Some of the most unique corporate training in the country can be found in Utah. Opsgear teaches team building through a variety of military scenarios with paintball guns. Already, many local businesses have jumped on board.
The idea came from Bountiful resident Dave Burnell. In his second year in business, he built the Urban Warfare Center where paintball scenarios can be held for law enforcement as well as corporate team building.
The Urban Warfare Center isn't the only operation of Opsgear, nor is it the profitable side. The business actually sells paintball military simulation products worldwide and is known for its marking gun technology. The technology allows people to train for combat in relatively safe conditions. Burnell's Opsgear has two product lines called Raider and Commando. They fabricate many state-of-the-art items that adapt paintball gear to replicate law enforcement and military. Many of the products are patented.
The designs come from their range of experience from the battlefield to the Urban Warfare Center.
"The things we develop here are for training purposes that we then market to the civilian community," said Bryan Green, Director of Marketing.
Dave Burnell and other employees in his operation have a background in special operations and search and rescue. Jake Barker, Director of Operations at Opsgear, was in special operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, Bur-nell went through a hostage rescue program in England in 1989.
He started Opsgear exclusively selling products in his basement in Bountiful in 2000. Now Opsgear is housed in a warehouse in North Salt Lake.
"(The company started) without a business plan, but with a passion and a knowledge that this is needed for SWAT and military," Burnell said. "We realized that if we had a facility we could offer to the law enforcement community, we could test the gear that we sold, we could bring them in, and provide a platform for them to train in."
Now the Urban Warfare Center is used to train military and law enforcement, provide corporate team building exercises, and on one occasion, offered training on rape prevention.
Burnell has such an appreciation for the law enforcement/
military community he has more than once offered his facility at no cost.
"If we can preserve one life by bringing them in here and transferring knowledge, that's our motive and that's why we fund that largely ourselves and that's why we are happy to do so," Burnell said.
Some might question the idea of corporate team building in military scenarios. Burnell feels that the military training is an extremely valuable experience. "We can pull out of somebody in eight hours what it might take somebody two weeks, in other courses, to get people in leadership development and in training," he said.
The participants learn essentially by participation, not just by hearing a lecturer ramble. They internalize its principles in a do-or-die type atmosphere.
"We can replicate vulnerability which breeds the need for trust, communication, planning, commitment and cooperation."
Stress is not uncommon in most people's jobs, and learning to accomplish a task while under pressure and stress is key. "We are able to replicate stress levels, that are very similar to those experienced in combat; where fog, confusion, and tunnel vision become huge, and communication is diminished," Burnell said.
The training teaches participants how to react under these circumstances. Without training, the normal human response is to freeze or to fly. "We try to produce the fight response," Burnell said.
When employees can fight through insurmountable odds on the job, they can definitely make a world of difference, according to Burnell. "We drive home the desire to continue when it's really hard."
The corporate training doesn't focus on teaching a white-collar employee how to kill a bad guy.
"We do not teach corporations tactics; we give them problems and ask them to solve the problems. We give them principles, and ask them to apply the principles," Burnell said.
Each scenario can teach a principle. A hostage rescue, for example, requires solid planning to accomplish the mission. Each team is given only a few minutes to plan and a short time frame to get it done. The exercise can expose how effectively the group collaborates under stress.
"This teaches quick planning. A lot of companies spend too much time planning," said Jason Buchanan, of Icentris Inc. who recently had a team building exercise at the Urban Warfare Center.
Sometimes the objective requires more steps than was originally told to the group. There might be traps to be avoided. There could be more bad guys than they had thought. Because of the way the Urban Warfare Center was built, the whole layout could change by the next exercise. This training parallels most people's day-to-day tasks. "How often do you get a task where you don't have all the information?" added Burnell.
Adaptation and modification is key to winning battles in all forms of life. Burnell likes to bring up a famous war quote, "No good plan survives first contact with the enemy."
Another common phrase is "Slow is smooth and smooth is fast." That means that you don't have to run to get through a mission. If you feel like you have to run, you just might run right into the enemy's hands.
"I'm hearing a different vocabulary and seeing new attitudes. I've been through all types of training for motivation, team building, and leadership, including fire-walking, and the Urban Warfare Center topped it all," said a sales director of Verizon.
Many females are very hesitant participating in this kind of training. Opsgear has said that women have been some of the best contributors in the team building process. "They are shining stars at the end of the day - without exception," Burnell said.
For Burnell, this facility is all too necessary.
"In the early days the gladiators had the arena. We needed to build an arena - not only for our own warriors, but to give the real warriors that are on the line an opportunity that doesn't exist anywhere else in the world. And to experience the intensity and ferocity of battle in a very controlled environment," Burnell said. "The Urban Warfare Center is the arena; the coliseum is the world."