We often discuss the power of our training scenarios, with their branching options, professional actors, high-end filming equipment and scenarios that are based on real-life incidents. And while we may touch on our debrief technology, this article is here to give it the recognition it deserves.

VirTra’s debriefing technology, known as TMaR—Trainee Monitoring and Recording—is a camera and microphone accessory fixated at the top of the training simulator. During scenarios, TMaR records a trainee’s performance, both visually and auditorily. After the scenario is complete, instructors can properly debrief by replaying every aspect of the scenario in the simulator.

In fact, instructors can pull up the recording on one screen, then replay the scenario on an adjacent screen (for users with a V-180 or V-300). The video and recording are synced, showing exactly how the trainee responded to the visual cues and threats.

Debriefing in this manner allows both the instructor and trainee to analyze the trainee’s movements, timing and even shot placements at any given time in the scenario. Does your current training simulator provide this in-depth of a debrief?

Watch TMaR and its benefits in action below:

Stress is one the tenets of Reality Based Training. Most of us by now have heard of Jeff Cooper’s Awareness Color Code. As officers we were taught to remain in condition yellow while on the job. In condition yellow you should be calm and relaxed but alert to your surroundings, aware of the people around you and paying attention to any physical cues they may be giving off. Alert, but not paranoid. In a perfect world, your training scenarios are requiring your students to operate in that same environment.

In my experience as a firearms instructor, I’ve seen plenty of students perform flawless reloads and weapons manipulation on a flat range. That’s because they know exactly why they are there and what the parameters are to complete the evolution successfully. They may be operating their weapon from condition yellow, being well aware of their environment, relaxed, but alert to changes in their weapon’s status or aware of physical cues that their weapon may be giving them to reload or clear a malfunction. On the other hand, I have seen some of those same officers stumble and hesitate when operating the same model firearm in a simulated training environment.

When being pressed by a threat the awareness level can quickly go from yellow to orange to even red, and trying to figure out why your weapon didn’t go bang when you pull the trigger becomes a difficult task for some. This is why it’s important to sometimes let your student fail in training. Ever heard the axiom “the more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in combat?” When your students are made aware that they’ve became task saturated, they need to learn from it and not leave the training venue without figuring it out. It is our job as trainers to provide them with the required remediation and let them work through the scenario again. Find out what caused the meltdown, let them figure it out and put them back into the same scenario.

All too often as instructors we forget that good repetitions are what makes good training. Using the Socratic method, we ask leading questions that help the student solve their own problems. It’s the same learning method that takes place in a simulated training environment. Our training and content team at VirTra makes use of law enforcement professionals to develop realistic training scenarios that are based on real world experiences. Every effort is made to ensure realism, and that immersive training can be accomplished. Play back features and the use of TMaR (Trainee Monitoring and Recording) camera enables instructors to play back what the student was doing at any point during the scenario in real time.

At our training center in Tempe, AZ, it’s interesting to watch when an officer who is “locked on” goes through a scenario that they have never seen before. They are confident in their abilities and operate efficiently in the 300-degree environment. That’s because they’ve been there at one point or another in their career, but that’s not the only reason. Periphery devices such as VirTra’s Threat-Fire® stress inoculation device, handheld and weapon mounted lights, ECW and OC cannisters are set up to operate exactly as they would function in the field. Use of these devices in our simulator enable students to use the same tool belt that they do in the streets.

As instructors we should be training our people in an environment that closely mirrors the real-world conditions that they may face on duty. In my mind, training is the best weapon our students carry with them into the field.

This article was written by Mike Clark, VirTra Law Enforcement Subject Matter Expert. Prior to working at VirTra, Mike had a twenty-year career in Federal Law Enforcement, where he had the opportunity to work at his agency’s national training center outside Washington D.C. Mike is also an active competitive shooter and NRA-certified instructor.

How do you debrief training performance? Are you the law enforcement training instructor that simply reviews a trainee’s performance? Or do you maximize your debriefing time by having trainee’s analyze their own mistakes and discussing corrective actions?

Debriefings are valuable for both instructors and trainees. This is a time dedicated to learning; where trainees learn from their errors while instructors learn about the trainees—their thought process, behaviors and potential training scars. As an instructor, it is difficult to change a student’s actions without understanding why they did what they did.

Begin the debrief by showing an effort to be open and honest so the trainees follow in this mindset. Make it clear this time is set for self-reflection and criticism. To prevent trainees from making excuses to save face, keep critiques centered around the learning and not the person. Be sure to monitor the officer’s physiological presence and physical reactions before, during and after training in the simulator and over time to help determine how training can be improved.

Streamline your debriefing by centering the discussion on these four questions:

What Did You Know Beforehand?

Start the discussion with this question. This provides a clear answer to how the student interpreted the information provided before the exercise. With larger classes, the answer may vary and there could be a correlation between each student’s interpretation of the information and their corresponding actions in the situation.

Analyzing their understanding also helps eliminate future miscommunication. For instance, a trainee might not have clearly understood a term or acronym before engaging in the situation. Or if the student failed to pay attention beforehand, it is clearly exposed.

Another benefit of this question is the ability to see how the stress of the situation affected them. Trainees who fully understand the objectives beforehand could have easily forgotten them the moment the weight of the situation hits.

What Did You See and Hear?

In high-stress, complicated scenarios, law enforcement officers may experience in-attentional blindness. Rather than focusing on every detail in a situation, people naturally concentrate on the elements they deem most important and ignore the rest. This is a natural human phenomenon that can turn deadly for officers, as these small and seemingly unimportant aspects of a situation can quickly turn into a threat.

The same thing occurs with selective hearing. Focused attention on a specific sound helps a person to zero in by ignoring irrelevant distractions. However, the consequence, like with in-attentional blindness, is missing the small details that could be an important signal.

Use this time to review or restart the situation with your trainees and point out small visual and auditory elements they missed that could have completely changed their decisions.

What Did You Do and Why?

Since the previous questions caused students to better understand the situation, now is the time for self-reflection. Whether the trainees made correct or incorrect choices, this question helps recall their actions from a fresh perspective.

During training, instructors need to jump in immediately to correct mistakes. Training is focused on action and accomplishing objectives. But after, debriefing is spent reflecting and understanding why the corrections lead to a better outcome. When students understand the reasoning, they are more likely to rely on those corrections in the future.

What Would You Do Differently?

Ask this question last, as it builds upon the foundation created by the previous questions. If possible, change the debriefing style to a Socratic seminar. Self-discovery and analysis can be more effective as students discuss each other’s performance and reasoning.

The Socratic seminar method engages the class and pinpoints misunderstandings. Perhaps most importantly, this type of discussion helps trainees understand the concept at a deeper level while moving the information to their long-term memory.

Improve your department’s AAR’s and debriefs by balancing the time spent on learning and reflection. Debriefs are made easier through the use of VirTra simulators. With our TMAR picture-in-picture recording system equips the simulator with a camera and microphone to record the trainee. After, review this footage together while discussing their decisions. To learn how to maximize this reviewing function and equip your simulator with a TMAR device, please contact us.

Train hard, stay safe and keep it consistent.