.I enjoy doing volunteer work. It gives me a sense of usefulness and satisfaction, especially if that volunteer work involves shooting at cops.
Every year there is a training exercise attended by several SWAT teams from my county’s police and sheriffs’ offices. The cops are there to hone their skills and to learn how to be better cops and work with other teams. They rely on untrained administrative police department employees to volunteer to be the bad guys and hostages. That’s where I come in. I don’t get to wear the uniforms or the guns, but I do get to buy them.
At the SWAT roundup, each team is tested with several scenarios requiring handling by skilled professionals who know how to deal with violent and potentially deadly situations. It goes without saying that the majority of these teams are all male, and they are all tough, muscular, deep-voiced, well groomed macho studs, sweating in full tactical gear. That’s why I come in.
What’s not to like?
Last year, my first year, I had no idea what my role would entail. I was nervous and sweaty, standing around during the orientation, taking in all the testosterone, which was as thick as pea soup. I was the shortest, skinniest, and probably the oldest male in the crowd. Clearly I would have made even a lame victim.
Our scenario was this: Three shooters on a bus, threatening to kill hostages and any cops that stepped on board. I was immediately resigned to the fact that I was going to be a hostage, but we were told to mix it up, make it different for each team. Sometimes be a shooter; sometimes be a hostage; sometimes threaten to shoot yourself. Make things confusing.
Oh, well cool, I thought. This is theater! This is improv! I’d always wanted to major in theater in college, but my mother threatened to cut off my tuition money if my degree could land me in the world full of part-time-working homosexuals. (Instead, my English degree would commit me to the underemployed, underpaid world of homosexuals.) I was delighted that this little bus trip would provide me with the first opportunity since high school to be on.
They gave me a gun that contained blue-tipped bullets that splatted a soap blob into anything it was fired against. It’s called Simunition. It’s basically just a high velocity paint ball, but it can rip a small chunk of skin right off of you. I wore a ballistic vest, gloves, a riot helmet, and a cup to keep the tender parts from being stung by the bullets. I was told it “wouldn’t hurt that bad.”
When the first team came on the bus, I was too shy. I couldn’t shoot a cop. What if he shot back? What if it did hurt? The team hurried in, shot me immediately, and the scenario was over. Pretty lame. In take two, I was a hostage, and was held from behind with the shooter’s arm around my neck and the gun pointed at my helmet. The SWAT team shot the bad guy, who did a nice job of holding me tightly (he was an off-duty non-SWAT cop who smelled very pleasant and had huge biceps), and I escaped, lightheaded but unharmed.
As the day wore on and I became less afraid to use the gun, I became more confident and spontaneous in this all-male production. One time I didn’t even give them a chance. I started shooting at the first three guys who stepped foot on the bus. Another time I hid in a spot on the bus that no one suspected a man could fit into, and I surprised and shot four of them in the back. Score one for the skinny homosexual terrorist. Another time, when I held the gun to my own head and threatened to kill myself, a SWAT officer grabbed me by the throat, wrestled me to the floor of the bus and pulled my gun away.
These guys were dead serious about what they were doing, and after each scenario, they got out of the bus and reviewed what had happened, what was good, what had gone wrong. Sometimes, like the time I shot four in the back after no one had noticed me, they were yelled at. So the better I did the job, the more they got in trouble.
The best part of the day is the first half hour, when all the teams are putting on their armor, moving around in groups, and just looking hot. While this is going on, I hang out with the role players, specifically, the female role players. (I’m a gay man. It’s what we do. You go where the love is.) For this half hour we stare at butts as teams walk by. All the men know they look hot. And even if they are in reality only semi-hot, the uniform upgrades their hotness rating a level or two. Most of them are young and virtually fearless. They are so built and so good looking and so, I don’t know, male, I guess, is the word I’m looking for here. They are all high school football captains, which is why it is so much fun to shoot them. If I didn’t know better, I would swear that SWAT teams are cast by porn directors. And by that I mean good porn directors. The hi-def kind.
My bald head and bony hands, as seen on TV.
This year, the bus scenario was different. First of all there were more role players on the bus, so I didn’t get but one chance to shoot. Fortunately, I shot at the officers I work with every day, which made this volunteer work more meaningful. Secondly, it was more structured. One active shooter in the front, and a sleeper in the back, so there was no room for improvisation, which was a little disappointing to this theater-major wannabe.
A couple of us, after being taken of the bus and set on the ground, ended up kneeling in dog shit. There were some really ugly flesh wounds this time, due the fact that some role players didn’t wear protective gear. One volunteer playing the active shooter was accidentally pushed out the back door of the bus. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think SWAT teams are put here to help bad guys escape.
But even though it was not as much fun this time, if I’m asked to go again next year, I’ll gladly accept the invitation. And if I’m not, I just may take the morning off work so I don’t miss the first half hour.