Fort Benning is the planned home to a new “hyper-realistic” U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) training complex meant to mimic the layout and design of U.S. cities and buildings.
ICE is set to spend more than $961,000 to purchase five different training structures — the first steps toward a complex that will emulate buildings and structures the agency’s expanding Special Response Teams would encounter across the United States and Puerto Rico, according to a federal contract.
The plans also call for expansion later at the post, which is near Columbus.
Strategic Operations Inc. of San Diego was awarded the contract Sept. 9. The company did not respond to questions from the Ledger-Enquirer before publication.
Representatives for Fort Benning, The Department of Homeland Security and ICE also did not respond to questions from The Ledger-Enquirer before publication.
However, federal documents obtained by the L-E provide extensive detail of the plans that are aimed at allowing response “teams to experience combat conditions in a training environment that truly reflects real-world conditions.”
According to the federal contract, one of the training models is a “Chicago” style replica. Another is an “Arizona” style replica. The remaining three facilities are “fishbowls” set up for instructors to view classes from above.
The structures will be made from portable shipping containers or other appropriate materials that can be relocated to different sites if needed. But specifics of what each replica would look like are not included in the federal contract.
Quartz, an online news outlet, first reported about ICE’s new training structures and published a document from the Department of Homeland Security outlining what the structures might look like. The Ledger-Enquirer obtained a copy of this document.
What will be inside the structures?
Each of the structures will include set props “found in typical residential buildings” including “faux drug or IED labs.” Furniture, appliances, fixtures, clothing, toys and travel documents like passports, could also be included.
Those details provide information that minimizes risks to ICE’s special agents, deportation officers and the special response team operators during high-risk search and arrest warrants, hostage rescue, gang operations and other situations, according to the contract.
“Details like the number of dishes left on the table, toys in the yard, lighting, furniture, etc. all provide clues that allow our agents and officers to infer vital information that directly affects their safety and the potential resolution or outcome in the scenario,” according to the contract.
The Arizona structure will be 24 feet by 40 feet and made of three shipping containers placed side-by-side. Other features could include:
▪ 10 windows and four ground entrance doors
▪ A minimum of six rooms
▪ A garage
▪ Working interior lighting
▪ Fenced-in yard area
The Chicago structure will be twice as large as the Arizona building. It will be a two-story building made of six stacked shipping containers. Other features include:
▪ 22 windows, three exterior doors and a set of exterior stairs
▪ A minimum of five rooms on each floor
▪ A garage
▪ A pull-down ladder to a secret room above the garage. The room has a trap door leading to the main home.
The fishbowls are generic structures that offer instructors a view of the trainees from above.
The agency has plans to expand the training site at Fort Benning beyond these five facilities. It could include up to 50 additional buildings and additional U.S. city layouts and designs, according to the federal contract.
“At a minimum, the (complex) will contain a multitude of basic, intermediate and hyper-realistic training devices, a tactical training warehouse, classroom facilities, and vehicle assault training area,” the contract states.
The new planned facilities will be an extension of the agency’s current activity at Fort Benning.
The army post is currently home to ICE’s Office of Training and Tactical Programs. Many of the agency’s new hires were receiving training at Benning in “defensive tactics, firearms, lethal weapons, restraints technique, intermediate batons and empty-handed techniques,” according to a 2017 news release. The agency’s Special Response Teams, which conduct a variety of high-risk operations, are also trained at Fort Benning, according to an ICE news release published in 2015.