By T. Anthony Bell, Fort Lee Public Affairs
FORT LEE, Va. – In August, more than 25 installation law enforcement officers underwent two days of training that was a bit of a departure from the usual classroom and range sessions. From outside experts, participants learned combatives, weapons techniques, medical evacuation and room-clearing procedures that might be necessary during the course of an active shooter incident. By a number of accounts, the training was robust, relevant and constructive.
It also was of minimal cost to the government.
That gesture of support was made possible in part by retired Staff Sgt. Jeffrey R. Graf. The Richmond-based CSX Transportation special agent, firearms and tactical instructor, who spent 22 years as a Soldier – 17 as a military policeman – was more than willing to reciprocate the training provided to him over the course of his military career.
“I love the military,” said the 50-year-old Illinois native. “I got so much out of it. I used to love it when outside instructors – veterans, guys who had been around for a little bit – came to train us. I just thought it was the greatest thing.”
Graf, who has provided the training the past four years, brought with him five other veterans to support his efforts. They included Jason Bennett, a former paratrooper; Dale Williams, a former Marine and Jason Butler, a Waverly police officer. Graf’s supporting cast is a testament to his ability to make use of contacts from his varied experience in law enforcement.
“He is well-versed in reaching across – not just within the military but other organizations – to conduct training,” said Capt. Keith Thayer, a 1st Cavalry Division public affairs officer who served with Graf when they were both Army recruiters. “That’s why he was so successful as a recruiter; he would bring a lot of different people to his high schools (to support his recruiting efforts). He understands the power behind using your resources.”
Graf spent the bulk of his time in the military police career field as a special response team noncommissioned officer in charge, completing a large number of military law enforcement courses as well as civilian training. He eventually acquired the experience, knowledge and skills to become a certified instructor and recognized subject matter expert.
“Once I became an instructor, I ended up teaching local SWAT teams, police departments and the military at Fort Knox, Ky.,” he said, noting his chain of command’s support in covering subjects from “barricaded gunman to hostage rescue.”
Upon retirement from the Army in 2007, Graf was hired at CSX, where he teaches employees and others about security issues relating to trains. His team covers an area that encompasses most of the country east of the Mississippi River.
Graf is a certified SWAT instructor among other qualifications to include a range master, rappel master and a National Rifle Association law enforcement firearms instructor. He is also a second degree black belt in a fighting style that mixes judo, ju-jitsu and karate.
Graf employed a good number of his skills during the Fight Over Flight law enforcement training held Aug. 17-18 at the Army Logistics University and the installation ranges. He assisted his friend and fellow former Soldier Sensei Vincent Marchetti in teaching combatives and trained participants on the finer details of medical evacuation and other police tactics and procedures at the installation range complex.
The Provost Marshal Office’s Keith Miller said the training aimed to complement the knowledge, skills and abilities of law enforcement personnel.
“The purpose was to take a basic MP, give him more information, and put more tools in his toolbox to create a better MP in the event on an active shooter,” said the Department of the Army Civilian policeman.
Providing such training in light of the proliferation of mass shootings is critical to the safety of military members and others who live and work on military installations, said Graf. For that reason, he and others like Marchetti are eager to help out.
“If we can show MPs one thing that might help them – it may not be tomorrow, and it may not be next week – at some point to help them save their own lives, then it’s all worthwhile. These are the good guys. We want them to come home. These are the people we want protecting us. You want to do good things for these guys.”
Graf said he has plans to continue his efforts to train military law enforcement personnel as long as possible.
“As long as I know I’m doing good things and helping out, and as long as they want me, I’ll keep going,” he said.