Army Spc. Kevin Stebler, 912th Dental Company, was brought into the operating room after his arrival for treatment of simulated injuries due to an improvised explosive device. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Carrie A. Castillo)

During the training, the military medical personnel employed the Human Worn Partial Task Surgical Simulator, also known as a cut suit.

Army Master Sgt. Tinamarie Reese, a combat medic, and Army Sgt. 1st Class Kristina Boettcher, a licensed practical nurse, are only two of the six personnel that were trained and certified to work with the cut suits during the exercise.

“The neat thing about these cut suits is we can ‘heal’ them,” Reese said. “This gives us the opportunity to have a 24-hour turnaround time on any one of the suits we have here. We prepare one to be worn on a live person with any type of wounds we choose, to create different scenarios. When they have completed the scenario we bring the cut suit back and begin the healing process by cleaning it and then closing the cuts with clear silicone.”

Using the suit “allows them to be able to provide invaluable training to go beyond notional training and be able to actually go through the process of real surgery,” Boettcher said.

Officials said the cut suit is used as part of the exercise scenarios given to medical personnel at either the Expeditionary Medical Facility that is being operated by the Navy, or the Combat Support Hospital that is operated by the Army.

Once the scenarios and wounds are planned, exercise participants like Reese and Boettcher get to work choosing which organs will be damaged by an improvised explosive device, a gunshot wound, or even adding live earthworms to the intestines.

“We try to make everything as real as possible. Yesterday we added live earthworms to the intestines to act as parasites,” Reese said. “A soldier, sailor or airman could very easily drink parasitic water while deployed, so this just makes it more real. I like to see the reactions of the docs when they cut into the organs and there are different materials and smells in there.”

Army Spc. Devonne Woodruff, a dental assistant, 912th Dental Company, Twinsburg, Ohio, was one of three soldiers that volunteered to wear the cut suit. Woodruff met the physical profiles needed to wear the suit.

“It was something different to do besides the other training we are getting while we’re here,” Woodruff said.

“There was one soldier I had to get out of the suit halfway through the scenario. He got claustrophobic,” Reese recalled. “This suit weighs about 35 pounds and it’s worn just like a backward flight suit because it zips up the back.”

The cut suit is designed to be worn by a male weighing about 150 to 200 pounds and 5 feet 10 inches tall, officials said. These requirements are due to the length and girth of the suit. It needs to be form-fitted to the body, with no loose material. The volunteer is also only allowed to be in the suit for up to 4 hours.

The cut suit team employs a blood-pumping system that’s attached to the patient.

“We will add the BPS for the wound on his leg,” Boettcher said, “so that the first responders will have to apply a tourniquet before he can even go into the emergency room. I have a remote that is linked to the BPS and I can let more blood flow until I believe they have the tourniquet on correctly.”

Combat medic Army Spc. Kevin Strebler, an Akron, Ohio, native with the 912th Dental Company at Twinsburg, Ohio, was the volunteer for one of the cut suits.

“I’ve done this two times before — this is my third time,” Strebler said. “It’s fun. I get to yell and scream about my injuries to play along. The mannequins don’t yell and scream, so they [the doctors] have to pretend more.”


Military Training Technology Magazine - Cultural and Language Training

Posted May 6, 2014

Written by: Scott R. Gourley

The widely cited U.S. policy of “Pacific Rebalance” is impacting trans-Pacific relationships across a spectrum of governmental, economic and security environments.

Within the trans-Pacific security environment, Department of Defense components are working to incorporate many of the critical Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) lessons learned over the past 14 years into a framework of cooperation and understanding with new regional partners. And one set of critical lessons involves the importance of cultural and language training for forces operating on a global stage.

Some of the new efforts to support cultural and language training range from simplified language efforts to specialized training facilities to new software developments designed to accelerate regional capabilities among U.S. forces.

One fairly basic example of early trans-Pacific/Asia language efforts can be seen in “Disaster Assistance Translator for Asia,” developed by Kwikpoint on behalf of the Department of the Navy’s Center for Language, Regional Expertise, and Culture. Similar to the company’s American Red Cross Disaster Assistance Translator, the 24-panel laminated card not only features hundreds of visual images covering applications from medical to family issues, but also adds key phrases in Bengali, Burmese, Cantonese, Dzongka, Hindi, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Lao, Maldivian, Mandarin, Nepalese, Sinhala, Tagalog, Thai and Vietnamese.

At the other end of the complexity spectrum, San Diego-based Strategic Operations is configuring regional training facilities to support the same levels of “hyper-realism” that have been applied to their Iraqi and Afghan training settings over the past decade.

Kit Lavell, executive vice president at Strategic Operations, said much of the current work is being done with the Marine Corps through the Program Management Training Systems (PM TRASYS) Atmospherics contract, a multi-year contract under which the company provides “all of the things that go inside and outside MOUT [military operations on urban terrain] facilities to make them look realistic and that have the ability to be changed to reflect whatever the current theater of operations happens to be.”

Following up on a record of implementing cultural realism across a variety of U.S. training site locations, Lavell pointed to Atmospherics support of the Pacific Rebalance, offering, “In Guam, for example, we are currently making the MOUT facilities look like the Far East.”

Lavell explained that the company’s business is split between manufacturing and training.

“On the manufacturing end, in addition to our Atmospherics, we are building for the military services and other governmental agencies MOUT facilities and other types of buildings, including embassies and governmental buildings and compounds that might be found through all parts of the world,” he said.

“In addition to that, we are involved in training in a big way,” he added. “And being one of the very first companies to use actors who know the culture and the language 12 years ago, starting with the Middle East, we have provided role player support and everything that goes along with it—wardrobe, special effects and things like that—to replicate different parts of the world. We have supplied role players who know other languages of the Far East—including Tagalog, Korean and others. So we see the shift and we are prepared to provide role players and cultural experts in those parts of the world.

“We’re using all of the same hyper-realistic techniques that we have developed to support OEF and OIF,” he added. “And for OEF and OIF those were used in a very kinetic way. But we are now using those same techniques to train our men and women in uniform in those types of situations and environments where it is necessary to work with indigenous elements—either government, military or local populations.”


San Diego Business Journal - Companies’ Realistic Simulations Bring Home the Lessons of War

Posted November 25, 2013

By Brad Graves

The blood and the chaos seem very real during a morning spent training sailors to be U.S. Navy corpsmen on the grounds of Strategic Operations Inc. in Kearny Mesa.

Lavell declined to give his company’s revenue, but said the bulk of it is in military training. The business began as a movie studio in 1991 but shifted to military training after 9/11. Today, Strategic Operations competes for its work. “We don’t get sole-source contracts,” Lavell said. In June, the business got a deal to train British soldiers at a military base in Alberta, Canada. Strategic Operations also offers training for law enforcement agencies.

Part of Strategic Operations’ business, both on- and off-site, is building sets. Its construction crews recently built a Navy destroyer interior at one of its Kearny Mesa sound stages to train sailors for scenarios like the bombing of the USS Cole. The enterprise put together a mock Middle Eastern village in the undeveloped, eastern part of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in 2004. And under the guidance of a U.S. Marine Corps general, it converted a 33,000-square-foot building at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton into an infantry simulator.

Strategic Operations recently developed an actor-worn “cut suit” which bleeds when cut. The business is trying to interest its government client in using it more. The demand for such simulators may increase since animal rights advocates have objected to the military using live farm animals for medical lessons.

Read Full Article (Subscription Required)


CITYLAB - Boston Is One of the Best Prepared U.S. Cities to Handle a Crisis

Posted April 19, 2013

By Henry Grabar

The city conducted vivid, citywide disaster simulations in 2011 and 2012.

Excerpt:

The drills are intended to be strikingly lifelike. Urban Shield has worked with Strategic Operations, a Hollywood effects company that also helps prepare army medics for the battlefield. (Their disaster scenario staff, Baker says, include an amputee.) With a generous helping of moulage, their drills aim to force officials to confront both the logistical and atmospheric challenges of a disaster.

Read Full Article (CITYLAB Website)


NBC7 San Diego - Troops Endure Hyper-Realistic Training

Posted March 14, 2013

Military officials have special combat training that provides the element of urban warfare. Lea Sutton reports.

Watch Video (NBC7 San Diego Website)


The Fayetteville Observer - Fort Bragg Expects to Stop Using Goats for Trauma Training as Military Moves to Ban It

Posted January 13, 2013

By Drew Brooks

Excerpt:

Pippin and Goodman advocate for the use of various simulators, including “cut suits” that they say are better suited for the trauma training.

Some simulators look like humans, they said, and feature lifelike skin, anatomically correct organs, breakable bones and realistic blood flow.

Others can be worn by humans while still providing many of the realistic features. “The anatomy and physiology of a goat and a pig are dramatically different from humans,” Goodman said. “The simulators are better in all regards.”

Read Full Story (The Fayetteville Observer Website)


Army Technology - Total Immersion: Military Training Gets Real

Posted January 3, 2013

By Chris Lo

As the face of 21st century conflict continues to shift and the battlefield becomes ever more asynchronous and complex, the challenges confronting military, law enforcement and intelligence personnel are more formidable than ever. With the intricacies of major security topics such as counter-insurgency, counter-terrorism and disaster response evolving at a rapid pace, military and security training techniques and technologies have undergone a similar evolution.

Advances in simulation have opened up new possibilities in many fields of instruction, but at the other end of the training spectrum there is reality-based training (RBT), which seeks to immerse trainees in convincing physical recreations of security or combat scenarios to encourage lightning-fast tactical decision-making.

Hollywood-style explosions and gunfire provide realistic approximations of their real-life counterparts, and some gruesome prosthetics work helps to inure soldiers to the horrors of the battlefield. RBT’s proponents argue that this method, used in conjunction with more traditional tuition, allows trainees to hone their skills in a realistic environment and even reduces incidences of post-traumatic stress and anxiety disorders.

The Halo Corporation and its training partner Strategic Operations (STOPS) are two such proponents. Halo and STOPS, both based in San Diego, California, work on what they call “hyper-realistic” training programmes for armed forces, special forces, law enforcement and intelligence organisations in the US and around the world – STOPS alone has provided training support to more than 600,000 operators.

The companies recently participated in Halo’s Counter-Terrorism Summit, a massive event involving major demonstrations of RBT sessions, including a tongue-in-cheek “zombie apocalypse” scenario that grabbed widespread attention from mass media. We talked to Halo’s president Brad Barker and STOPS executive vice president Kit Lavell to discuss the advantages of immersive training and its place within the broader training landscape.

Chris Lo: What is your experience of delivering realistic training programmes?

Brad Barker: We have a wide range of clients from all over the world, including local, state and federal law enforcement, military and the intelligence community.

We identify what kind of training they’ve been undergoing recently, where they want to be and what they want that operator to possess as far as skill sets [go], and then we build a bridge between where they are now and where they want to be. That bridge is where we start to immerse them in an experiential type of training programme that is germane to what they do for a living.

Kit Lavell: STOPS uses state-of-the-art Hollywood battlefield special effects, combat wound effects, medical simulation systems such as the Cut Suit, role players, foreign language speakers, subject matter experts and immersive training scenarios to create training environments that are the most realistic in the industry.

We were the first company to use military training actors – now called role players – with detailed knowledge of the language, customs and culture of the Middle East, East Asia, south-east Asia, West Africa, Latin America and the Philippines.

We introduced Hollywood medical special effects to the military training world with makeup artists simulating combat wounds so realistically that many training participants thought the wounds were real and possibly caused by negligent discharges. Trainers frequently called “time out” in order to assess the situation. We’ve employed dozens of amputee actors in scenarios in which makeup artists fashioned realistic limbs which were then traumatically severed with STOPS battlefield effects.

CL: Is there evidence that immersive training leaves military personnel more ready to face the challenges of actual operations?

BB: We’re creating an environment with actors and technology that allows the student to be completely immersed into a world that is not unlike where he or she is going to be deployed. The results are staggering, not only in their effectiveness but physiologically there’s a reduction in adrenaline, cortisol and other measurable biological and chemicals reactions that the body will exhibit when under tremendous stress.

With the help of Hollywood-style special effects you can really sell the scenario to the attendee or student. So this is reducing the onset of post-traumatic stress and anxiety disorders that are related to being in an area of conflict and dealing with that trauma head-on. We call that stress inoculation.

KL: Researchers from the U.S. Naval Health Research Center recently studied Marines training in the Infantry Immersion Trainer. Naval Health researchers evaluated training participants for stress reactivity, mitigation and inoculation.

The researchers measured salivary cortisol and alpha amylase levels in Marines before and after immersion in this hyper-realistic environment. Preliminary results in this ongoing study found that the acute stress response to the IIT training was substantial. Salivary hormone levels also indicated that this type of training provided a stress inoculation effect.

CL: How do you think simulation matches up to RBT training in terms of effectiveness?

BB: With regard to technology training, there’s nothing better. If you are training a pilot on how to fly a UAV and his interface is digital, all you have to do is simulate that scenario – it’s just not connected to a real unmanned system. You have 100% efficacy there, if you do it enough.

But getting the guys in an immersive scenario, where the outcomes are hardly certain and they’re not clued in on what the opposition is going to do – this is where I see the world going.

It’s dramatically less expensive than spending a tonne of money on R2-D2 and C-3PO to train folks, but there are huge benefits to having the mature operator train the junior operator on historic methods of operation and then dusting that off and applying it to real-world counter-insurgencies or disaster response scenarios, based on emerging threats.

CL: With the high production values and slightly tongue-in-cheek sessions like the Counter-Terrorism Summit’s zombie apocalypse scenario, is there a danger that participants might find the training too ‘fun’ and miss out on the lessons to be learned?

KL: The demonstration scenarios that STOPS provided at the Halo Summit were not to train participants, but rather to showcase how training could be conducted hyper-realistically.

“We know that those who plan to do us harm are using reality-based training – they are mining the internet for scenarios.”

The ‘zombie apocalypse’ scenario had a very serious purpose, to demonstrate the complexity of responding to a chemical / biological incident or event. Rather than using a specific political or geographic ‘bad guy,’ and because it was Halloween, ‘zombies’ provided a simple and benign adversary for the event.

The only real biological attack our nation has faced was the anthrax attack shortly after 9/11. Lessons learned after that tragedy showed just how vulnerable we are. A single person with a contagion could shut down an entire hospital without proper decontamination. Training that integrates decontamination with medical response teams is vital – proper decontamination equipment and learning how to use it is a priority for first responders. These were elements of the scenario we demonstrated.

CL: With technology becoming so much more accessible, do you think realistic training is one thing that can’t be replicated in by terrorists or other attackers?

BB: I think that unfortunately, we’re a little behind the game right now. We’ve got quite a bit of catching up to do, because we know that those who plan to do us harm are using reality-based training.

They are mining the internet for scenarios. They’re using the benefit of their research to develop scenarios based on what they see in the media.

So we have an obligation to do intelligence research and analysis on this exportation of terrorist methods, and then find out what the common threads are. If we can just get 80% of those methods and develop hyper-realistic, immersive training methodologies to prepare for them, then we’ve got something significant.

CL: How important is it that training acknowledges past events, for example Hurricane Katrina or the Mumbai attacks, to update best practices and avoid past mistakes?

BB: The big deal with Katrina was communications interoperability. Nobody knew what the heck was going on. No one knew what someone had or what someone needed during most of that event.

“Makeup artists have simulated combat wounds so realistically that many training participants thought the wounds were real.” There was a whole lot of people starving over here, then two blocks over there was a whole bunch of food going bad and no one knew it was there. There was no communication, co-ordination or collaboration at any level, and in the gaps between those three Cs, people died.

Mumbai is another watershed moment, because that was the first time in history, in my view, where our opposition, the bad guys, were able to use technology as a force multiplier. They were able to co-ordinate that attack using technology that just ten years ago was only available to the most elite intelligence communities. In a decade, that stuff is available to a kid, oh and by the way it’s all in his pocket on his mobile device.

You need to have the maturity of the folks who have deployed previously so we don’t make the same mistakes again. What we’re trying to do is acknowledge the fact that we’re flawed, acknowledge the fact that we’re likely to make those same mistakes, but let’s not do it as frequently, shall we?

CL: How could training become even more immersive in the next five or ten years?

KL: The near future will bring greater realism in live training environments – the sights, the sounds, the smells, will increase in fidelity. Tracking of participants, results of engagements and after action review will become simpler, more streamlined and effective. Visual weapons effects both on participants and in the environment will become more realistic.

The number of combined live, virtual and constructive training events will increase and be networked geographically more frequently. Military training environments will become more realistic and will integrate training, often done with joint services, with test and evaluation of weapons systems, developmental testing, independent operational testing, independent evaluations, assessments and experiments of military equipment.

BB: If you look at a major flashpoint as the ‘bang’, we should start to focus on ‘left-of-bang’ and try to eliminate the threat while it’s in its planning stages. Because we know the bad guys are going to break the law before the bang – we know they are. If you can teach intelligence, special operations and law enforcement the methods of operation and what these perpetrators need to do to carry out their acts, if you teach them what to look for, they will go and find it. We know that. So let’s resource them there.

Read Original Article (Army Technology Website)


Military Training Technology Magazine - Realistic Urban Training

Posted December 18, 2012

“…The commander must set the conditions that will lead to the accomplishment of certain tasks. These tasks may include (but are not limited to) isolating the urban area; avoiding “template” planning and predictability; developing accurate situational awareness, including knowledge of the population; taking advantage of local expertise; and leading disciplined troops possessing necessary skills gained through realistic urban training and experience…” – Joint Publication 3-06, Joint Urban Operations, November 8, 2009

Now used as the foundational document across all the U.S. armed services for what is commonly dubbed military operations in urban terrain, Department of Defense Joint Publication 3-06 emphasizes the unique challenges presented by urban areas. In successfully meeting those myriad challenges the document points to the criticality of realistic urban training.

The desire to enhance the realism of urban training over the past decade is clearly evident in things like the proliferation of urban training infrastructures on military bases at home and abroad, the introduction of “hyper-realistic” training to the urban training environment, and technology developments that are already providing the benefits of greatly expanded urban training realism.

Urban Training Infrastructures

One excellent example of state-of the-art urban training infrastructures can be seen in the Combined Arms Military Operations in Urban Terrain training facility located at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twenty-nine Palms, Calif.

Completed in January 2011 by Allied Container Systems Inc., the facility is based on modified ISO shipping containers and includes a mixture of over 1,560 training facility buildings scattered across 274 acres of urban-depicted training space that is supported by a network of streets, courtyard walls, religious structures and village shanties.

“That’s the largest urban training facility that we have constructed,” said Greg Celesky, vice president of military programs at Allied Container Systems Inc. “But the amount of facilities that we have in place for the Department of Defense throughout the United States and [overseas] are tremendous. As just one example, our second largest site—and the first largest for the Army—is located at Fort McCoy, Wis., where we have a little over 1,000 structures.”

“When somebody hears the word ‘container,’ they think they are getting a corrugated 8-by-8-by-40 foot box from a shipping yard or off the back of a tractor trailer,” Celesky explained. “But it’s much more diversified than that. We use all new containers. We re-engineer and re-structure those containers to make it as realistic, sustainable and quality-proven as we possibly can. When we are done with a facility it doesn’t even look like a container anymore. It looks like an Afghan village. But it’s more than just Afghanistan. These are urban training solutions that meet the specific operational theater environment where they could be going to execute operations.”

Asked to summarize some of the elements that Allied Container Systems brings to their urban training solutions, Celesky highlighted the company’s desire to serve as a center of excellence in urban operations, demonstrated performance, and the subject matter expertise retained on its teams.

“Quality and sustainability are the next critical things that we talk about,” he continued. “Because when you are putting a facility up like we did at Twenty-nine Palms or any of the Army installations, they have to be maintainable. It isn’t just ‘one stop and drop.’ Along with introducing the urban training complexes, installations are taking on the parallel challenge of sustaining those facilities. And that gets back to the quality of our products.”

As noted earlier, the requirements for realistic urban training stretch across the Department of Defense. Another recent program that highlights this span of requirements is the Counter-IED MOUT Training Complex Project by Air Force Special Operations Command. In July of this year, Falcon Containers announced their prime contract award to provide training systems and structures for this program at the 27th Special Operations Wing, Cannon Air Force Base, N.M.

Describing the company as “a leading provider of repurposed shipping containers,” Falcon Containers will be responsible for a MOUT training site development that will allow warfighters to perform full mission profiles, designed to defeat the tactical challenges of IEDs as well as the strategic challenges of defeating the network that emplaces the IEDs.

Hyper-Realism

According to Kit Lavell, executive vice president for Strategic Operations Inc., the company entered the urban training arena from a San Diego television and movie production lot through “the creative genius” of producer Stu Segall. Following their introduction through a mutual friend, Lavell began pursuing the creation of a new business model for training.

“It was different from anything I had ever seen before, by taking … movie-making techniques and applying them to military and law enforcement training,” he recalled. “It would become a lot more interesting through the immersive experience.”

In addition to the sets and special effects, the company soon began utilizing “role players” from San Diego County, which boasts of the second largest Iraqi-American community and one of the larger Afghan-American communities in the country.

“I think we were one of the first companies to ever use role players from Southwest Asia to help provide the cultural and language experience during training,” he said. “We also were the first company ever to use ‘battlefield effects’ like you might see in movie demolitions.”

Emphasizing that everything in the military is fluid, dynamic and interactive, he said, “That’s where we apply the proprietary techniques to blend technologies in such a way that you can have movement all over in an immersive and ‘hyper-realistic’ environment. That’s what we brought to military training: an ability to create an immersive environment using all of these techniques but doing it in a safe way.”

He continued, “The other component to creating these immersive environments is to create a realistic looking environment. And we applied all of those techniques to make a MOUT facility look extremely realistic. So we have applied a lot of those building construction techniques over the years and we have actually ‘transformed’ a lot of the MOUT facilities at installations across the country.”

Projects have included: a two-and-a-half year-long effort to rebuild and create villages across 1,001 square miles at the National Training Center (NTC), Fort Irwin, Calif.; re-do of the MOUT facilities at the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) at Fort Polk, La.; a 2012 effort to transform MOUT facilities at Fort Bliss, Texas; and other MOUT facility efforts across the U.S. and Canada.

Lavell related the creation of urban training complexes out of ISO shipping containers to the 2003 timeframe, crediting the new process with “a way to quickly build facilities for training for the asymmetric threat that we were experiencing in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

“But that only went so far,” he said. “When you have hundreds of containers out there all painted tan they don’t look very realistic … So what we introduced was re-engineering of these by cutting them up, re-welding them, putting them together with structural components, and then ‘facade them’ on the inside and outside to make them look like construction techniques and materials that you would fine in the operational environment. So that’s what we did when we went through NTC and JRTC and Fort Bliss: We changed them to look realistic.”

Strategic Operations began exploring a new approach about three-and-a-half years ago, when they developed a patented system called the Relocatable Habitat Unit (RHU).

“Basically the RHU is a ‘mobile MOUT’ facility,” he explained. “ISO containers are not really mobile. When you put them down you can’t move them around very easily. So we saw the RHU as the way to have a truly mobile hyper-realistic MOUT facility. We developed it so that each 4-by-8-foot panel weighs less than 100 pounds, and they fit together with a simple tool and latching system. You can build a multi-story with that tool and each piece looks on the outside and the inside like whatever building construction material or technique you want. We’ve even done them to look like bamboo.”

Bringing the Realism Home

It’s one thing to provide realistic urban training at one of the Army’s major combat training centers or other major installation, but it can be even more important when it’s incorporated into home station training.

That’s the assertion of Jim Yarbrough, brigadier general, U.S. Army (Ret.), and now senior director of integrated training and leader development solutions at General Dynamics Information Technology. Drawing on his extensive expertise, which includes serving as former commander of the Army’s JRTC, Yarbrough offered, “I would say that the Army leadership is encouraging commanders to achieve more at home station training before they deploy to the combat training centers.”

Yarbrough spotlighted GDIT’s “InForce” Tactical Instrumentation Suite for its tremendous potential contributions to the realism of the “live” element within the increasingly critical “live, virtual, constructive” training environments at unit home stations. Characterizing it as “a quantum improvement over what they could achieve previous to this technology,” he described InForce as “a series of tripod-mounted small surveillance cameras that can be placed anywhere you want in a remote training area.”

“InForce allows you to go anywhere that you want to go remotely,” he said. “And in a matter of hours you can set up those tripods—each has a hardened command module that then operates not only those cameras but also triggers the battlefield effects that come with InForce, including pyrotechnic exploding devices, a robust menu or sounds, smoke generators, a menu of concentrated smell generators, and the control of targetry.”

Along with the portability and impressive range of battlefield effects, additional benefits come from the rapid retrieval of captured superior video clips to facilitate learning during the after action review process.

“The utility goes back to the attributes,” Yarbrough added. “It gives you a much higher level of training effectiveness—we say that it gives you ‘CTC level effectiveness’ at home station. And we truly believe that InForce is the future of instrumented urban operations training.”


San Diego Business Journal - Fake Blood, Real Lessons

Posted November 12, 2012

Marion Webb writes about the 5th Annual Halo Counter-Terrorism Summit in which Strategic Operations created the live-action training demonstration on behalf of Halo Corp.

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FireRescue Magazine - Practicing Tactical EMS on the "Cut Suit"

Posted November 9, 2012

By Shannon Pieper

First responders, military special ops and government counterterrorism personnel gathered for the HALO Corporation’s Counterterrorism Summit last week in San Diego. Although the overall attendee and exhibitor attendance took a big hit from Superstorm Sandy, which prevented many people from traveling, one highly attended event was the Downed Pilot Rescue, conducted by the training company Strategic Operations.

Led by a president with 35 years in the film industry and an executive vice president who flew 243 combat missions in Vietnam, Strategic Operations creates what it terms “hyper-realistic” training. It combines Hollywood battlefield special effects, combat wound effects, medical simulation systems and role players to produce an environment that is so close to real that participants react with the stress and fear of a live event—and thus learn valuable lessons about how to react under combat. The company has provided training support to more than 600,000 military personnel, but it is also branching into the public safety sector, as evidenced by the HALO event and a recent training with the San Diego Fire Department.

The HALO training demonstration featured a “developing-world” (think Afghanistan) village, constructed specifically for the training, as well as a team of actors who impersonated villagers and insurgents. Former Navy SEALs formed the airborne quick reaction force (QRF), and members of San Diego-area SWAT formed the force that eventually took over the village.

The scenario: A downed pilot is trapped in the village. The QRF parachutes into the village to attempt to extract the downed pilot while the opposition force fires rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) and small arms fire at them. The quick reaction force fights off the opposition, fights its way into the village, locates and administers aid to the pilot, extracts him and leaves.

A key component of the demonstration involved the QRF administering medical care to the downed pilot. This training featured the use of the “cut suit,” which is an incredibly realistic suit worn by the victim that allows first responders to perform medical care procedures. And we’re not talking simple things like applying bandages. The cut suit allows for the practice of:

- Extremity tourniquet application and hemorrhage control
- Extremity arterial hemorrhage clamping
- Needle and Surgical Chricothyroidotomy
- Bilateral Chest Needle Thoracentesis
- Surgical Chest Tube Thoracotomy
- Surgical incisions to the thoracic and abdominal cavity with venous bleeding
- Thoracotomy & intra-thoracic exploration and hemorrhage control of gross organ structures
- Laporotomy & intra-abdominal exploration and hemorrhage control of gross organ structures
- Suturing or stapling of gross organs & skin in all locations
- Urinary catheterization and bladder tap
- Peripheral IV access

Strategic Operations’ website lists the following features of the cut suit:
- The system can be worn during intensely physical scenarios at the point of injury
- The system weighs approximately 30 lbs (approximately equivalent to a current defense issued, fully-loaded individual body armor)
- Body armor, uniform, clothing and equipment is not only don-able over the system but usable
- The system allows for interaction with a live patient during the emergency assessment and treatment process
- The skin and organs are user repairable, allowing for multiple uses per unit (well beyond fifty repairs to fully lacerated skin)
- Interchangeable organs, variable rate beating heart and variable blood flow
- Wounds created by the user Breakable and repairable bones (ribs & sternum)

How does your training match up? Would EMS benefit from “hyper-realistic” training?


Fox5 - Zombies Attack in San Diego... Sort of

Posted November 1, 2012

by Kristy Wolski
Reporter

SAN DIEGO – Military, law enforcement and medical personnel responded to a zombie attack in San Diego Wednesday. Well, sort of.

A “zombie apocalypse” training exercise took place at Paradise Resort. It is part of a counterterrorism summit hosted by San Diego-based security firm Halo Corp. It runs from Oct. 29- Nov. 2.

While the exercise is all in good fun, organizers said the purpose behind it is completely serious. The zombie attack is just a fun way to represent real potential dangers.

“They can be a roving band of civil unrest,” said Brad Barker, Halo Corp. “Or somebody jacked up on some kind of psychotropic drug unable to be rationalized with. Or it could be somebody that, even when you try to use some type of less lethal force, they still might come at you in an almost supernatural way.”

In the training scenario, a military team is working in a third world village when a zombie apocalypse takes place. Military crews work to get people to safety, while fighting off the zombies. Medical personnel are called in to treat the wounded and also decontaminate those infected by the zombies.

The company Strategic Operations put together the attack, which demonstrates the importance of preparedness for any situation.

“Just like we’ve seen with Hurricane Sandy,” said Kit Lavell, Strategic Operations. “The preparedness really pays off when everybody who is a first responder knows exactly what they’re doing. That’s the purpose of this. In this case here it’s a chemical, biological event.”

Organizers said the zombie attack gave everyone attending the conference a chance to enjoy Halloween, while still taking what they’re learning and applying it.

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SDNews - National Security Summit to Close Paradise Point to Public Oct. 29-Nov. 2

Posted October 25, 2012

The HALO Counter-Terrorism Summit, a national-security training event, will temporarily shut down the Paradise Point Resort at Mission Bay, beginning Oct. 29.

The summit will bring together national security experts to educate and train those who work to keep America safe, both at home and abroad. Participating members include members of the military, law enforcement, emergency-response agencies and the intelligence community, according to organizers.

The summit is a private event that will run through Nov. 2.

As a result, Paradise Point will be closed to the general public through mid-afternoon on Nov. 2. The two public parking lots east and west of the property will also be closed to the public during the event.

Summit delegates will observe live-action demonstrations conducted jointly with Strategic Operations, a military training company that has provided pre-deployment training to more than 600,000 military personnel in the last decade. Strategic Operations is affiliated with Stu Segall Productions, one of the largest independent TV/movie studios in the country.

These demonstrations will include ground-level pyrotechnic effects and simulated munitions fire to replicate real-world scenarios where responders and operators can observe training techniques safely in a controlled environment. All events are acoustically designed to be fully contained within Paradise Point, organizers said. Should any sound leave the property, it will be within the noise levels allowed under the city’s municipal code.

Organizers also stressed the training poses no danger or hazard to the public. Demonstrations are scheduled for Oct. 30, Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 at about 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. and will last less than an hour in duration.

The Oct. 30 scenario features a downed-pilot rescue, and will include a team of former Navy SEALs parachuting onto Paradise Point (weather permitting). Persons in the vicinity of Paradise Point and surrounding areas may witness the skydiving activity at around 4:30 p.m.

“San Diego has a proud history of leadership in providing some of the finest military and law enforcement training in the world,” said Brad Barker, president of the HALO Corporation, which is organizing the summit. “With the summit, we hope to play our part in providing vital resources that mitigate the risk and impact of terrorist and criminal threats, natural disasters and manmade events. Servicemembers, law enforcement officers and emergency responders at all levels will have the opportunity to collaborate with their counterparts and receive valuable training that will keep our communities and citizens safer, whether locally, nationally or abroad.”

The HALO Counter-Terrorism Summit draws the best and brightest minds from national security, including keynote speakers like former CIA and NSA director Gen. Michael Hayden; Mexico’s Secretary of the Interior Alejandro Poiré Romero; and Deputy Chief Michael Downing, the commanding officer of the LAPD’s Counterterrorism and Special Operations Bureau.

The keynote speaker for the summit will be Cindy Hensley McCain, a humanitarian, businesswoman and wife of U.S. Sen. John McCain. McCain will call for greater awareness of one of the largest criminal industries in the world — human trafficking — and share her personal insight and experiences with the issue and speak about measures designed to help eradicate human trafficking worldwide.

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Strategic Operations, BSG Put Journalists Through New Hostile Environment Training

Posted October 11, 2012

SAN DIEGO — BSG, LLC and Strategic Operations (STOPS) have developed a joint venture to provide Hostile Environment Training for journalists of a major international news network at the STOPS’ 20-acre facility in San Diego, Calif. STOPS is a San Diego-based company specializing in Hyper-Realistic™ training environments for military, law enforcement and homeland security. BSG specializes in security risk management services and training solutions in high-risk business environments.

The hyper-realistic training program is provided to prepare journalists to operate in high risk and potentially hostile environments and deals with issues as diverse as risk assessment and management to administering lifesaving first aid. In addition, the Center for Community Solutions, a San Diego non-profit group, provided some very pertinent and timely advice on sexual assault awareness and crisis management.

“Utilizing the wealth of experience of BSG instructors and STOPS hyper-realistic special effects the journalists are immersed in realistic scenarios to simulate some of the more dramatic events that can unfold in potentially hostile environments,” said Kit Lavell, STOPS executive vice president. “This training will enable them to carry out their primary role as journalists in as safe a manner as possible, to avoid potentially dangerous situations and how to extract themselves from those situations if they find themselves in them.”

“We designed this course to meet the specific training needs of journalists deploying into high risk and hostile environments. When we developed this course, we decided that it had to be as realistic as possible and with as much hands on training as we could muster in the time available. We believe we have achieve this goal by developing a strong relationship with STOPS and we are absolutely confident that our training will contribute to keeping journalists safe when they are on assignment in high risk and hostile environments,” said Duncan Turner, Course Director for BSG, LLC.

Over the course of the five-day training program, the journalists received classroom lectures and practical advice from instructors, all of whom have been deployed in numerous high risk and hostile environments. Lectures were followed by immersive hyper-realistic training scenarios within the STOPS training village, involving pyrotechnic battlefield special effects, combat wound special effects make up and interaction with friendly and enemy role players.

About BSG, LLC

BSG is a Virginia based small business with considerable experience in providing security risk management services and training solutions. BSG was founded in 2001 by Gary Oliver and has successfully operated around the world since that time. BSG’s Directors and Consultants have lived and worked in over 50 countries and have provided services to a wide spectrum of clients in a broad range of environments. For more information, visit www.bsg-llc.us

About Strategic Operations

Strategic Operations Inc., on the lot of Stu Segall Productions, a full-service TV/movie studio, provides “Hyper-Realistic®” training services and products for military, law enforcement and other organizations responsible for homeland security. The company employs state-of-the-art Hollywood battlefield special effects, combat wound effects, medical simulation systems like the “Cut Suit,” role players, subject matter experts, and training scenarios to create training environments that are the most unique in the industry. Over the last 10 years Strategic Operations has provided Hyper-Realistic training support to more than 600,000 Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen, and Coast Guard personnel prior to combat deployment. For more information, visit www.strategic-operations.com.


Army Technology – ‘Blast Trousers’ to Teach Treating Groin Wounds

Posted September 11, 2012

By Gidget Fuentes

SAN DIEGO — When noise from the explosion finally subsided, a Marine’s agonized cries pierced the dusty air. A corpsman sprinted to his side but was taken aback by what he saw.

Shrapnel had torn into the infantryman’s groin, obliterating his genitals. Blood spurted from the gaping wound. The injury was so deep, so catastrophic, the medic was having trouble making sense of what lay before him.

“Stop the bleeding,” he thought. “Find the femoral artery.”

Massive bleeding is the leading cause of death among troops in combat. Now, a San Diego company has introduced a training device for corpsmen that may help save lives.

Designed and built by Strategic Operations Inc., the device, dubbed “Blast Trousers,” is worn by a participant in a medical training exercise. It replicates groin-area injuries — including damage to the femoral artery — due to roadside bombs. First-responders learn how to stop the severe bleeding during their predeployment combat trauma training courses.

Typically, pressure dressings and blood-clotting agents are applied, and attempts are made to clamp the artery, but that’s not easy because it retracts into the groin area, said Kit Lavell, executive vice president of Strategic Operations. Clamping it requires putting a hand into the cavity to grab the artery.

With the Blast Trousers, corpsmen and Marines with 1st Marine Division out of Camp Pendleton are getting a feel — literally — for the types of wounds they may encounter on the battlefield. The device, formally known as Inguinal Bleed Trousers, replicates organs, including skin, that can be cut, clamped and sutured. For training, it is made with a severe wound to the groin area. A vessel in the cavity replicates the femoral artery, and fake blood is pumped at similar pressures as in a human body.

Instructors say many corpsmen and medics, who haven’t put in time at trauma centers or emergency rooms, haven’t seen that injury until they get to combat.

That’s what former Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Greg Figueroa realized when he deployed to Iraq.

“Nobody ever gave me an inguinal stent. We were taught tourniquets,” said Figueroa, an instructor with Strategic Operations, who did an Iraq tour with 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines. “Nobody had trained me that if you have an inguinal bleed, this is what you do.”

Trauma training using the device “will help a lot,” Figueroa said. “If you could feel (the artery) and grab it, you could pinch it off.”

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Army Technology - Cut Suit Demo by Strategic Operations

Posted August 22, 2012

This week I was invited by Kay Nims from the Nellis Air Force Base Simulation training program to witness a demo of the Human Worn Partial Task Surgical Simulator, or CUT SUIT, by Strategic Operations.

The CUT SUIT, is a experiential immersive learning service provided by Strategic Operations wherein a medically trained acting professional wears a moulage suit over chest, torso and limbs in-order to present a live-victim engagement. During the demonstration and with Las Vegas based Thunderbirds flying overhead, a mock IED explosion rocked the audience to attention as a soldier stumbled from behind the vehicle, simulating massive limb bleeding, blocked airway, traumatic brain injury and shock. In all honesty, the realism of seeing a professional actor beg the paramedic to “save his leg” gave me goosebumps. What is really unique about the CUT SUIT, is the ability of medical response teams to deal with realistic wounds on a live patient in real time. Imagine the benefit involved with creating a realistic military or trauma scenario and actually be able to have learners make surgical cricothyroidotomy cuts into a live patient while under fire.

Features Unique to the Cut Suit:

-The system can be worn during intensely physical scenarios at the POI

-The system weighs approximately 30 lbs (approximately equivalent to a current defense issued, fully-loaded individual body armor)

-Body armor, uniform, clothing and equipment is not only don-able over the system but usable

-The system allows for interaction with a live patient during the emergency assessment and treatment process

-The skin and organs are user repairable, allowing for multiple uses per unit (well beyond fifty repairs to fully lacerated skin)

-Interchangeable organs, variable rate beating heart and variable blood flow

-Wounds created by the user

-Breakable and repairable bones (ribs & sternum)

-While the cut suit seems large, it only weighs 30 lbs and can be worn for extended periods of time by the actor. Because of the danger involved with cutting open simulated skin, Strategic Operations does NOT sell the cut suit as a product, but rather a SERVICE in-which a trained ATLS professional actor must be scheduled in-order that the limitations of such a suit can be maximized by your learner group.

Medical Procedures Currently Available on the Cut Suit:

-Extremity tourniquet application and hemorrhage control

-Extremity arterial hemorrhage clamping

-Needle and Surgical Cricothyroidotomy

-Bilateral Chest Needle Thoracentesis

-Surgical Chest Tube Thoracotomy

-Surgical incisions to the thoracic and abdominal cavity with venous bleeding

-Thoracotomy & intra-thoracic exploration and hemorrhage control of gross organ structures

-Laporotomy & intra-abdominal exploration and hemorrhage control of gross organ structures

-Suturing or stapling of gross organs & skin in all locations

-Urinary catheterization and bladder tap

-Peripheral IV access

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Army Technology – Simulators Could End Training on Live Animals

Posted August 22, 2012

SAN DIEGO — New high-tech simulation devices are raising hope among critics that the practice of teaching Navy corpsmen and Marines to treat trauma patients by slicing into live, anesthetized pigs and goats will come to an end.

The Defense Department uses more than 6,000 animals a year for combat-trauma training, according to congressional representatives and animal-rights groups that have criticized the practice as inhumane. But high-tech medical task trainers now let students learn specific medical procedures, like unblocking airways, stopping hemorrhages or treating patients with amputated limbs under extremely realistic conditions.

One such device, the Human Worn Partial Task Surgical Simulator, or “cut suit,” developed by Strategic Operations Inc., replicates human organs and blood vessels. The company’s website claims it is “the most realistic way to simulate the look, feel and smell effects of severe traumatic events on a live human,” while allowing corpsmen and Marines to perform real procedures.

A recent study at Rocky Vista University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine in Parker, Colo., found that second-year medical students who used the “cut suit” as a surgical simulator in training were better skilled and more prepared for stressful clinical rotations. “With each day of exposure to stressful training scenarios, students reported feeling incrementally less stressed and more confident,” researchers wrote in the July edition of the Journal for Healthcare Education, Simulation and Training.

In mid-July, the contractor used the simulator during a trauma-care training event here for corpsmen and Marines preparing to deploy to Afghanistan.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and other groups say that simulators do a better job of teaching first responders how to treat traumatic battlefield wounds, especially when used in realistic and stressful training environments.

And that’s the type of environment that Strategic Operations tries to create. Course instructors say the realistic scenarios add to the stress that students encounter, preparing them to save more patients during the critical “platinum minutes” following a combat injury.

“The main focus here is they can prioritize the treatment, but also determine what casualties need to be evacuated,” instructor Sal Ruiz said.

PETA says many trauma training courses that use animals are casually run and not set in realistic immersive combat environments. Also, the animals are not always fully anesthetized, as regulations require.

Defense officials defend the use of animals as vitally important. “The use of live animals in medical training teaches warfighters to save lives on the battlefield and is an important part of comprehensive combat medic training, which is absolutely necessary to prevent significant loss of life,” Lt. Col. Melinda Morgan, a Pentagon spokeswoman, wrote in an email.

But animal rights advocates say the Defense Department should fully embrace simulators, already used in many military courses and 98 percent of civilian medical training programs.

“The military is out of step with trends around the world, and with trends in military training,” said Justin Goodman, associate director at PETA’s laboratory investigations department in Washington.

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Army Technology – Special Operations Exercise in Tampa Looks, Feels Real

Posted August 22, 2012

TAMPA — The man in the mask sat on the floor of the black Chinook helicopter, M-4 assault rifle at his side, and explained the operation about to unfold.

“We are going to be running a blocking mission,” he said. Because of security concerns, he identifies himself only as “Capt. S” of the Australian commandos.

The plan is to fly low and fast over the harbor, push a Zodiac inflatable boat out the back of the helicopter and take up position on a nearby dock to keep enemy forces from advancing. The task is just one of many in the main mission: rescuing a hostage from a village full of heavily armed bad guys.

It is a precision operation that requires pinpoint timing between the operators and the Chinook crew, who are members of the Army’s elite 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.

But this was not Afghanistan.

Part of a “capabilities demonstration” highlighting the tactics and techniques of international special operations forces, Wednesday’s mission teamed three commandos from Australia, two from Norway and two U.S. Marines to take on a simulated enemy force in downtown Tampa and rescue a mock hostage.

“We’ve only practiced together for three days,” Capt. S said over the whine of the engine and the chunka-chunka-chunka of the beating blades. “But we’ve done this so many times that we don’t need too much practice. We are good to go.”

The Chinook crew was the first wave of the assault on a village set up outside the Sail Pavilion, complete with plastic huts, a fishing net, a large cache of weapons and an enemy of undetermined origin played by personnel from MacDill Air Force Base.

“We always lose,” says Stu Segall, who runs Strategic Operations, which provides similar mock enemy situations for training missions across the country.

At exactly 1 p.m., the chopper lifted off and in seconds was over the water, zooming low over the channel leading to the convention center.

Three minutes later, the Chinook stopped and hovered just a few feet above the water. A salty spray kicked up by the whirling rotors spit through the open door into the cabin as the men pushed the Zodiac out, then jumped into the water.

On the ground nearby, an assault team on Humvees and ATVs wheeled down Franklin Street, taking out an enemy checkpoint in front of the convention center.

Another team “fast-roped” — descended quickly on a line — from a Blackhawk helicopter to take out another enemy position on a barge.

Moments later, the main assault team infiltrated the village using two inflatable boats to rescue the hostage, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

“It was about as realistic as a hostage situation could be,” Buckhorn said afterward. “Your heart is pounding, you feel the adrenalin. You’re thankful the guys who came to get you are on our side.”

Buckhorn, who also faces a band of faux pirates invading the city every year, said the military operators “are tougher by a long stretch. As my daughter says, ‘The pirates smell bad.’ ”

The high-profile demonstration and exercise attracted lots of attention downtown, with people lining roofs and roads to catch a glimpse of the action and take photographs.

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Army Technology – Medical Suit Trains Corpsmen How to Save Lives

Posted August 21, 2012

Strategic Operations in Kearny Mesa, which is located on the Stu Segall Studio lot, has created the “Human Worn Partial Task Surgical Simulator”. They call it the “Cut Suit” for short.

“Basically… it’s a device that fits over a human being,” said Kit Lavell, the executive vice president for Strategic Operations.

The Cut Suit is a rubber-like outfit torso that an actor can wear. The torso contains organs, bones and blood.

“They could be sutured,” said Lavell. “They could be stapled. The skin is very realistic when you touch it.” Corpsmen can perform actual medical procedures on the actor wearing the Cut Suit.

On Tuesday, 10News was allowed to watch as Navy and Marine corpsmen were put through a simulated insurgent attack in a mock Afghanistan village at Strategic Operations. Rocket propelled grenades were launched. Rifles were filed. The actors were “injured” and the corpsmen cared for them.

“It adds a level of realism that is going to help these corpsmen out in the future,” said USN Chief Chad McFall.

The real war simulation created the stress levels needed to simulate the actual battlefield conditions the corpsmen will be working in.

“We try to give them the same sense of urgency and the same fear,” said McFall.

Navy Corpsman Jeremy Money said, “If I can get stressed out enough and be able to perform under high amounts of stress when my heart rate’s going about 220 out there, I’ll be able to do the same thing. Just go back to the basics.”

The Cut Suit can be reused over and over again. It costs the military less than $1,000 a day to practice with the suit, the blood and the actor.

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Army Technology – PCRM Goes to Capitol Hill to Improve Combat Trauma Training

Posted August 21, 2012

A soldier moaned in pain from a bullet lodged in his chest. Two fellow service members dripped with sweat as they soothed him and worked to remove the bullet. Moments later, the extricated bullet dropped into a metal dish with a ping.

They were only actors, but the room still filled with sighs of relief from Members of Congress and Capitol Hill staffers attending PCRM’s event last week. We were demonstrating the Cut Suit and other training simulators that can improve the U.S. military’s care of wounded service members.

Using these modern educational methods will help soldiers—and it will spare animals from being used in traumatic “live tissue” training exercises. While such non-animal methods are being widely embraced, some in the military continue to use goats and pigs in cruel combat trauma training exercises—despite the animals’ anatomical differences from humans.

The advantages of non-animal methods were clear at our Capitol Hill briefing, which featured demonstrations of simulators with anatomically correct organs, breakable bones, and realistic blood flow.

The hands-on event—participants were invited to put on latex gloves and touch the patient simulators—gave legislators and their staff a firsthand look at how the military can replace the suboptimal use of live animals in combat trauma training with high-fidelity medical simulation.

We had an esteemed group of presenters: Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., and ranking member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, gave opening remarks. Kit Lavell, executive vice president of San Diego-based Strategic Operations, Inc., discussed the Cut Suit. Christopher Sakezles, Ph.D., president and chief technology officer of SynDaver Labs, discussed the company’s synthetic human tissue and body parts. Robert F. Buckman Jr., M.D., F.A.C.S., founder of Operative Experience, Inc., discussed his simulators. Elizabeth Kucinich, PCRM’s director of government affairs, spoke about the vital role of this technology in improving military training.

The U.S. military’s combat trauma training courses teach military physicians, medics, corpsmen, and nonmedical personnel to respond to the most common causes of preventable battlefield fatalities, including extremity hemorrhage, airway compromise, and collapsed lung.

The Cut Suit was specifically designed for combat trauma training courses. It replicates the experience of performing emergency medical procedures on a living trauma patient. Body armor and a uniform can be worn by a patient (who is actually an actor), and the trainees can apply tourniquets, control severe bleeding, and even manage collapsed lungs.

The BEST Practices Act, H.R. 1417, which is currently before Congress would improve military medical training by replacing the use of animals with simulators.

You can help. To ask Congress to support the BEST Practices Act, visit BetterMilitaryMedicine.org.

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Army Technology – Will Sims Replace Animals in Trauma Training?

Posted July 30, 2012

By Gidget Fuentes - Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — New high-tech simulation devices are raising hope among critics that the practice of teaching Navy corpsmen and Marines to treat trauma patients by slicing into live, anesthetized pigs and goats will finally come to an end.

The Defense Department uses more than 6,000 animals a year for combat-trauma training, according to congressional representatives and animal-rights groups that have criticized the practice as inhumane. But high-tech medical task trainers now let students learn specific medical procedures, such as unblocking airways, stopping hemorrhages or treating patients with amputated limbs, under extremely realistic conditions.

One such device, the Human Worn Partial Task Surgical Simulator, or “Cut Suit,” developed by Strategic Operations Inc., replicates human organs and blood vessels. The company’s website claims it is “the most realistic way to simulate the look, feel and smell effects of severe traumatic events on a live human” while allowing corpsmen and Marines to perform real procedures.

A recent study at Rocky Vista University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine in Parker, Colo., found that second-year medical students who used the “Cut Suit” as a surgical simulator in training were better skilled and more prepared for stressful clinical rotations. “With each day of exposure to stressful training scenarios, students reported feeling incrementally less stressed and more confident,” researchers wrote in the July edition of the Journal for Healthcare Education, Simulation and Training.

In mid-July, the contractor used the simulator during a trauma-care training event here for corpsmen and Marines preparing to deploy to Afghanistan.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and other groups say that simulators do a better job of teaching first responders how to treat traumatic battlefield wounds, especially when used in realistic and stressful training environments.

And that’s the type of environment that Strategic Operations tries to create. Course instructors say the realistic scenarios add to the stress that students encounter, preparing them to save more patients during the critical “platinum minutes” following a combat injury.

“The main focus here is they can prioritize the treatment but also determine what casualties need to be evacuated,” instructor Sal Ruiz said.

PETA says many trauma training courses that use animals are casually run and not set in realistic immersive combat environments. Also, the animals are not always fully anesthetized, as regulations require.

Necessary program?

Defense officials defend the use of animals as vitally important.

“The use of live animals in medical training teaches warfighters to save lives on the battlefield and is an important part of comprehensive combat medic training, which is absolutely necessary to prevent significant loss of life,” Lt. Col. Melinda Morgan, a Pentagon spokeswoman, wrote in an email.

“We actively work to refine, reduce and appropriately replace the use of live animals in medical education and training whenever possible,” Morgan said. “However, until there are validated alternatives, the experience and confidence gained by the use of live animals in teaching life-saving procedures must remain a viable training method.”

But animal rights advocates say the Defense Department should fully embrace simulators, already used in many military courses and 98 percent of civilian medical training programs.

“The military is out of step with trends around the world and with trends in military training,” said Justin Goodman, associate director at PETA’s laboratory investigations department in Washington.

The military’s continued use of animals “is not backed by ethics, and it’s not backed by science,” he said.


Business Review USA - Strategic Operations Inc Hyper-Realistic™ Training that Saves Lives

Posted May 17, 2012

SAN DIEGO, CA–(Marketwire) – “War is hell” — a sentiment General Sherman expressed and one that is probably echoed by any who have survived the fire-storms of combat. For the past 10 years, Strategic Operations Inc (STOPS) has prepared over 450,000 Marines, Sailors, Airmen, Soldiers, and Coast Guard personnel for the rigors of combat through their unique Hyper-Realistic™ training simulations, which combine the special effects of the movie industry with the tactics and techniques of military training. The business focuses on two major sectors: combat training support services; and the manufacturing, enhancement, and construction of military props, facilities, and environments.

STOPS began during the early years of the 2000s, when president Stu Segall, who owns a studio and had been in the television and movie-making industry for 40 years, started collaborating with local law enforcement officers to provide sets and movie props to make training environments more realistic.

As Segall was able to incorporate more and more “movie magic” special effects into the training environments, he came to realize that this fun side project that he’d started could have a legitimate business application.

At this time, Segall met Kit Lavell, who is now the Executive Vice President — lending his considerable experience both in the military as a Naval Aviator during the Vietnam War as well as business knowledge after having owned his own construction and engineering business. Segall and Lavell teamed up to create a business plan for Strategic Operations Inc and the company began running training simulations in 2002.

“I get to work with these folks that sign up to go into combat, that freely sign on that line knowing that they are going to go overseas to get shot at. They all know it and they all relish it and they all care about this country. From a civilian standpoint, you can’t ask for much more than that from our young folks when they want to go do this,” explains Stu Segall, President of STOPS.

About Strategic Operations Inc

Strategic Operations Inc. (STOPS), on the lot of Stu Segall Productions, a full-service TV / movie studio, provides Hyper-Realistic™ training services and products for military, law enforcement, and other organizations responsible for homeland security.

The company employs state-of-the-art Hollywood battlefield special effects, combat wound effects, medical simulation systems, role players, subject matter experts, Combat Training Coordinators, and training scenarios to create training environments that are the most unique in the industry.

STOPS has supported squad to brigade training with these services at the National Training Center and at the Marine Corps’ “Mojave Viper” at Twentynine Palms, California, as well as at other military installations in the U.S. and Canada.

The company manufactures patent-pending modular, mobile MOUT systems, props, faux weapons, and live fire targets (including radio controlled ballistic unmanned ground vehicles), and constructs, enhances, and transforms MOUT facilities.

STOPS has transformed and / or built MOUT facilities at Fort Irwin, Fort Polk, Fort Bliss, San Clemente Island, Camp Pendleton, and other Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and National Guard facilities. Since 2002 STOPS has provided Hyper-Realistic™ training support to more than 450,000 Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Coast Guard personnel prior to deployment to Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

STOPS introduced “The Magic of Hollywood” to live military training by employing all the techniques of film and TV production integrated with military tactics, techniques, and procedures.


NAS North Island Conducts Anti-Terrorism Exercise

Posted March 29, 2012

by David Axelson

Thursday, March 22nd, annual training and readiness scenarios were on display at NAS North Island as Exercise Solid Curtain/Citadel Shield was held. The exercise involves devising and executing a different threat to each naval base in the nation.

As Naval Base Coronado Commander Capt. Yancy Lindsey explained to media members present to cover the exercise, “What you will see today is something that could happen. It’s not the detection, but how we respond. One of the most important parts of the exercise is determining what went right and what went wrong at the local and national levels. This scenario is challenging and realistic.”

The North Island portion of the exercise was devised by NAB Coronado Training and Readiness Officer Dave Busby. It started at 9 a.m., with the cruiser USS Princeton sailing in the San Diego Bay and being ‘attacked’ by a speedboat filled with five terrorists. According to Lindsey, the cruiser’s participation in the exercise, “Was a normal ship movement which was made part of the scenario. It’s cool to have a ship as part of this.”

As the scenario unfolded, the speedboat was grounded by an armed harbor security patrol boat, which forced the “home grown, violent extremists” to land their vessel on the shore, just below the NASNI’s real-life recycling center. The five terrorists became two active shooters in the recycling center, with one additional shooter encamped in another building across the street.

To a civilian observer, the action looked realistic. Gun shots were fired on the USS Princeton that could be heard from the pier. After the speed boat landed and the terrorists disembarked, an improvised explosive device was detonated, which created a large explosive sound, followed by a mushroom cloud that hovered over the boat. From the base’s security perspective, the goal was for the appropriate base personnel to respond in real time.

Lending realism to the event was Combat Training Coordinator Brian Howe of the firm Strategic Operations. The company is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Stu Segall Productions, one of the largest independent television and movie studios in the U.S. “We provide hyper-realistic training,” said Howe, a retired member of the military. “They call us in and tell us what they would like to see. We help them set up the scenario. We provide the next generation of tactical training.”

Part of the scenario was a wounded terrorist, in full faux bloody makeup, who spent the better part of half an hour writhing and moaning on the ground in close proximity to the fighting at the recycling center. Howe estimated that the makeup applied to the wounded terrorist took between 30 minutes and an hour to apply. Howe had an interesting morning, as he piloted the terrorist speedboat that attacked the USS Princeton and landed the vessel on-shore. Then he spent the next hour answering questions from the media about the exercise.

After the terrorists were neutralized, base ambulances arrived to take care of the injured. The wounded terrorist, as an example, had a tourniquet applied to his arm, was placed on a gurney and carted away in the ambulance.

According to Brian O’Rourke from the Public Affairs Office at Navy Region Southwest, all bases are tasked annually to hold a media day, so the exercise served a dual purpose. Providing some context to other training scenarios used in the region, O’Rourke said that last year’s exercise at NAB San Diego included a swimmer who attached a bomb to a ship, but was detected by dolphins in the water.

The media photo-op involved a bomb being detonated that was placed there by a second swimmer. The resulting ‘explosion’ wasn’t overly impressive, hence the addition of the good folks from Strategic Operations so they could produce a bigger, more realistic explosive device.

This year’s NAB San Diego training exercise revolved around a disgruntled worker who turned into an active shooter near the base commissary.

A press release on Solid Curtain/Citadel Shield provided some insight as to the scope of the exercise. The release said in part, “The Navy will be working this year with other military and local, state and federal agencies to enhance the training scenarios. The Marine Corps, Coast Guard, City of San Diego Office of Homeland Security, the Port of San Diego, San Diego Police Department and the Red Cross are just some of the organizations participating.”

Capt. Lindsey and Naval Base Coronado Executive Officer Capt. Gary Mayes were both active participants in the training exercise, assessing the threat to the base and making decisions as to whether or not to restrict access to NAS North Island. Lindsey said of the exercises that concluded Saturday, March 24th, “It’s a chance for us to work on our tactics, techniques and procedures.”


The San Diego Union-Tribune – Navy Tests Defense to Terrorist ‘Attack’ on Bay

Posted March 22, 2012

It was a quiet morning on San Diego Bay, with pelicans gliding low over the smooth water.

A small motorboat idled off of North Island Naval Air Station just before 9 a.m. The six burly figures inside might have been fishermen on a day trip.

But they weren’t. Suddenly, the motorboat charged a Navy security vessel escorting the cruiser Princeton out of the bay. The “fishermen” opened fire, wielding AK-47 rifles, and the Navy shot back from mounted machine guns.

It would have been a hold-the-presses news story, if the blood wasn’t fake, the bullets blanks and the “bad guys” actors from a Hollywood-style special effects outfit.

The theatrics were part of the Navy’s weeklong Solid Curtain/Citadel Shield exercise that is testing security measures at San Diego bases, and around the nation.

This annual exercise has been held since 2007 as a way to keep military police on their toes.

“What you’ll see today is something that could happen here in San Diego or any other place where naval forces are based,” said Coronado Naval Base commanding officer Capt. Yancy Lindsey, speaking to the media before the Princeton attack.

“If we don’t practice those things, then we’re not necessarily assured that we would respond in the right way and the right manner,” he said. “It’s important that we stay up to speed on the tactics.”

At times, the drills have meant long lines at San Diego base gates because of increased security, which will continue Friday.

In one scenario tested, Navy police had to catch a driver trying to sneak a bomb onto base. Another scenario involved suspicious people lurking outside the gates to count the traffic flow.

The exercises conclude Saturday. They incorporate not only base police but also medical personnel.

In the Princeton scenario, the bad guys – supposed to be homegrown terrorists, modeled after the 2009 Fort Hood shooter — made it to shore before their boat exploded.

Two actors from Strategic Operations, a Kearny Mesa military special effects firm, lay on the ground, wounded and covered in gory blood, until base ambulances arrived to give first aid.

For this exercise, it’s the first time that the Navy has used Hollywood-style effects provided by San Diego movie producer Stu Segall. The estimated cost for the weeklong regional training is less than $50,000, with the Strategic Ops contract accounting for $8,700 of that, a naval spokesman said.

Navy police also got a chance to take down the three remaining “terrorists,” who holed up in two North Island buildings.

Half a dozen Navy cops carefully entered the area – the base’s recycling compound — toting fake red guns. Shots were heard from inside the buildings, and the “bad guy” victims moaned loudly.

The tension in the air seemed realistic. The only apparent glitch in the scenario was the long wait – maybe as much as 10 minutes – before Navy police arrived on scene.

Officials said the slow response time is something they will learn from.

But Brian Howe, a Marine veteran who is training coordinator for Strategic Operations, gave the Navy good marks for their defensive play.

“Realistically, would it be hard to do what we just did? No. You see (ships) moving through, all you have to do is rush up with guns,” he said.

But it would have been a suicide mission — given the size of the Navy’s weapons, including the big M240 belt-fed machine gun on the security boat.

“As soon we raised our weapons, they would have ripped us apart,” he said. “We might have gotten one or two shots at them.”

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The San Diego Union-Tribune – Use of Pigs in Training Classes Sparks Protest

March 13, 2012

ALPINE — It’s about training the finest medics in the world.

It’s about cruelty to animals.

When it comes to the goings-on at secluded Covert Canyon, an outdoor training facility near Alpine, there’s little that the two sides in the issue agree on.

As often as four times a month, live pigs are used in combat simulation exercises designed to sharpen the skills of Navy corpsmen — skills the military says could save lives in places like Afghanistan.

But the group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a physicians organization and at least one local policymaker — Rep. Bob Filner — say the use of animals is unwarranted and call on the military to use alternatives.

“Why put (the animals) through suffering if there’s a better way?” asks the Democrat, who is running for San Diego mayor.

Marc Halcon, who owns the East County facility, believes Filner and other critics are losing sight of what’s important.

“The only question that needs to be asked is what’s best for our wounded soldiers?” he said, steering his Range Rover through the dusty canyon last week.

The military training issue is another flare-up in the ongoing debate over animal rights, a subject that cuts deep as concerns over creatures have increasingly come in conflict with the way many Americans live and work.

Halcon bought the 160-acre site on High Glen Road in 2005. He said the so-called live-tissue training are conducted as part of a contract with the U.S. Department of Defense and unfold on 12 acres of the property.

A Marine Corps spokesman said it was believed to be the only program of its type currently in San Diego County, although the military conducts similar live-tissue exercises in other parts of the nation.

Halcon and his staff said the pigs — numbering from a handful to dozens per class — are trucked in and anesthetized. The animals are monitored by veterinarians, who make sure the pigs remain deeply sedated throughout the training.

Both new and veteran corpsmen, prepping for overseas deployments, use the pigs to practice skills that could prove invaluable following a traumatic injury in the field, perhaps from a roadside bomb or a sniper’s bullet.

In some cases, a sedated pig is shot or cut to simulate a major combat injury, Halcon said. Medics are instructed to stop the bleeding and treat the wound. They also practice inserting chest tubes to allow air to the lungs or try out other procedures.

“The emotional and physiological response to training with live anatomy and the stress of keeping a specimen alive for many hours best prepares Marines for actual casualties in stressful combat conditions,” said Col. Sean Gibson, a spokesman with the Marine Corps Combat Development Command in Quantico, Va.

Filner, however, has introduced a bill in Congress that would phase out by 2016 the use of live animals in combat simulations.

While U.S. military officials haven’t embraced a ban, other nations with sizable defense forces have dropped live-tissue training in favor of alternative methods, according to the congressman and others. “Everybody in the world, except for the Department of Defense, has switched,” he said. According to Filner’s bill, the military uses more than 6,000 live animals annually “to train physicians, medics, corpsmen and other personnel methods of responding to severe battlefield injuries.”

Dr. John Pippin, with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a nonprofit health organization, said there’s no justification for the use of the animals, given the emergence of products like the “cut suit.”

Strategic Operations, a San Diego-based firm that develops training programs for government agencies, has created a lifelike body suit that can be worn to train combat first-responders.

Each cut suit, or Human-Worn Partial Task Surgical Simulator, weighs 30 pounds and includes simulated bones and organs under a thick layer of fake skin.

Pippin said the suit has been used at some military installations and allows troops to practice a range of procedures.

He said conducting the same procedures on live animals is less valuable, given the differences in anatomy. “You want to replicate as much as possible what you may encounter in battlefield situations,” he said.

A 2009 report issued by the Department of Defense predicted the emergence of high-quality simulators, but there are concerns over the cost of such devices and some experts believe live-tissue remains the best option.

Col. Gibson said the courses are staged at Covert Canyon, instead of Camp Pendleton, largely because they include contract instructors, veterinarians and others. Bringing those civilians on base poses logistic hurdles.

The exercises are held near an area that includes three shooting ranges and a dirt airstrip.

In a recent letter, PETA asked San Diego County officials to deny a major-use permit that Halcon is seeking to expand the type of courses offered on his property. The county Planning Commission is expected to take up the permit issue sometime this year.

Justin Goodman, a PETA associate director, called the use of the pigs “arcane.”

Halcon’s closest neighbor, Robin Williams, has also been highly critical of the training. The two property owners have been locked in a bitter and long-running zoning dispute tied in part to the military courses.

The county recently agreed to look into assertions by PETA and Williams that elements of the live-tissue course violate land-use rules. County officials have told Halcon that the medic classes are allowed on the property.

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Training & Simulation Journal – Zero Rules of Engagement – Q&A with Stu Segall

Posted December 19, 2011

Stu Segall, president of Strategic Operations Inc., which offers hyper-realistic training using Hollywood-style special effects, is interviewed by TSJ.

How did a Hollywood producer get into the military training business?
I have a TV studio here in San Diego. I came down here from Los Angeles in 1991, to do a TV series called “Silk Stalkings.” That went for about eight seasons. I also did “Renegade” and other series — probably about 1,000 hours of TV. After 9/11, my business took a hit simply because the networks were getting away from action-adventure TV, and reality-based TV was starting to blossom. Through circumstance, the Drug Enforcement Administration Southwestern headquarters were my next door neighbors. One day I was cleaning out one of my stages, and I found these crates of cocaine. Obviously not real cocaine, but I called my neighbors to see if they could use them for educational purposes. They came, walked through the sets and asked if they could come through with a team and train there. I watched them train, and thought, “If I were a bad guy, I wouldn’t do it that way.” Because of my history producing cop shows, I think better as a bad guy than a good guy. So I became the OPFOR [opposing force]. For the first year after 9/11, I hosted a lot of federal agencies: the DEA, the Department of Justice, the local San Diego SWAT. I would always say to them, “You have rules of engagement. I don’t. I can do anything I want.” When the U.S. went to war in Iraq, the DEA training officers were reserve Marine officers, and they would call me up and say, “I’ve got 150 Marines sitting on the tarmac going to Iraq, can you help us out?” Because of my experience, I could bring in real Iraqis that we were casting in TV shows. I would inject myself in there as the old man with the two wives and the goats.

Hyper-realistic training is a term that was trademarked by Strategic Operations. What distinguishes hyper-realistic from plain old realistic?
Hyper-realistic is really sounds, smells, touch. All the senses that you have, we really amp them up because we get to the adrenaline part of your brain. When you get into a gunfight in our village, for that moment of time, it’s really a gunfight. I’ve seen them freeze. When the gunfire and the loud sounds are going off, your senses are telling you, “This isn’t training.” We wired up some civilian SWAT guys, and you could see their heart rates going crazy. You can see it in their eyes, you can see it when they shake when they’re trying to stop someone from bleeding from a movie-type wound, and the actors are screaming, “Don’t let me die!” It becomes more than, “let’s pretend this guy is wounded and we’ll put a bandage on him.” I get immersed in this stuff because I know what works. It’s the minutiae, the little details I see that most people don’t.

What can Hollywood provide that the military can’t?
The detail, the quick response time. I’ve been doing this for 35 years. It’s only a few degrees different than what I did before we went to war. There is no rehearsal in what we do. Everything is by surprise. We salt the villages with lots of different devices. We try never to do the same thing twice because these guys will tell the next squad coming through. We’ve kidnapped people out of a base. We’ve done all kinds of things to get people to understand that this is a serious business. We also know how to be safe. When you deal with actors, there is no group more concerned about their own well-being. We have run 500,000 soldiers, sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen. We have never, ever hurt anyone with a pyrotechnic device. Our stuff is black powder. Black powder allows you to get very close. Theirs [the military’s] are devices that use small amounts of TNT, as well as flares, which throw sparks everywhere. Those devices are dangerous. They use compressed-air devices they think are safer, but are actually more dangerous because of how they are made. We use command detonation over hard wires. We tend to stay away from remote-control devices for a number of reasons. Anything can trip that thing, or you can hit the button and it won’t go off. A hard-wire is instantaneous. If you watch our videos, you’ll see a fire, a ball of dust, hear a sound. All are separate. If somebody turns the wrong way, and they turn into something instead of away from it, the pyrotechnican won’t hit the button. If a guy lies down and his head is on top of it, it’s not going to happen. We also don’t use BFAs [blank firing adapters]. We plug the barrel inside, so you can see the flame and it’s louder. We once had a house-borne IED where we had a 1-ounce lifter [explosive] inside the house and 15 ounces on the roof. You couldn’t do this inside the house because it would make everyone’s ears bleed. As two soldiers went in, we triggered the devices and knocked them on their butts. It also knocked their colonel on his butt. He got up and yelled, “Yeah, that’s what we’re looking for!”

The essence of Hollywood is suspending the disbelief of an audience for an hour or two. What is the trick to suspending disbelief for a group of young soldiers?
An explosion is an explosion is an explosion. You physiologically react to that. They buy into it because their senses buy into it. As a civilian, I was amazed that the military trained the way they did in 2001. I thought they would be cutting edge. We try to bring them into the future. We talk to people, we get emails from in-country, feedback from the troops that have been there. There were troops in Fallujah who would email me while they were in the fight, and tell me that they were having problems with staircases. The next day I put staircases in my training sites. The military doesn’t work that way. It’s not all about explosions and blowing stuff up, though that will certainly get your attention. We cook them meals that they’ll eat in-country. We’ll have them meet a sheikh, and after an hour, he’ll ask, “Why did you kill my nephew?” We use real civilian amputees. They have all lost their legs to cancer or a motorcycle accident. They bring a lot of psychology. They bring it to the forefront emotionally. We did something for the Navy Riverine forces at Fort Pickett. There was a girl who was a double-amputee. We gave her a baby doll, and there was this massive explosion. She was supposed to look like she lost her legs and the baby was dead. The corpsman didn’t know what to do. He took this baby, this doll, and he was crying. I can’t say I never saw actors cry on a Hollywood set. But a set is so sterile. It’s sound, camera, action, cut. With what we do, once you start this, it’s on until the Marines call end of exercise. When we do what we do, we save lives. How you quantify that, I don’t know. But I can tell you that we have saved many. I get that from the commanders who come back from combat.

Hyper-realistic training utilizes the traditional side of Hollywood, with physical special effects. At the same time, Hollywood is using more virtual special effects like “Avatar.” How do you see these different approaches playing out in military training?
I’m from the old school. When you want to meet somebody, talk, look in their eyes, a cartoon character projected on the wall is not the same and never will be. They do that to save money. I understand it’s expensive to do some of the things that we do, but you have to spend the money in the right place. I’m not an “Avatar” fan. Part of it is I’m older. But I’ve seen it in operation, and I still shrug my shoulders and think it’s ridiculous. If you walk into a room and there’s an actor with a gun, and there’s a projected image on the wall that shouts, “Don’t move,” you’re going to shoot the guy with the gun. Your brain says the image on the wall is not a threat. You can talk to it, but you’re talking to a wall. You need to look into a guy’s eyes, he needs to look into your eyes, and that’s how you’re going to figure out what he is all about. We’re not fighting avatars. We’re fighting people who have guns and bombs.

As someone who comes from a creative industry, do you feel that you can apply that creativity toward a more systematic process like infantry training?
It goes back to one thing. I don’t have the same rules of engagement as the military does. I’m the OPFOR. I can do anything. I can put a stick of dynamite on a baby. However your mind thinks how bad you can be, we can be that bad because the enemy over there is that bad. We think about how to stress these young folks out, how to give them a basic understanding of what they’re going to come across, to inoculate them. If I go “Boo!” to you five or six times, pretty soon it’s not going to be the same to you. It desensitizes you just enough to let your forebrain think about what’s going on, to go for that flight-or-fight syndrome. In Hollywood, you’re bound by what’s on the page. Here, it’s what the unit needs.

It sounds like you’re in a sweet spot. You’re making money, you’re unleashing your creative impulses, and you’re helping your country.
There is a lot of personal reward in this. We didn’t make a lot of money the first couple of years, because the military did not understand our capabilities. Hollywood has always been a pejorative word in the military. But it’s turned around. I was very sensitive to using my background in selling what we do. I was like, leave the word “Hollywood” out. But it has actually worked to our benefit.


Training & Simulation Journal – Lights, camera, action! Training Goes to the Next Level with Hollywood and Virtual Reality

Posted June 17, 2011

By Michael Peck

Is it combat or is it Hollywood? The answer is that it’s both and neither. Live training seasoned with Hollywood-style special effects is giving troops a taste of the sights, sounds, smells and chaos of battle. Sometimes the training is intensely physical, with plenty of pyrotechnics and role-players who could have stepped off the set of “The Hurt Locker.” Sometimes it includes virtual reality and digital gunmen. Strategic Operations Inc., whose president is a Hollywood producer, trademarked the term “hyper-realistic training,” defined as, “such a high degree of fidelity in the replication of battlefield conditions in a training environment that participants so willingly suspend disbelief that they become totally immersed and eventually stress inoculated.”

Strategic Operations, or STOPS, has trained 500,000 personnel since 2002, either by providing support at military bases or by training soldiers at its San Diego facility, which includes an urban combat range and a real Boeing 727 airliner equipped with lighting, sound and smoke.

"The company is developing new gear to further enhance the realism of hyper-realistic training," said STOPS Executive Vice President Kit Lavell. One is the “Cut Suit,” an apt name for what is essentially a prosthetic human body worn by a live person over his torso like a surgeon’s gown. Weighing just more than 30 pounds, the suit has fake skin and organs, as well as reservoirs of fake blood. Soldiers practicing combat casualty care cut into the suit or treat a cut that is already made into the suit, while the actor wearing it moans and screams without suffering so much as a scratch.

With interchangeable organs, and a mechanical heart and blood flow that can be adjusted to beat at different rates, the Cut Suit can be used for numerous procedures, including tourniquet application, hemorrhage control, surgical incisions and suturing. The suit, which costs about $25,000, is reusable and can be restored to its original state in a few hours.

For vehicle checkpoint training, STOPS has also developed the BUGV-Target, a robotic truck that allows soldiers at checkpoints to practice their rules of engagement and escalation of force procedures. The device consists of a WiFi-controlled vehicle chassis, sheathed in a half-inch-thick shell of AR500 ballistic steel, which in turn is covered by a foam body that can be shaped to resemble any vehicle from a taxi to a truck. Trainees can blast away at the vehicle, which has armor that can withstand up to a .50-caliber round, and a foam case that can be easily reassembled.

With tighter funding, the trend is toward home station training. That is why STOPS has developed the Re-locatable Habitat Unit (RHU), which Lavell describes as “built like Lego kits.” Weighing less than 100 pounds, the RHU breaks down into 4-foot x 8-foot panels. “You can build a multistory building of thousands of square feet with one nine-millimeter hex tool,” Lavell said. The RHU can be quickly configured to create a variety of structures for a given scenario. “We can make something that looks like mud over brick for Afghanistan, cinder block for Iraq, bamboo for Southeast Asia, straw and wood buildings for Africa and so on,” Lavell said.

Hollywood-esque special effects are a cutting-edge concept, but there are still plenty of old-fashioned ways to enhance immersive live training. One is simply to add real equipment. At the U.S. Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC), live exercises include biometric equipment, said Bill David, program manager for the JRTC mission support contract at Cubic Corp., which provides the center everything from pyrotechnics to logistics and after-action review capability. At the JRTC, soldiers have the opportunity to use iris scans, digital fingerprinting and photographs.

“There is a huge database of biometric taken from in-theater, and that’s the haystack,” David said. “Mixed into the haystack are the needles, the biometric data of about 200 live role-players that are here. So we may have a role-player that’s playing a bomb maker or a financier. The rotational unit finds or captures that guy and takes his biometric data. If they are smart enough, they’ll get a match."

If there is a match, the suspect will be handed over to the civil authorities, which is another recent change at JRTC, David said. “The U.S. forces don’t do as much knocking down doors or barging into houses and capturing people,” he said. There is more emphasis on planning and coordinating operations with the JRTC elements that are playing Afghan or Iraqi soldiers.

ENTER BOEING

Strategic Operations is part of a team led by Game Production Services, headquartered in Albuquerque, N.M., which developed the Infantry Immersive Trainer (IIT). The IIT is a Marine infantry training facility at Camp Pendleton, Calif., that essentially combines mock Iraqi and Afghan villages, Strategic Operations’ elaborate system of pyrotechnics and role-players, and a little bit of virtual reality through avatars of village elders projected on walls.

While STOPS may be the most well-known contractor for this kind of hyper-immersive training, Boeing is joining the hyper-realism game. Better known for its aviation expertise, the company stood up its ground forces training division in 2009. Boeing has developed the Integrated Immersive Training Environment (I2TE), an internal research project that was recently demonstrated for a squad-level exercise at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.

I2TE is similar to the IIT as both environments combine physical effects and virtual reality to create a mixed reality training system.

However, I2TE is designed to be transportable and brought to the customer’s home station, rather than built in a permanent location. This makes cost the key difference between the two concepts, said David Irwin, Boeing’s director of ground forces training. With fixed sites, the user doesn’t have to pay for building the infrastructure but does bear transportation costs. With I2TE, the user pays to outfit his home station, but once done, will be spared transportation costs.

I2TE may not be economical for a user that does very sporadic training, Irwin said, but it would be especially useful for National Guard and reserve units whose members would appreciate immersive combat training near their homes. For the Fort Leonard Wood demo, Boeing temporarily wired the base’s military operations on urban terrain range with sound, cameras, radio frequency identification trackers and other gear.

I2TE uses compressed air explosions, sophisticated audio effects and role-players, as well as a virtual mission board, an iPad-like device about the size of an average flat-screen television, which allows controllers to track students and control the props. AVATARS IN THE MIX I2TE also uses virtual reality, though in a limited way. Avatars appear on big-screen displays but only at a distance. “We found that if you put virtual characters up close, it doesn’t look very real in a face-to-face setting,” Irwin said. “But if your virtual characters are in the windows of buildings, that works fine because at a distance they look more real.”

Students get only glimpses of the avatars, so they are less likely to discern that their foes are digital. “Instead of a role-player in a balcony 200 meters away, we flash this virtual character for 10 or 15 seconds, to provide the visual cue that a soldier is looking for,” said John Chicolo, Boeing’s program manager for ground forces training.

A few simple props can hide the virtual nature of the role-players, at least enough to fool anyone at a distance. “What you do is camouflage them very well,” Irwin said. “So if I’m putting a big-screen in the window, I’ll put curtains there.”

Controllers can also change the avatars on the spot, depending on how well the students are performing. “[The avatar] could be a lady hanging laundry one moment, and a guy with a weapon the next,” Irwin said. “If an exercise controller sees they are not paying attention, he can take away the woman hanging laundry and replace it with a guy with the weapon. So it forces the folks walking through the areas to pay attention and use their situational awareness.”

Boeing touts I2TE as a lower-cost approach for training. One cost-saver is to slash the number of live role-players by casting them in multiple roles and enabling them to do quick costume changes, like cast members do in theme parks. “We had three role-players playing 12 different people in an under-30-minute exercise,” Chicolo said. “One minute a role-player can be a town elder, but if he is not needed, he can go into or behind a building, change his wardrobe and become someone else.”

Sophisticated audio effects are also a key component of I2TE, said James Korris, president of Creative Technologies Inc., which partnered with Boeing on the project. Research shows that on the battlefield, soldiers who can register the time interval between the sound of a bullet passing overhead and the subsequent crack of the weapon being fired, as well as the direction that the fire is coming from, can effectively respond to the threat, Korris said. “Detonating firecrackers or playing sounds over a loudspeaker isn’t going to do that. So I2TE used a highly directional audio field that simulated weapons sounds from various directions and at various distances.” Another component was accurately simulating the sound of particular weapons.

Strategic Operations’ Lavell estimated that hosting a battalion of Marines at the company’s San Diego facility for 12 days would cost about $35 per day per Marine. When asked for the price of I2TE, Irwin could not elaborate beyond saying the cost of the Leonard Wood demonstration was less than $1 million.


The San Diego Union Tribune - San Diego Company Simulates Battle, Bullets, Blood

Posted May 9, 2011

Strategic Operations sets up realistic training for combat, drug houses and ship seizures

By Emily Vizzo, Special to the U-T

(Image: Grant Shin (left) and Jason Palomar of SDSU ROTC provide security as their squad runs through a patrol exercise at Strategic Operations in Kearny Mesa. It involved M-16 rifles with blanks, pyrotechnics and role players. — Nelvin C. Cepeda / U-T photo )

A Hollywood-style explosion rocks the center of a mock Afghan village on a San Diego studio lot, sending San Diego State University ROTC recruits scurrying for cover as street “gunfire” erupts. Deep booms and crackles punctuate the smoky, debris-filled air, and an Afghan amputee role player is left moaning in the gravel, spurting pretend blood.

Strategic Operations, located within Stu Segall Productions TV and movie studio lot on Ruffin Road, offers what it calls “hyper-realistic” training setups to the military and law enforcement with the idea that exposing individuals to realistic scenarios builds skills used in actual combat or drug busts.

“If we shoot at you, you’re not going to get hurt — but you’re going to feel like you’re going to die,” said Stu Segall, company president. “It’s the exact same physiological response. When you get to the real thing, you know how to react. We call it ‘stress inoculation.’ ”

Strategic Operations’ clients have included the U.S. Army, FBI, Chula Vista Police Department and San Diego Harbor Police. It’s helped train more than 450,000 military personnel.

The company doesn’t conduct the training; instead, it creates training environments based on needs as determined by unit commanders. Strategic Operations currently employs fewer than 100 full-time workers, but crews swell up to 650 people on location. Sort of a warfare Santa’s village, its 20-acre studio lot has 10 sound stages and multiple workshops where workers construct, manufacture and detail pretend weapons, West African huts, butcher-shop goat carcasses (smeared with honey to attract real flies) and mock shish kebabs.




(Image: Army ROTC students John Donovan (left) and Jason Palomar from SDSU encounter role-playing actors during training at Strategic Operations. — Nelvin C. Cepeda / U-T photo)

Temporary construction units can be erected within 15 minutes; basic building shapes are adorned with domes, spires and minarets to depict Iraq, Afghanistan, Southeast Asia or other regions. Mud, bamboo, thatch and street graffiti make things gritty.

“It’s not like the movie business; it’s not like the military,” said Kit Lavell, Strategic owner and executive vice president. “It’s a blend of both.”

The private company, which does not disclose revenue, said it has successfully created a niche in the market against larger competitors. “We stress customer service in a way that has set us apart,” Lavell said.

Despite competition from the likes of San Diego-based Cubic Corp. and others, Strategic has had an average annual growth rate of more than 60 percent since it was founded in 2002, he said.

Innovations

Truck ladders: During training, Marines leaping down from a mock 7-ton truck wearing 85-pound gear packs would sometimes injure their ankles – just as in the real world. Strategic Operations designed and manufactured a fire pole-like structure that eased them down from the truck. In 2006, the Marine Corps contracted with Strategic Operations to produce 330 “ladders” for Iraq-bound trucks.

Habitat units: The company’s “relocatable habitat unit” designs lightweight fiberglass buildings, such as mock village huts, to be constructed in 15 minutes. The design avoids requiring complicated government approvals because they’re not permanent structures. “It’s basically like a Lego set,” said Kit Lavell, the company’s executive vice president.

• The fiberglass units are easily transported, so Strategic Operations can create realistic training grounds in remote areas such as the Marine Corps Mountain Tactical Warfare Center in Pickel Meadow in Mono County.

• The structures, which sell for $11,000 to $12,000 per hut, have attracted attention from nongovernmental agencies, including the Red Cross, for possible use in crisis zones such as post-earthquake Haiti, Lavell said.

“The large defense contractors (Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman etc.) have been adapting to the transformation from the Cold War to the irregular war threats we now face by emulating these same techniques to some degree or another,” Lavell said. “Small companies have been offering role players or nonpyrotechnic battlefield effects, but no one offers the full range of hyper-realism that Strategic Operations provides.”

While simulated training itself isn’t new, previous military training sometimes used the same setup each time, limiting surprise and realism.

“The idea is to make something as close to the setting that a rifleman in combat would go into so that he could transition from ‘crickets to chaos’ and make the correct ethical, moral and tactical decisions,” said Tom Buscemi, director of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force Battle Simulation Center at Camp Pendleton.

In 2007, Strategic Operations designed and built an infantry simulator for the base.

“It’s noisy, it’s smelly, it’s visual,” Buscemi said. “It begins to prepare you for the absolute chaos of a gunbattle. We’ve had people go into shock. We’ve had people completely stunned.”

Simulated trainings (not through Strategic Operations) were relevant to the U.S. Navy SEAL mission that killed Osama bin Laden, Segall said.

“As I understand from public record, they replicated an actual compound and assaulted the compound over and over again,” he said. “Realistic training is very, very important in the accomplishment of a mission.”

An on-site casting agency attracts San Diego-based actors for Strategic. Many have military backgrounds or speak foreign languages. Costumes, props and weapons help them represent insurgents, civilians, religious leaders and government officials.

Heather Morales, an actor and amputee, often portrays a badly injured individual requiring emergency medical care.

“I’ve seen people vomit, shake uncontrollably, cry, run away, or go into shock,” she said.

Four-star generals have shaken her hand to express gratitude, Morales said.

One time, a former trainee who had been deployed recognized her in a crowd. “He said, ‘What you did pretty much saved my life,’ ” she said.

Simulated combat wounds include gunshots, shrapnel wounds, eviscerations, burns, eye injuries, embedded foreign objects and amputations. Hidden tubes help simulate gushing blood or air bubbles in chest wounds.

Actors might wear a device that fits over the body for surgical simulations and airway management practice. Trainees open up the chest, practice intubation and palpitate a beating heart.

Strategic Operations got its start after the 9/11 attacks, when business in the action entertainment industry slowed. Segall’s production company had taken “a bit of a nose-dive,” Lavell said, when (unknown to either party) the San Diego Drug Enforcement Administration moved into an adjacent building.

After hearing explosions and gunfire on the nearby studio lot, law enforcement officers made a surprise visit to investigate.

“They just came up the hill with guns drawn,” Lavell said. “It was a bit of a standoff.”

Impressed with the setup, the agency asked whether Segall could create training scenarios. In April, for example, the lot’s 12,000-square-foot “shoot house” was designed as the site of a cocaine drug bust. It has stood in for a bomb lab, meth lab and torture chamber. Locked doors are fitted with “sacrificial jambs” so that trainees can practice kicking down doors.

Walls can be moved and doors hinged in different directions. “Stu has no rules,” Lavell said. “We do it to screw them up. You can’t game it.”

A ship simulator contains decks, captain’s quarters and cargo holds, where Coast Guard trainees can practice drug seizures. Special effects technicians flood the engine room with water as role-playing bad guys attempt to scuttle the ship and destroy illegal cargo.

A Huey UH-1H helicopter mounted on a tower next to the simulator slides up and down, simulating altitude changes so trainees can practice boarding vessels from the air — complete with saltwater spray and simulated whipping chopper blades.

Another unit depicts a dark, maze-like Afghan cave. Other scenarios that could be covered include vehicle checkpoints, suicide bombers and sniper training.

Film crews capture the action so that trainers and trainees can deconstruct events later. Instructors monitor for missteps from hidden catwalks or an observation tower. When trainees make mistakes, instructors signal to pyrotechnicians for an explosion, gunfire or escalated action that could be the real-life result.

Before a recent rehearsal on the studio lot, Afghan role players waited and sipped from plastic water bottles, surrounded by oil barrels, graffiti and vendor displays of rustic candlesticks and electric fans. Some checked cell phones in the shade of a village building before the simulation for the Department of Defense research arm.

Just yards away, San Diego SWAT team members in training lined up outside the shoot house, rapping on a window and demanding entry.

As the village demonstration concluded, the “villagers” popped their sunglasses back on.

“We’re doing make believe,” Segall said. “There’s a lot of troops out there, and they all need to have some sort of tactical training. It makes it safer for them. That’s what this is ultimately about.”

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Military Simulation & Training Magazine - Strategic Operations Expansion and New Products

Posted March 18, 2011

Authored by Lori Ponoroff (Originally Published February 28, 2011)

Strategic Operations (STOPS) recently opened two new offices. At the same time the San Diego-based company continues to upgrade and expand its training support products and services offerings. Group Editor Marty Kauchak reports on developments at STOPS.

To support STOPS’ continued, steady growth since its 2002 founding, the company, in December 2010, established two North American offices.

In one case, STOPS opened a home office in Coronation, Alberta to support the newly established STOPS Tactical Training Canada entity. The subsidiary is offering its unique brand of training support products and services to the Canadian military market. Paul Flavell, the company’s new International Projects Director, told MS&T, “We’ve started doing some work with the Canadian forces already. We have some jobs with them – and obviously we’re looking to expand our market.” The office will also support current and emerging business opportunities elsewhere around the world.

About the same time, STOPS’ new office in Herndon, Va. opened to provide direct support to all STOPS Hyper-Realistic training and programs on behalf of the U.S. DoD, inside and beyond the Washington, D.C. Beltway. Curtis Watts, Vice President of Special Programs, manages the office. “We’re doing some work with the special operations community and it helps to have a presence not only in D.C., but Curtis gets to Florida quite a bit, too,” Kit Lavell, Executive Vice President, pointed out.

Product Developments

The company’s Cut Suit, a human-worn, partial task simulator, continues to receive interest from the community following its most recent display at the 2010 I/ITSEC. STOPS is scheduled to demonstrate the Cut Suit to the Royal College of Surgeon’s in London late March. Cut Suit has been demonstrated for MS&T at earlier S&T community conferences.

STOPS is also enhancing its Re-locatable Habitat Unit (RHU) product line. The RHU was designed to be a scalable, mobile MOUT system, tailorable to different areas of operations. “We’ve come up with an East Africa RHU and we have other RHUs that are scalable, portable and easily moved around,” Lavell said.

When asked about the RHU system’s unique attributes, Lavell responded, “The RHUs are palletized on a 4 ft. x 8 ft. pallet system. They can be stacked and shipped on a pallet on train, planes, truck or ship and moved around. The basic 8 ft. x 12 ft. RHU can be on that pallet and be taken off that pallet and totally assembled, including all of the set decorations inside, in about 15 minutes – it’s very rapidly assembled. We now want to demonstrate assembling a small village including all of camera systems and other after action review infrastructure.”

STOPS is fielding RHUs to the U.S. Army at Fort Bliss to integrate into the facility’s MOUT infrastructure.

The company has teamed with other strategic partners, including SAIC, to further develop and field RHUs.

STOPS is also adding fidelity to live training for anti-terrorism and security forces.

The new Ballistic Unmanned Ground Vehicle permits live firing at a vehicle-like target during vehicle checkpoint and entry control point training. Lavell pointed out the BUG-V is Wi-Fi operated and can maneuver on- and off road. He added, “It’s covered with an AR500 ballistic steel body to withstand hits of up to .50 cal. ammunition. Over the top of that is a very light weight, foam body that can be shaped as a taxi, sedan, Bongo truck or other vehicle. It is easily repairable and almost self-sealing when you fire live ammunition at it. It’s fairly inexpensive.”

The AR500 steel protects the chassis, diesel engine and other components which add thermal signatures and other attributes to the live training experience.

STOPS has demonstrated the BUG-V for the U.S. Army and Marine Corps.


The Wall Street Journal - In This Afghanistan, Bombs Don't Kill

Posted March 10, 2011

By YOCHI J. DREAZEN And JIM CARLTON

A Company Uses Hollywood-Style Sets and Special Effects to Help Soldiers Prepare for War; Real Amputees Play Roles

(Image: Armed Afghan role player Basim Al-Shamary prepares for a military exercise.)

SAN DIEGO—It was a sunny California afternoon, and an Afghan war scene raged on the expansive grounds here of a little-known company called Strategic Operations Inc.

A rocket-propelled grenade whistled out of a second-story window and smashed into the wall of an Afghan house, sending shrapnel flying. An Afghan police pickup truck exploded, kicking up a column of mottled smoke. Insurgents exchanged machine-gun fire with U.S. troops.

The battle seemed dangerous, but that was just an illusion. The mayhem was all for show, part of Strategic Operations’ elaborate use of Hollywood-style special effects to replicate the look and feel of the war in Afghanistan to help train U.S. forces preparing to deploy there.

Business is booming for Strategic Operations, which has found an unusual way of profiting from the U.S. escalation of the Afghan war. Many of the reinforcements President Barack Obama is dispatching to Afghanistan are likely to spend time on a Strategic Operations set.

The Army and Marine Corps pay Strategic Operations to build and maintain mock Afghan cities—complete with mosques, restaurants and houses—at large military training facilities. The fake villages are then populated with real Afghans, who play the parts of insurgents, tribal leaders and Afghan soldiers. Real amputees play injured U.S. soldiers.

“If you want to play cowboys and Indians, you hire an Indian to play an Indian,” says Marine Staff Sgt. Chad Marquette, who works with Strategic Operations on Afghan-themed training exercises at a Marine base in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains.

The company goes to great lengths to make their fake battles feel authentic. A military contact recently emailed photos of the dead animals that litter the scenes of roadside bombings in Afghanistan. Strategic Operations’ prop makers—who got their start working in TV and movie production—immediately began fashioning fake dog and donkey corpses.

Strategic Operations is based in a nondescript industrial park on the northern fringes of San Diego. The tan-colored mosques and houses in the mock Afghan village there look out over nearby office buildings belonging to large government contractors like Raytheon and General Dynamics.

During a recent visit, Stu Segall, the company’s owner, walked into a cavernous storage room filled with foam kebabs, loaves of bread and other props that will be used in the mock Afghan villages. In the distance, a prop master sprayed red and white paint on a row of fake lamb carcasses.

“We had to use an actual goat head to get this right,” Mr. Segall says, picking up the mold of a very real-looking animal head. “It smelled something awful.”

Strategic Operations was the brainchild of Mr. Segall, a former movie and TV producer, and Kit Lavell, a decorated Navy pilot who once flew combat missions over Vietnam. Some low-budget television series are still filmed in Mr. Segall’s San Diego studio complex, but he and Mr. Lavell devote almost all their time to Strategic Operations.

(Image: Crew members from the Strategic Operations center install decorations inside an Afghan home within a mock Afghan compound.)

They make for an odd couple. Mr. Segall worked on adult films in California’s San Fernando Valley in the 1970s, rarely uses a computer, and curses regularly. Mr. Lavell is a soft-spoken man whose office is dotted with pictures of his children and grandchildren.

Mr. Lavell estimates that Strategic Operations has trained more than 250,000 soldiers and Marines in the past five years, and expects that number to increase sharply in 2010. The six-year-old company, which has 80 full-time employees, has been profitable for years, and Mr. Lavell says its revenues doubled in 2009 because of increased military demand for its services.

During a recent Army training exercise, amputee actor Heather Lewis was sitting in the back of a Humvee dressed as a female soldier when the vehicle went over a simulated car bomb. When a real soldier from the unit reached into the smoke-filled truck to pull her to safety, Ms. Lewis’s prosthetic leg came off, sending fake blood spurting into the air.

“He just went ‘uhh!’ and dropped me,” says Ms. Lewis, a Strategic Operations employee who lost her leg to cancer as a child.

The company operates like a movie production. It employs a core group of 80 full-time employees, as well as roughly 216 part-time ones. Depending on the project, it can quickly hire hundreds of other actors, prop makers and explosive technicians on a contract basis. In August 2007, for instance, it sent 650 part-time workers—including 400 actors—to an Iraq-themed training exercise at a nearby military airfield.

(Image: Scenic painter Marcus Silva works on a mock Afghan compound at Strategic Operations Inc. in San Diego on March 5.)

When they aren’t pretending to be at war, many of the company’s actors drive taxi cabs and work at restaurants. Iraq-born Imad al-Jabi wore a white dishdasha and played the role of an insurgent during a recent Iraq simulation at Strategic Operations’ San Diego headquarters. “The rest of the time I work in a pizza shop,” he says with a shrug.

After more than five years of fake war, the company’s Hollywood-trained make-up artists are capable of recreating a staggering number of grisly battlefield wounds, from burns to pieces of shrapnel that appear to jut out from actors’ eyeballs.

“After a while, you start to feel like you’ve been through medical school,” says Carol Helm, who runs Strategic Operations’ eight-person make-up department.

The company devotes just as much time to its fake weapons, like the rocket-propelled grenades that appear to fly right at their targets.

In reality, the grenades are souped-up fireworks that travel safely along invisible wires. The “shrapnel” that flies through the air after one of the grenades detonates is Peruvian cork, which disintegrates on contact with human flesh or a hard surface.

When the simulations go off as planned, soldiers and Marines get to experience realistic re-creations of life in the war zones.

During a “Mountain Warrior” training exercise last fall at the Marines Mountain Warfare Training Center near Lake Tahoe, Afghan immigrant actor Kajalilullah Gul played a village elder while his colleage Zabiullah Zaheer played the mullah of a friendly village.

Mr. Gul, a former translator for the U.S. army in Afghanistan, moved to California in 2008 and has worked as a role-player ever since for a Strategic subcontractor, Tatitlek Support Services Inc. He gets paid roughly $17 an hour, plus benefits.

Mr. Zaheer’s script said to remain friendly unless the Marines did something culturally insensitive, like questioning one of the female Afghans without the permission of their fake husbands or fathers.

Mr. Lavell, the former Navy pilot, says he is never bothered when Marines or soldiers mess up during one of the company’s war simulations.

“Its better that they make the mistakes with us before they go off into the real world,” he says. “The whole point is to learn, and that’s better done here than there.”

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Albuquerque Journal - Wooing Afghan Hearts and Minds

Posted January 6, 2011

By Robert Gray, El Paso Inc.

Afghan mullah Abdul Ghafari aims his gun at the suspected thief, squeezes the trigger and fires.

Watching the “execution” are soldiers from Fort Bliss, members of the Bulldog Brigade, also known as the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division.

Ghafari tells the soldiers that the execution is in accordance with Shariah law, and in the best interest of the community.

But almost everything in front of the soldiers is make believe, staged on streets of a replica Afghan market built in the New Mexico desert 145 miles west of El Paso.

The exercise is designed to expose soldiers to what they may experience in Afghanistan, and teach them how to react. It also teaches a more subtle lesson: that a mullah committed to Shariah law is likely connected to the Taliban.

It’s part of 17 days of training that continues until the end of the month, designed to teach the Bulldog Brigade about counterinsurgency and how to fight it. It’s not real, but the soldiers say it might as well be.

One said he began hyperventilating and having flashbacks the first time he entered the mock market and village, populated by more than 150 role-players in authentic dress.

Weeks before “executing” the thief, Ghafari was home in Sacramento, Calif. Four years ago he was in Kabul, Afghanistan, where he was born and has lived most of his life.

Far from being a Taliban mullah, Ghafari worked for the United Nations in Afghanistan as a sort of goodwill representative, promoting things like parents sending their kids to school.

Ghafari came to the United States to be closer to family, and learned from a friend about the opportunity to work as a role-player.

“I am very happy to help the U.S. Army learn the culture. It helps the U.S. Army and the people in Afghanistan stay safe,” Ghafari told El Paso Inc. through an interpreter.

Dangerous deployment

Fresh from Operation Bulldog Brawl, a month-long training exercise designed to turn the brigade into an efficient fighting machine, the brigade’s 3,300 soldiers are now learning Afghani social skills.

They interact with the Pashto- and Dari-speaking population of the replica village and market, something they will have to do for real when they deploy to the dangerous southern region of Afghanistan next year.

But by the time the brigade ships out, it will be armed with a breadth of training that has become rare in the U.S. Army.

The Bulldog Brigade, which came to Fort Bliss last year, is one of the Army’s first to have two years between deployments, rather than just one year.

That brutal one-to-one rotation had become the norm.

“Units have had to train their butts off during that period in order to get ready,” said the brigade’s commander, Col. Christopher Cavoli.

“So we found ourselves burning the candle while deployed and then, for much of the period back, burning the candle, too. So you’re constantly burning the candle at both ends,” he said.

That led commanders to train their soldiers for specific missions only, Cavoli said.

Skills fundamental to the Army deteriorated: artillery, mobile armored warfare, large-scale offenses and mobile command and control.

The longer time between deployments also gives the Army the opportunity to capitalize on the experience that junior and non-commissioned officers have gained since U.S. forces attacked Afghanistan in 2001, he said.

“We’ve got a really experienced Army at this point and, by having a lot of dwell time, it gives you the ability to milk out that experience and transfer it to the new soldiers,” Cavoli said.

Across the Army, he says, that will mean soldiers who fight better and wars that are prosecuted better.

“So the question is, what do I do with all that dwell time, and the answer is I really drill down,” he said.

Hollywood effects

Cavoli said he used his training budget to bring the Bulldogs out to the Playas Training and Research Center in a remote section of southern New Mexico.

He hired a private government contractor to run the scenario. He said he couldn’t say exactly how much it cost.

The contractor, Strategic Operations, based out of San Diego, has been waging fake war for more than six years.

Hollywood-style special effects are used to replicate the look, feel and smell of war. Limbs are blown off. There are rocket-propelled grenades, suicide bombers, elaborate sets, burned flesh, squirting blood.

Since the beginning of 2009, the defense contractor has done $12-million worth of business with the government, according to data compiled by the U.S. General Services Administration.

According to Brian Howe, combat training coordinator for Strategic Operations, the company recruits most of its role-players from California, which is home to the largest Arabic speaking population in the nation, he said.

The company bused in about 150 role-players to populate the market and village.

“You’re trying to stick to the scenario, you’re trying to make it authentic, but you go out in that very rural village and you won’t have bottled water. The reality is these guys are from California, they drink bottled water,” Howe said. “You have to make it real but you also have to take care of people.”

Sometimes, he said, soldiers get too caught up in the training. A few role-players have been bruised, and one sprained their thumb at Playas.

“If you allow yourself to be part of it, it will scare you and you will jump and you get excited by it; it’s all fake, you know it’s fake, but you suspend disbelief – allow it to be real. That is what this training does,” he said.

“I’ve seen medics just freeze, I’ve seen them throw up. Soldiers cry.”

Stress and relief

At a “white cell meeting” held at 5:30 p.m. last Monday at the training center, Cavoli and his senior leadership dissected how the previous 12 hours of training had gone. Then they reviewed the upcoming 12 hours in 15-minute increments.

During meetings held every morning and evening, modifications are made to the scenario to make it more stressful for the soldiers and teach them lessons.

In that morning’s meeting, Cavoli learned soldiers were not searching vehicles properly at a checkpoint.

The plan: Just after dark, a pickup truck will be driven to the checkpoint. A 20-foot fireball created by propane gas will explode out the back of the truck to simulate a vehicle-borne attack from an improvised explosive device.

While the soldiers are distracted, a roadside bomb will be installed on the dirt road that leads from the mock market to the village.

As the white cell meeting continues, the brigade’s mascot, Gunnery Sgt. Chester, a 100-pound American bulldog the brigade adopted from an animal shelter, shuffles from soldier to soldier, at one point rapidly chasing his three-inch long tail.

“Chester, you looking for attention?” Cavoli says. He gets it after the meeting when soldiers inflate balloons that Chester bounces off his nose and attacks with gusto. He is the brigade’s stress relief.

That morning, the scenario called for soldiers to accidentally run over and kill a goat herder’s wife – all acted out in dramatic Hollywood fashion.

Afterwards, the soldiers met with the family to express their condolences, and then talked with the village elder.

Soldiers schedule a shura, a sort of meeting of decision makers, so the village leaders and Army leaders can resolve the issue.

That follow through, Cavoli said, is the key.

War as diplomacy

“Everything we say and everything we do and how we say it and how we do it is a sentence in our argument – that we are not an occupation force. That is the most fundamental truth about counterinsurgency,” Cavoli told El Paso Inc.

“You have to start with what is the intended rhetorical effect on the people. From there you design your operations,” he explained.

After 23 years in the Army, Cavoli has a somewhat nuanced take on counterinsurgency.

He commanded an infantry battalion on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in 2006-07, and was an executive assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff after the first year of the Iraq war.

That experience, he said, impacts everything he is trying to teach his soldiers.

Counterinsurgency was not an unstudied topic before the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, he said, but interest in the topic among officers skyrocketed with the start of the war.

“Most serious soldiers during that period embarked upon self-study programs. It started that way. Guys going ‘I’m going to have to figure this out.’ You dig out books and there was some doctrine on it.”

In a traditional war, diplomacy ends when war begins, Cavoli said. The discussion is over. Wiping out the opposing military force is expected to bring about the policy goal.

But with counterinsurgency, he said, the discussion is not beside the point; it is the point. The whole thing is an argument to win the support of the people.

The message?

“We are here for a reason. We are here to help you establish sovereignty, so that you can keep it from being a haven for terrorists. And this is about us enabling you to be a great country so we can go home,” Cavoli said.

That message can be communicated through high-level policy decisions, such as deciding to use the Afghan court system to deal with those detained on the battlefield, he said, or through soldiers’ actions on the ground.

“Do you drive down the middle of the road forcing people out of the way,” Cavoli said, “or do you drive according to traffic laws?”

The day after “executing” the thief, role-player Ghafari has a brief break from his role as the mullah.

His hope, he said through a translator, is that soldiers would learn how to talk to people in Afghanistan and learn how respect is shown in their culture.

“One of the most important things the soldiers can learn here,” he said, “is not to go into a mosque with their boots on and weapons.”

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Strategic Operations Debuts BUG-V Target

Posted November 29, 2010

Strategic Operations, a San Diego based company specializing in Hyper-Realistic™ training environments for military, law enforcement and homeland security, will debut its new Ballistic Unmanned Ground Vehicle (BUGV-Target) at I/ITSEC, the world’s largest modeling, simulation and training show for the military, November 29 to December 2. Strategic Operations will be at Booth 2913.

The BUGV-Target is a remote controlled mobile target that combines a Hyper-Realistic™ civilian lightweight foam vehicle body with an armored platform to accomplish a variety of training missions, including Live-Fire Vehicle Check Point/Entry Control Point/VCP/ECP training, Live-Fire Sniper Training, Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED). The BUG-Target is a system that includes a lightweight foam vehicle body over a ballistic steel enclosure over a remote controlled robotic chassis.

“The only system of its kind, the BUGV-Target provides hyper-realistic, safe, repeatable, live fire training using a re-usable, economical, environmentally friendly vehicle,” said Kit Lavell, Executive Vice President of Strategic Operations, Inc.

The BUGV-Target’s expendable body is made out of lightweight foam and can look like any number of vehicles: a sedan, a taxi, a bongo truck, a pickup truck, etc. The body can withstand many impacts from small arms and machine guns up to .50 caliber and can be repaired with a patch kit. The body is lightweight and can easily be lifted off the ballistic steel enclosure and replaced. In addition, lightweight foam mannequins can be placed in driver and passenger positions. Optional visible occupant damage effects (movie-style blood squibs), with head and center mass hit indicators with remote telemetry are available. Glass window options are also available for sniper training.

The BUGV-Target’s features a specially designed 1⁄2” AR500 ballistic steel enclosure that fits over the remotely controlled robotic chassis and protects it from up to .50 cal BMG Ball M1 ammo. The foam body can easily be installed over, and lifted off of the ballistic steel enclosure.

Designed to withstand extreme environments, the BUGV-Target can operate in temperatures ranging from -10o C to 65o C and with its high traction solid rubber tires it can navigate loose and uneven terrain.


Strategic Operations Unveils Human Worn Partial Task Surgical Simulator ("Cut Suit")

Posted November 29, 2010

Strategic Operations, a San Diego based company specializing in Hyper-Realistic™ training environments for military, law enforcement and homeland security, will unveil its innovative Human Worn Partial Task Surgical Simulator (“Cut Suit”) at I/ITSEC, the world’s largest modeling, simulation and training show for the military, November 29 to December 2. Strategic Operations will be at Booth 2913 and will feature daily demonstrations of the Cut Suit.

Strategic Operations Executive Vice President Kit Lavell said the Patent Pending “Cut Suit” is the most realistic way to simulate the look, feel and smell effects of severe traumatic events on a live human while allowing medics, combat lifesavers, soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen and civilian first responders to safely perform real medical procedures on a live human. From the point of wounding, where self-aid and buddy-aid are rendered, the Medic or Corpsman renders aid, CasEvac or MedEvac is performed, treatment en route, and transition of care to the shock/trauma team and surgical intervention.


Guy Kawasaki's "Two Minutes of Terror"

Posted November 6, 2010

Guy Kawasaki visited Strategic Operations, a company that provides “hyper-realistic” training services and products for military and law-enforcement personnel. It’s located on the twenty-two acre lot of Stu Segall Productions in San Diego, California. Strategic Operations uses Hollywood special effects, actors, former military personnel, and a team of craftsman to simulate combat conditions. In the past eight years, it has provided training support to approximately 400,000 personnel.


Fast Company - Military Training, Hollywood Style: Robots, Simulated Amputations, Laser Explosives

Posted October 25, 2010

BY AUSTIN CARR

Black smoke swamps the check point. Marines are crouched, shouting orders at one another. A car bomb just went off, and bullets are whizzing overhead. Wounded soldiers are screaming for help. The next second, an RPG shrieks into the side of the platoon’s humvee, blasting heaps of shrapnel on the troops. The Marines are preparing to counter when, suddenly, it’s all over. The shooting stops. The smoke disappears. The scene goes silent, as if a movie director yelled “CUT!”

In many ways, the scene described above is from a movie. It’s part of a program developed by Strategic Operations, a little-known tactical training firm that specializes in “Hyper-Realistic” training for military, law enforcement, and homeland security forces. Since 2001, Strategic Operations has trained more than 160,000 Marines and 150,000 soldiers. Other Hollywood-influenced military trainers use video, 3-D and mechanical simulations. But Strategic Operations blends advanced special effects, actors, and rapidly reconfigurable sets to create training grounds so real that troops feel the stress of the battlefield–and hopefully inoculate themselves against it.

“It makes it so your first combat mission is no more stressful or shocking than your last simulation,” says executive VP Kit Lavell, a former Naval aviator who flew hundreds of combat missions in Vietnam. “The better prepared you are in training, the more you build up resiliency in combat and hopefully the less you incur incidents of posttraumatic stress.”

Strategic Operations was founded by TV mogul Stu Segall, who, after 9/11, sought to bring his unique expertise from Hollywood to our national defense. In television, sets need to be constructed, rebuilt, and recycled day-to-day; big special effects are required without expensive computer tech; and actors and makeup artists must adapt to any scene. Segall applied those same principles to military training.

Strategic Operations prides itself on hyper-realism to perfect what it calls “stress inoculation,” the process of preparing troops for the horrors and surprises of wartime. The company creates incredibly life-like training environments, from objective-based scenarios such as boarding a cargo ship via helicopter, to environments like “Mojave Viper,” Strategic Operations’ massive desert grounds, which replicates an entire Middle Eastern city with a population of 50,000 or more. Strategic Operations has dozens of locations like these throughout the country, and has 80 full-time employees. In 2009, its revenues doubled due to strong military demand for its products and services.

For example, the team uses advanced pyrotechnics to create huge explosions, imitating anything from IED and RPG attacks to suicide bombers.

Amputees are hired as actors, and given prosthetic limbs and blood pumps to simulate the goriest of wounds. Bilingual actors are also employed, dressed in authentic wardrobe, trained in cultural cues and jobs, and adept at playing out any number of scenes. For certain projects, the company hires as many as 400 actors and 250 part-time workers to polish a scenario. “It becomes so intense and real,” says Lavell. “I’ve seen medics freeze up–some not knowing what’s going on.”

The company also specializes in RHU, Relocatable Habitat Units, sets that can be rapidly constructed and deconstructed–extremely mobile units that mimic any warfare environment. “We can make anything: the Horn of Africa, the Philippines,” explains Lavell. “While intellectually you know you’re not, emotionally, you’re in Iraq or Afghanistan.”

“It’s like a Lego set–multi-story buildings can be constructed and scaled very rapidly,” he continues. In one impressive example, the team transforms shipping containers to look like an Iraqi village.

Guns are rigged with MILES, or Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System, laser-beam equipped weapons that produce both auditory and visual effects. When the trigger is pulled, it not only produces the same bang as a real rifle would, but also hits its target: Enemies are dressed in squibs, small explosives that react to the laser system, and show both entry and exit wounds. “I’m sure you’ve played laser tag,” says Lavell. “We’ve taken that concept and incorporated a visual and auditory signature.”

For check point training, Strategic Operations employs Ballistic Unmanned Ground Vehicles made of durable high density foam. The vehicles are built on a steel-clad armor-proof remote control robot. A removable body enables the BUG-V to be transformed into cars, trucks–any type of vehicle.

“In a kinetic environment, you lose situational awareness–you have telescoping vision where you just are looking through a tunnel, unaware of your surroundings,” Lavell explains. “Our training environment is total sensory overload. The more you go through it, the more your situational awareness and vision expand.”

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US Marine Corps Awards 'Atmospherics' Contract to Strategic Operations

Posted July 27, 2010

The United States Marine Corps has awarded Strategic Operations, Inc., a San Diego-based company specializing in Hyper-Realistic™ training environments for military, law enforcement and homeland security, a three-year contract to enhance and upgrade Marine Corps existing and future Military Operation in Urban Terrain (MOUT) facilities; Home Station Training (HST) areas and Ranges.

“Currently, the existing MOUT and planned HST area facilities and surrounding Range areas are void of cultural realism,” said Kit Lavell, Executive Vice President of Strategic Operations, Inc. “Even though these facilities are equipped with streets and buildings, the atmosphere lacks detailed cultural realism such as ‘prop’ like items (furniture, billboards, faux foodstuffs, ersatz crops, colors and realistic facades) utilized during training scenarios.”

Lavell said the ‘Atmospherics’ project is designed to simulate a future or current deployable urban environment and support the war fighting skills and improve training opportunities for Marines, tenants, and joint service units aboard Marine Corps ranges at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Quantico, Virginia, Camp Pendleton, Twenty Nine Palms, Bridgeport, and China Lake in California, as well as at bases in Hawaii and Okinawa.


CBS News - This Town Was Made For Training

Posted April 22, 2006

Every day, as bombings and gun battles erupt in Iraq, American soldiers risk their lives as targets of insurgents who hide among civilians. How do you prepare troops for this kind of battle?

CBS Evening News Saturday anchor Thalia Assuras reports from Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, where a a model of an Iraqi town — created by a Hollywood producer — trains troops for the dangers ahead.

"Mostly the goal is the atmosphere," says Col. Ronald Johnson of the U.S. Marine Corps. "It's just trying to replicate the same sights and sounds that we hear in Iraq with those that the marines will experience when they get over there."

Col. Johnson has served two tours in Iraq, Assuras reports. His unit will be deployed again this summer. Before they leave, Johnson wants his marines — especially the rookies — to have more realistic training.

And Johnson thinks the model town gives a pretty good feeling for what it will be like for the troops when they reach Iraq.

"I think if you close your eyes for a minute and you hear the music and you hear the sounds, you almost feel like you're back in it," he says.

When the War on Terror began, the marines called upon California television producer Stu Segall for help. Segall turned his San Diego television lot into a marine training ground where he estimates more than 20,000 marines have passed through. This village at camp Lejeune is his most elaborate effort to date.

"The only thing that they tell me that this is not like is the smell," Segall said. "It doesn't smell the same."

He added that creating these sets — which will never hit the small screen — has been particularly fulfilling. "Being in the television-entertainment side of things, realism is what we try and do. When we can bring it to training and have the marines respond to it, that's the real rewarding part of it," he said.

It's a full-fledged production. Set designers created a realistic village complete with a signs in Arabic, a mosque and a marketplace. Makeup artists create wounds and injuries, and pyrotechnic specialists make simulated "IEDS," the improvised explosive devices that have killed so many in Iraq. But no one gets hurt here — the shrapnel is made of cork.

And — like any other Hollywood set — there are actors. Among them are amputees, whose missing limbs make injuries appear all too real.

The cast also includes Iraqi-Americans like Salah Salea who help the marines practice speaking Arabic and also offer insights into their culture.

"I teach them a good way to build relationship with Iraqis. To build relationship that's my heart and mind," said Salea.

The hope is young marines will be ready for the chaos they'll most likely face in the real Iraq.

And troops approve. "So far, it's been the most realistic training I've had," said Pvt. 1st Class Jordan Kinal. "There's a lot going on and a lot to pay attention to and I know it's not the real thing, but it was pretty intense."

Historically Hollywood has helped on the home front with patriotic wartime films — but this time their efforts may help on the front lines.

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