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Nellis AFB commits land for first responder vehicle training complex

Nellis Air Force Base has set aside 200 acres of federal land to build an emergency vehicle training complex for local first responders, meant to compliment a separate police training center already under construction in North Las Vegas.

The complex will be located off Hollywood Boulevard on the southeast perimeter of the base, according to a base official.

In October, the Metropolitan Police Department and other public safety agencies began construction on the separate Reality Based Training Center at 7370 E. Carey Road. The center is expected to simulate realistic scenarios for first responders, including “elevated threat” scenarios like the Route 91 Harvest festival attack on Oct. 1, 2017, which killed 60 people and wounded hundreds more.

Nellis along with Metro and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Foundation all confirmed the plan for the new vehicle training complex. The exact design has not yet been finalized, and its projected costs — as well as how exactly it will be paid for — are still being determined, said Tom Kovach, executive director of the police foundation.

Training for precision, not speed

Andrew Locher, who is overseeing the Reality Based Training Center project for Metro, said the vehicle training complex will help local law enforcement and first responders practice handling the vehicles they are expected to operate while on duty. For example, police will train on patrol cars and SWAT vehicles; firefighters will practice on fire engines and ambulances; and Air Force personnel will train on Air Force vehicles.

“When we think of emergency vehicle training, we think of high-speed (race) tracks, that sort of thing. But the reality is high-speed driving is very little of what we do,” Locher said.

Instead, training will focus on simulating tactical vehicle responses in urban settings, Locher said, adding that the project “will benefit the entire valley.”

Base officials said in an email to the Las Vegas Review-Journal that an environmental impact study on the land is underway. The study is expected to be completed by the summer of 2023.

“The cost of the project is still to be determined, but the value to Nellis and Las Vegas community first responders is substantial,” according to an emailed statement from the Nellis public affairs office. “This is a multi-agency initiative that will afford us the opportunity to bolster our own training while sharing best practices with our off-base partner agencies.”

First phase completion: end of 2021

At the Reality Based Training Center, concrete foundation has been laid for an administrative office, classrooms and training rooms.

A tactical village is also under construction, which will offer the simulated scenario training.

“Those spaces are going to be as real as possible to reflect environments officers and other first responders get (when) called to a situation,” Kovach said. “A bank, a school, a casino floor, a home, an apartment, a convenience store.”

Completion of both the administrative building and the tactical village is expected by the end of this year and is projected to cost $25 million.

So far, the police foundation has raised $18 million, Kovach said, adding that the pandemic has slowed fundraising. The funding came from businesses, foundations and individuals, he said.

He noted the Engelstad family pledged $8 million, the largest contribution to the project.

Contact Glenn Puit by email at gpuit@reviewjournal.com. Follow @GlennatRJ on Twitter.

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