PROVO Rep. Chris Cannon pulled the 9-millimeter pistol from the holster on his belt and tapped the SWAT team member in front of him.
A nod induced another team member to break down the door of the house with his battering ram and the four men poured through the door, Cannon second in line.
The first three men quickly entered the first room on the left, where Cannon fired five live bullets into the team's target.
Of course, the target was a paper one and the drill was a staged photo opportunity. It's unlikely Cannon, R-Utah, will ever have to go office to office to clear the halls of Congress, but the demonstration was meant to show how a Provo company, Action Target, is contributing to the war effort in Iraq by building training facilities used by U.S. soldiers who need realistic training on clearing houses room by room.
In October, Action Target shipped a $3 million village consisting of seven bulletproof houses to Iraq, where soldiers use it to practice going door to door and room to room looking for insurgents.
The ability to safely fire live rounds helps soldiers simulate real combat situations.
"This was just a simulated training exercise," Cannon said, "but it's really interesting when you set up an environment where we can use live ammo and train military and Iraqi police officers. This is a thoughtful, new technology that really makes a huge difference in the world.
"It means a lot more guys will come home safely."
Action Target's product is designed so the walls absorb the real bullets. That way, no stray bullets can leave the building during training and injure a bystander. The facility is also equipped with a new joint patented by the company that prevents bullets from penetrating between wall boards.
Although the company uses armor-plated steel, three-eighths of an inch thick, on the outer wall, there are no dangerous ricochets inside the building.
Action Target uses plywood or crushed rocks on the inside of the walls. Those materials break up and slow down the ammunition so it doesn't rebound when it hits the wall.
Cannon helped load the final pallet of another seven-building village training facility on Thursday. It is the second of two full villages Action Target was contracted to provide to the U.S. Army this year.
"Those two went to undisclosed military installations in the United States," said John Curtis, Action Target's chief operations officer.
The new facilities will allow soldiers to train in Iraqi-style street actions before they deploy to the Middle East. The first facility was shipped by boat to Turkey and then trucked south to a base in northeast Iraq known as Camp Butler. The camp was formerly the site of a training center for Saddam Hussein's Republican Guards.
Cannon said Action Target is proof that U.S. spending on Iraq benefits American companies.
"We have a local, Utah County, Provo-based company that provides 160 jobs to the community," he said. "Not all of that money (for the war) is going overseas."
Action Target officials walked Cannon through a rifle-safe facility, then let him drill with Metro SWAT, a combined team of police officers from Brigham Young University, Provo and Orem.
Provo police detective Kent Huntsman reminded Cannon "not to point your weapon at anything you don't want to destroy."
Huntsman handed Cannon the weapon and the congressman joked with reporters that "You guys are safe because there are no bullets in it (yet), but I'm not sure you want to stand between me and the target."
Earlier, Cannon was allowed to use the battering ram to bash open the heavy wooden door.
"Forget this congressman stuff," he blurted. "This is fun."
Action Target has been the focus of local complaints because of its location in the center of a west Provo residential area. Neighbors have complained about loud noises as workers cut steel and about semitrucks knocking down fences on residential roads.
Company officials said the last two fences knocked down in the area were not struck by Action Target vehicles."We try really to be sensitive," company spokeswoman Andrea Perri said. "We've added venting so there aren't any paint fumes being emitted into the neighborhood. We're trying to be responsive and trying to do everything we can to be good neighbors."
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