MiraCosta College offers a high-threat security training course that’s proving popular among veterans and others looking for a high-adrenaline career.
Students of the 35-day course graduated this week with an intense simulation exercise that tested their ability to stay calm under pressure.
Smoke billowed and gunfire echoed over the Carlsbad Safety Center as a pair of students carried out a simulated mission: rescuing a high-level executive from gang members somewhere in South America.
Student Tom Williams, who has served in the military and as a corrections officer, was still trembling slightly when he finished the exercise.
“It was great,” Williams said. “It was the most realistic training that I’ve ever done.”
Williams and his partner had no idea what the scenario was before they were given their assignment.
“It’s intense,” he said. “There’s smoke and fake blood and it’s chaotic and people are screaming and yelling. You just have to figure out what you need to do.”
Williams described his mission, which involved getting his client to the roof of a three-story building while under fire.
“Having to get him out of a chaotic situation and provide cover and safety for him to get him out of there — a gang member shooting — getting the executive from point A to point B without getting him injured," Williams said. "And if he did, you would have to provide medical care for that person.”
Emergency medical training was put to the test in a room where fake blood covered the floor and the “client” was heavily made up with severe gunshot wounds.
The lead trainer, Rick Sweeney, has worked in the security field for 25 years.
“This is very specialized training,” Sweeney said. “It evolves around very high-risk security. So the things you might have to encounter are going outside the borders of the U.S. to a very dangerous place and protect government personnel, corporate personnel or even celebrities on occasion.”
The students learn map-reading and navigational skills, as well as how to stay cool under pressure, handle a weapon and get out of handcuffs and blindfolds. The exercise involved giving complicated coordinates to call for a getaway vehicle, all while sheltering from incoming fire.
Sweeney said the main thing he’s looking for in a student is an urge to protect.
“We can usually tell that in the first couple of weeks, somebody who really has that instinct to protect," Sweeney said. "That’s the first thing that we look for.”
Many students are veterans.
“Veterans are getting out of the military," Sweeney said. “They are not always ready to get out, but because of the downsizing they had to get out, and they want to protect and serve still."
Linda Kurokawa, director of Community Education & Workforce Development at MiraCosta College, said about a third of the students who sign up for the high-threat security course come from out of state.
“There aren’t many courses like this in the United States,” Kurokawa said. “There’s a handful, and this is one that’s GI Bill funded."
MiraCosta College will spend $180,000 to expand the program from 26 students to 33 next semester. Kurokawa said there is already a waiting list for the September class.