Tier One Group: Business is Booming in Crawforsville
West Memphis Citizens Academy gets up- close look at explosives, tactical training
Tier One Group near Crawfordsville opened its doors to a session of the West Memphis Police Department’s Citizens Academy. Participants heard a history of the facility and about the scope of military and police training offered.
First, T1G trainer Rob French talked about what everyone wants to know about T1G, the big booms heard during explosives training. Then the spokesman mapped an overview of the facility and the work the 50 T1G employees do.
The citizens academy group watched the West Memphis Special Response Team blow open a door with a quarter pound charge and sweep through a simulated raid in a T1G shoot house.
The explosive charges often heard are regulated, but T1G has no time of day or night limits and uses far less than the allowed charges. Breaching is done with explosives. Special force groups contract T1G for training which occasionally includes practice busting everything from an enemy door to an airport runway with explosives.
“Breaching walls is most of what the public hears,” said French. “Per the state of Arkansas, we are permitted to go up to 163 pounds of dead explosive weight.
So we can go up to 162 pounds of TNT. A lot of what you hear is only four to five pounds.”
Earlier in the year U.S.
Army Rangers worked at disabling an airfield and used an explosive that had area residents reporting shaking windows.
“We did one at the end of February and got complaints from across the river,” said French. “That was 43 pounds. We capped it at 50 because there was really no practical reason to go higher. It was a group of Army Rangers. One of their four competencies is air field siege. If we aren’t going to use a captured airfield for a friendly force we’ll blow big holes, cratering the runaway, so if an enemy were to reoccupy it they couldn’t land their planes. In order to blow those big holes they have to practice putting the explosives together.”
T1G tamped explosions down after that.
“Since then we capped it at 25 pounds,” said French.
“Why? Because if you know how to blow a hole in the ground at 25, you know how to do it at 50. The state allows us to go higher, but there is no reason. We do a lot less than allowed because we don’t want to effect you. We live here. We work here. Our kids go to school here. We don’t want to upset anybody. We like it here. We like what we are doing for our military.”
Boundaries of the 777 acre T1G facility lay along Angeletti Road, north of Highway 64. “It all started with Omni Explosives, they are a civilian explosives manufacturing company in Crittenden County,” said French. “Before 9-11 farmers used to buy explosives to blow up beaver dams and stuff like that. Post 9-11 there have been explosive restrictions.
They sunk three shipping containers to store explosives in the late 80’s and 90’s. After Omni came TEES Capital Explosive Entry School they bought it and built the shoot houses and ran it. They sold it to a British training Company called Olive Tree. They landed in Arkansas because rules and regulations were a lot less stringent here than in the United Kingdom. It was cheaper to own this and fly personnel in than to have it in England. We bought it from Olive.”
The testing grounds layout included a two and one half mile tactical driving training track plus an off road rally track, a 16 acre explosives demonstration pit, classroom buildings, barracks, a dining hall, pro shop, a 1000 yard known distance training range with berms, and a parachute drop zone also used as an unknown distance range.
“So if you every see a big military aircraft circling Highway 64, we are doing airborne operations,” said French. “Guys are jumping out of airplanes and landing right here.”
T1G built a Afghani style village with some field of dreams, build and they will train, speculation.
Special Forces out of Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, came to us years ago and said this what we’re seeing a lot of in Afghanistan,” said French. “If you build it we will come. So we built it, they came for a little bit.”
A variety of weapons training ranges were laid out adjacent to the classrooms.
“We have a rapid range where you have to learn to shoot something eight inches around, seven yards away in half a second, said French. “You have to learn how to be really fast and accurate.”
T1G puts about half its land to farm leases.
T1G has 50 employees world-wide, most with top tier special forces experience from across the U.S.
“About 22 live here in the tri-state area,” said French.
“We have a sales force, they live where the military bases are. 42 of us are all veterans. All the instructors served in the special operations unit of the branch. All of us spent all our time in the military or split time in the military and worked with another government agency with three initials.
A lot of our instructors are part time or reserve officers with West Memphis.”
French, a Florida native, serves when called out by the West Memphis Swat Team and is a Marine Veteran. French was combat wound at Fallujah. His personal experience mirrors the typical profile of a T1G trainer.
“I joined the Marine Corps out of Oklahoma,” said French. “I went to Irag with Force Recon unit which became Marine Corps Special Operations. I partook in the Battle of Fallujah in 2004.
After that I worked for the DEA, we did the counter poppy operation in Afghanistan. After that I went to west Africa. We recruited and trained a new Liberian army. I worked with the state department in Irag on the ambassadors detail and then did diplomatic security in Jerusalem
for two years.
By John Rech