Church members undergo active-shooter training in Irwin
With 24 years of Navy service and 13 more in law enforcement, Rodney “Chief” Smith doesn’t mince words or mess around when it comes to firearms training.
“Get that finger off that trigger! ” Smith barked at a trainee who wasn’t properly following his step-by-step instructions as a group prepared to shoot Saturday at Irwin Sportsmen’s Association.
Smith, a Bolivar native now living in Georgia, was working with a group of 20 people, putting them through his “House of Worship Security Training” program. The program seeks to turn church-going volunteers into armed and trained security guards.
“It really boils down to active-shooter, active-threat training,” said Smith, founder and CEO of Georgia Firearms and Security Training Academy. “I took my security course and just made it into a church course.”
This is Smith’s third professional trip back home to Western Pennsylvania in the past few years. He spoke to a group of church leaders in late 2017 before bringing the church-centered security course to the area in February 2018.
Larry George of Level Green is an insurance agent who insures several local churches.
“I got a call from some of my churches, and that kind of morphed into a relationship with Chief,” George said. “I’ve been a firearms guy for a long time, so I figured I should do this to know how it works.”
During the training, participants practiced single- and double-shot drills, as well as what Smith called a “Mozambique” drill: two shots to the chest and one to the head. As the training progressed, Smith gave his students a bit more leeway. Sometimes, he would give just a single command and expect the group to follow step-by-step preparations.
Smith’s brother, Robin, was among Saturday’s group, and Smith said he’s hoping to have Robin do some additional instruction for those interested.
“We want to make sure these folks are training in all aspects, so we do some medical and liability training, and less-than-lethal defense as well,” Smith said. “With the bombings, fires and shootings (at churches), why not?”
Irwin Sportsmen’s Association member Larry Lichtenfels said the training is an unfortunate necessity.
“It really bothers me to see school shootings and mosque shootings,” Lichtenfels said. “You see those ‘gun-free zone’ signs, but a criminal isn’t going to see that and put down his gun. You have to have a way to prepare for that.”
Fellow association member Smokey Burdin, who gave a safety briefing to participants, agreed.
“It’s a neat idea, and well worth it, I believe,” he said.
Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter .