Let me back up and explain first of all that this happened a few months ago and I've been slow to write it up because I've been slammed with new projects.
The story began on a routine trip out to Phoenix where Dave had agreed to some training and mentioned that his friend Jerod Johnson runs STA Training Group and we might be able to use the facility.
The first thing I was happy about when going to STA Training Group? The facility is actually near civilization. If you've done much training you know that you often end up an hour or two from the nearest major airport. Not here, I was maybe 10 minutes from major city development.
I pulled up only to see Dave and Jerod in the dune buggy from hell. Actually, it was a Tomcar and if you've never checked them out just know that you really want one. The view of the drive in to STA Training Group from there was this:
After a few minutes discussing gear and hearing my then new Steyr AUG A3 be called a notch down in quality from the old A2's (more on this later), we were off for the ride in the desert. How quick would you be to hop into the Tomcar with a guy who had said 3-4 sentences and you'd only been told was "the real deal" if he looked like this:
The startling part about meeting Jerod for me and I would think most people of my generation is that he looks like Dusty from the Medal of Honor series. I've been chastised enough by Dusty throughout many hours of gameplay to know for sure. For comparison purposes:
A little background on Jerod since he's not one to talk too much about himself... bullet point style:
• United States Marine Corps Scout Sniper
• 1st Marine Division Scout Sniper School
• Special Operations Training Group Reconnaissance and Surveillance
• Special Operations Training Group Urban Sniper
• Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape (S.E.R.E)
• Anti-piracy Security Contractor
• Department of State Independent Contractor
And his industry experience includes stints with:
• Heckler and Koch (HK)
• Patriot Ordinance Factory
What did I learn on the desert tour of the facilities? Besides the impressive resume Jerod actually was a hell of a guy and could definitely make an entertaining and relatable instructor (and tour guide). Moreover, STA Training Group has a damned impressive setup with a simple, effective training philosophy. A few of my pictures from the tour:
Let's play find all the steel! Ranging out to 1000 yards, can you find it all?
Who doesn't want a small Afghan Village to train in?
You can't train for a village without a good overwatch position, right?
Bay after bay after bay after bay after... you get the point
After the tour, Dave started running me through drills. While doing malfunction drills (you can't make this stuff up), my Steyr S40 decided it liked malfunctions so much it would just pick one and stick with it. Shit. One gun down.
Well, I really wanted to get a lot of time in on the Steyr AUG A3 anyway so we switched to that and started running. The comment I'd heard earlier about the A3's not being as well built as the older AUG's? I have no idea if it's true but the AUG shit the bed too. Now I have two out of two guns down and a good 4-5 hours of training left to do. Time to call Steyr.
They tried to walk me through a field fix but the instruction that one screw should be "tight, but not tight tight" was not exactly precise. I gave it a try and got about 20 more rounds before it crapped out on me again. At most schools, your gun goes down and it's a wasted day of training or time to see if a fellow student will loan a backup weapon or haul your butt to the gun store and hurry back with a new weapon. How did we handle it at STA? We went up the hill to where Jerod was:
Goodies! STA Training Group has a full selection of gear to run through classes with
When we told Jerod both Steyrs went down he held back the jokes long enough to at least admit he'd never heard of two of them crapping out in a day. Jerod's response to the problem was simply, "what do you want to use the rest of the day"?
We went into the Conex (or as I prefer the goody box) where the options ranged from Smith and Wesson M&P-15's to FN SCAR 17's to AK's to Patriot Ordinance Factory rifles. I'd heard so many great things about the POF's that I went with one.
It was that easy. I grabbed another rifle and headed back down the hill to keep shooting. It's the same for students coming to classes. Need a chest rig? Knee pads? A rifle? Jerod has a stash of gear to make an operating team jealous and all available for use in the class. It's just part of what STA does and, frankly, it kicks ass.
Dave and I wrapped up training and went back up the hill where Jerod was sitting with a leading researcher as they were fine tuning some calculations using the long range steel. Just another day at STA Training Group.
The Phoenix area has it's collection of training schools but nothing comes close to what STA offers in terms of location (around 30 minutes from the airport), facilities, and instructors. Add in the gear program and you simply can't beat the place or the people.
This article was supposed to end with I can't wait to take some of Jerod's classes but I've been so busy the last few months that I've already taken the classes and haven't written those up yet either. Stay tuned for a review of their class and some cool stories about the gear program that made me even more certain that STA Training Group is something anyone who has the chance should experience.
To contact STA Training Group, go to: www.statraininggroup.com