VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla --
Americans are the victims of almost 4 million household burglaries per year according to the U.S. Department of Justice, and approximately 30 percent of those crimes occur when someone is present in the home.
These types of statistics were not lost on Capt. Kevin Anderson, the 33rd Flying Training Squadron R Flight commander, an instructor pilot and married father of five, so he decided to do something about it.
More than 25 Airmen and family members from the 33rd FTS, along with guests from across the 71st Operations Group, received Title 21 Oklahoma Self-Defense Act handgun safety training, Jan. 6-11.
"I'd wanted to get my 'concealed carry' (license) for a long time, and my wife had recently become interested as well," said Anderson. "I learned from asking around the squadron that others wanted to get the training for their protection."
With assistance from the Vance Education Office and the local Air Force Office of Special Investigations detachment, he was connected with Steve Varney, an area Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training law enforcement firearms instructor.
After successful classroom and range instruction that helped students "demonstrate competency and qualification with a pistol authorized for concealed or unconcealed carry by the Oklahoma Self-Defense Act," the participants satisfied Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation permit requirements, pending a criminal background check.
Varney said while Oklahoma has been an authorized concealed carry state for approximately 20 years, unconcealed carry is a relatively new concept and knowledge is key.
"I think education is a wonderful thing," he said. "I've seen spouses go through this training that were really uncomfortable around firearms and really didn't want to be instructed by their husbands. They preferred having a third person with more of a casual approach; I think they walked away better for having taken the class."
The first part of the course focused upon Oklahoma concealed and unconcealed carry laws such as authorized carry locations, while the second part focused upon basic handgun safety fundamentals such as stance and trigger control.
Varney, who also instructs at the K.O. Rayburn Training Center, Oklahoma's basic law enforcement academy, said he teaches several local classes a year with military-affiliated students.
"I enjoy the military personnel," he said. "They're a little more disciplined. They've already done the research and have good questions."
The last part of the course sent handgun newcomers to a small arms range where they fired their weapons under Varney's direct supervision. Brandi Engle, the wife of Maj. Alex Engle, the 33rd FTS director of operations, said she was new to safe handgun practices and appreciated the amount of information in the OSBI and CLEET curriculums.
"Knowledge in any facet is important," she said. "I don't know that I'll [obtain a permit to] carry, but I feel a lot more comfortable with [handguns] now."
1st Lt. Jason Groose, a 33rd FTS instructor pilot, said other than non-qualification experience at the Air Force Academy, he was new to firearms from a self-defense perspective and that he appreciated the comprehensive training.
"I thought learning the laws on 'concealed carry' was the most important part," he said. "Firearms can be dangerous, but when handled safely, they can be used effectively, and I think that was the point about a course like this."
Anderson said that with deployments being a reality, he was glad he was able to bring this training to his own family, as well as to his greater 33rd FTS and Vance families.
"I think it's especially important for spouses, because there are additional threats there," he said. "Terrorist groups have talked about targeting spouses and targeting families, so I think it's important for them to be as prepared as they can alongside active-duty personnel. It was a good opportunity for everyone to come out and learn a skillset they can use."
For more information on Oklahoma laws related to Title 21, visit www.ok.gov/osbi/Handgun_Licensing