It's the Little Things
Behind the Scenes of the NCSP/SPTC Training Role Player Program

December 2, 2013

Have you ever watched a movie that completely draws you in? During the film, your emotions and senses are affected by the characters' mood and the setting around them. When the screen goes dark and the lights turn back on, it takes you a moment to remember where you are.

The NCSP and SPTC's scenario-based training is designed to take advantage of this effect by immersing students in a situation so they can be better prepared to handle it in real life.

Arguably the most important catalysts in these scenario-based activities are the role players who serve as innocents and aggressors. Students must feel like the victims they encounter are actually wounded, and their enemies actually dangerous, for the training to have its full effect. The scenarios are staged -- the stress the students experience is real.

"This is not working with a training dummy�then, it's easy to be detached, think clearly, and work through the problem. That will not be true when we get ahold of you�it's going to make your job harder, just like it will when this happens for real."

-Marijean Levering, PhD
Role Player Coach, NCSP

Role players also drive how well the scenario achieves the course objectives. A victim collapsing from internal blast injuries, an aggressor retreating into another room, and a bystander frantically explaining the situation all tie back to lessons on medical care, tactics, and intelligence. What's more, these lessons are being reinforced in a realistic environment rather than in a vacuum.

The NCSP and SPTC depend upon a Role Player Coordinator, Role Player Coach, Makeup and Moulage Artist, and over 50 role players to bring it all together. These individuals are all committed to the level of skill, flexibility, and attention to detail required to achieve the course objectives. The NCSP and SPTC conduct periodic role player workshops on injury symptomology, makeup and moulage, general acting, and related topics to give role players the tools to make the scenarios as real as possible for the students.

"Training objectives are met only when students are fully engaged in the training, which happens when role players convince them to suspend their disbelief and mentally place themselves in the situation at hand"

-Cyndi Mellen, Training and Project Management Section Chief, NCSP

The NCSP and SPTC's role player program will continue to evolve with the level of training provided. The challenge will be in maintaining a high level of realism while delivering a greater volume and variety of training over the coming years. We are confident that in meeting these increasing demands the professionals working in the Training Role Player Program will continue to make it look easy.