Boise native Matt Schneider saw a need for tactical training "in the crazy world we live in," so on March 1, he opened the 25,000-square-foot Forward Movement Training Center.
The facility in downtown Meridian provides classes in self-defense and concealed weapons, but it goes far beyond a matted room with an instructor in a black belt--although, it has that, too.
In the middle of FMTC's giant concrete-floored warehouse sits a charming blue house with white trim. The house has five bedrooms and two baths, with pictures framed on the walls, knickknacks on the shelves, even a satellite dish on the exterior. But it's no home-sweet-home; instructors at FMTC use it to simulate realistic home invasions, complete with windows that can be broken again and again.
Next to the house, there's a bank where Schneider offers robbery and hostage situation training to bank tellers. Custom classes like that are available for businesses and individuals.
But Schneider is probably most excited about the VirTra--a wall-sized screen with actors playing out a range of scenarios, from home invasions to robberies to handling a suicidal person. Trainees use an actual gun outfitted with a laser instead of a magazine to navigate each situation.
"It's a judgment-based simulator," Schneider said. As these scenarios unfold, trainees have to decide if they'll use force, possibly lethally, or address the situation verbally. The simulator tracks their shots, showing accuracy and tracking if innocent bystanders were hit.
"The real benefit is for the civilian side," he added. "Lots of people have a concealed weapons permit, they carry the gun, but they don't have the training. Now they can be trained in world-dynamic situations. It's much different than shooting at a paper target."
Schneider said many people leave the room with sweaty palms and armpits and an elevated heart rate. Spending 45 minutes in the VirTra costs $65. Training is available for citizens, law enforcement, armed security, paramedics, SWAT and military.
FMTC goes beyond tactical training and also offers courses in first aid and youth wilderness survival, as well as team-building activities that include obstacle courses and shooting at balloons with air guns.
They even host children's birthday parties. Schneider will happily switch the VirTra from a "domestic terrorism" scenario to a game of duck hunt or shoot-the-asteroids-before-they-hit-the-rocketship.