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Training for combat
Opsgear supplies paintball guns, gear for Urban Warfare Center
By Dennis Romboy
Deseret Morning News
NORTH SALT LAKE — Military-style combat goes on several times a week in a warehouse in this Davis County suburb.
Kim Raff, Deseret Morning News
Trainers "rescue" a hostage, bottom, during a demonstration at the Opsgear warehouse in North Salt Lake.
One day soldiers might be mounting an assault on bad guys in a fortified position. On another day, police SWAT teams might be executing a search warrant in a dangerous neighborhood.
On Tuesday, a military team armed with paintball guns mounted a sneak attack on a terrorist holding a hostage.
The Urban Warfare Center replicates force-on-force battles that might be found on the streets of Baghdad or Salt Lake City. Opsgear, a multimillion-dollar paintball and tactical gear supplier, runs the center to provide training for law enforcement and military personnel at no charge.
To the outsider, it looks like a bunch of guys playing army, but company founder David Burnell said what goes on inside the facility is serious business.
"This is not a recreational sport," said Burnell, who spent 11 years in the Air Force, including seven in special operations. "This is a training environment."
While Opsgear, whose sales have doubled annually since it started in a Bountiful garage six years ago, makes its money on paintball products, it is not the company's focus, Burnell said.
"We don't pooh-pooh the paintball industry. We respect it," he said. "They're the ones who are funding this."
Since the warfare center opened three years ago, thousands of local police officers, federal agents and soldiers, some bound for Iraq, have undergone high-stress "freeze, fight or flight" scenarios to test their mettle.
Many are Army Reserve support and logistics units that have little, if any, combat training before being deployed in Iraq. They're taught how to react when a convoy is attacked and how to keep from accidentally shooting their own in battle.
"At the end of the day, we want everyone to come home," Burnell said.
Before the combat demonstrations Tuesday, Opsgear employees and others paused to commemorate the anniversary of D-Day, the June 6, 1944, invasion of France that cracked the Nazi grip on western Europe. Workers posted a wreath and honored the thousands of servicemen and women who died in the attack.