RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany --
Sweat drips down their brows as they kneel, panting for breath.
It’s a cool, September morning and five men sweat as they train to potentially save their lives. They are members of the 569th U.S. Forces Police Squadron’s Emergency Services Team. In the civilian world, they’d be known by a different name - Special Weapons and Tactics. SWAT.
They gathered on Kapaun Air Station, Germany, Sept. 4, 2019, to work on how to counter an attacker wielding a knife.
“The reason we’re taking the knife training so serious is statistically there’s been an uptick on edge-weapon incidents in the area of responsibility,” said 1st Lt. Stephen Cromp, 569th USFPS operations officer and EST leader. “There’s been some fatal stabbings … Some even got international attention like the situation in Strasbourg.”
Cromp, a third degree black belt in Krav Maga, conducted this training session with the mindset that his Airmen may never need it, but should they, they’ll be glad they did.
“The main concern in this situation is the lethal weapon,” Cromp told the Airmen. “So that should be your primary focus. Something that’s gone wrong in prior drills is that everyone focuses on striking technique and the knife will come up.”
Cromp and Rene Richter, 569th USFPS unit training manager for local nationals, taught several techniques to block a weapon, distract an aggressor, and immobilize the suspect.
“Obviously in this situation we’re law enforcement professionals,” Cromp said. “Once we’ve subdued the subject and we’ve grabbed the knife, that’s our primary concern.”
The group practiced a mix of Air Force combatives, common law enforcement takedowns, Krav Maga, and mixed martial arts on each other during the training. The mock suspects utilized training devices called “shock knives,” blunt-edge weapons featuring a battery powered electrical blade which delivered a small shock when pressed against skin. The knives gave Airmen a shock, instead of a stab, letting them know they’d been hit.
“The YouTube or Jason Bourne clips aren’t real,” Cromp told the trainees. “You’re going to get cut, but if you get [cut] up on the back of your lat – whatever - you’re going to walk away from that. But if you get [cut] up on your jugular, you’re probably not going to walk away from that.”
The EST trained for approximately an hour-and-a-half before shutting it down for the day. They’ll train again, practicing and staying proficient at their craft.