OPFOR Tenets

Pulled straight from Wikipedia:

“An opposing force (abbreviated OPFOR, used in the United States and Australia) or enemy force (used in Canada) is a military unit tasked with representing an enemy, usually for training purposes in war game scenarios.”

The OPFOR participant is a necessary and ever present factor in contemporary force on force training. OPFOR comes in many shapes and sizes, all based off of any number of scenarios. OPFOR for Law Enforcement might be one or two guys who are chosen to represent active shooters. At the Direct Action Resource Center, OPFOR volunteers are used to engage the nations top trained SWAT cops with simunitions in close quarters environments. In the military, entire battalions of professional, full time soldiers take on the task of playing OPFOR year round for massive force on force events every single month, using any manner of weaponry and equipment.

The issue with the concept of OPFOR is that by it’s very nature, the quality of OPFOR you end up with can wildly vary. An OPFOR roleplayer might be a civilian with no experience, a fellow police officer, or a Special Forces shooter, all depending on where you are, who you are working with, and what role you wish for them to fulfill. Additionally, the role of OPFOR in training scenarios is often viewed in a negative light by the participants who are many times “voluntold” to fill it.

If you ever find yourself in the role of “OPFOR”, whether by choice, military assignment, or by command, there are a few core principles that will make the entire training environment better for everyone involved.


Follow the Script

Every scenario is different. Period.
OPFOR is always a supporting role. The whole reason for the existence of OPFOR is to enhance the force on force training, (by providing the second “force”), of whatever unit requires it. You might be on a rural sheriffs department with five members, training for violent confrontations during traffic stops. Alternatively, you might be one of 800 other OPFOR soldiers on a full spectrum battlefield, encountering drones, Abrams tanks, and various other combat enablers that the US military has to bring to the table.

No two simulations are alike, and therefore as the OPFOR, you need to be able to adapt to each one. For every event you encounter, the training coordinator knows how he wants it to go down. Follow their instructions. If they say that the OPFOR are meant to die off in the first five minutes, you die. If they say to be aggressive and don’t hold back, do that. Everyone involved in the training will quickly encounter diminishing returns the second you go off script, so lose the ego, and follow the rules.


You Aren’t the Hero

The role of the OPFOR is to support. Star Trek would be an entirely different show if the Red Shirted Crewman decided that instead of dying, he was going to hang out with Kirk on the bridge and badger Spock about his eyebrows. If the script calls for you to lose, you lose. It’s as simple as that. Sometimes the OPFOR gets to win and take the glory, but the whole goal of training is to train.

Remember those diminishing returns I mentioned earlier? If you forget that the guy you are shooting at is the most important person in the room, you will slowly begin to rob him of training value. This is the worst thing you can do. You might not get to be the hero during the simulated gunfight, but you will be the hero in real life by giving the trainees, whomever they might be, the best training experience possible. Good training keeps people alive when the bullets are real. Never forget that.

The Details Matter

This sort of goes with following the script, but take some pride in your work and accurately represent the threat. If you are supposed to be a Taliban fighter, be a Taliban fighter. Are the trainees preparing to kill Russian paratroopers? Hop online and look up details about them. Source proper uniforms, learn the rank structure, study some basic phrases of whatever language they utilize. Watch videos of how the force you are replicating fights in real life.

By studying the enemy, you can more easily become the enemy. By becoming the enemy, you are able to replicate the threat with the highest amount of accuracy possible. This does nothing but enhance the training that the other guy in the room receives. There’s nothing worse than seeing footage of a PD’s force on force event, where a uniformed cop is shooting sim rounds at a…. non-uniformed cop…..

Train how you fight, right? The cop pulling the trigger at a guy that looks like he just walked out of the locker room, 5.11s, flat top and all, might have a moment of hesitation when the 5’3″, Ugg wearing white girl drops her latte and tries to shoot her way out of a traffic ticket. Soldiers are less likely to worry about positive identification when everyone they practice pulling triggers on looks like a soldier, instead of a civilian.

Accurately represent the threat, and everyone benefits.

Be Creative

Assuming the “script” allows it, use your brain as the ultimate weapon. Make the trainees think before they shoot. If you can blast some music from a megaphone, or smoke out a room in order to confuse the guys breaching the door, do it. Creating chaos on the “battlefield” forces the trainees to react to rapidly changing situations. The goal here is to make them sweat in training, so they don’t bleed when it all goes sideways for real. The worst day of their lives should be while their guns are loaded with sim rounds or blanks, that way the real life stuff is viewed as a more easily solved problem.

Be Useful

In summary, by realizing that the training isn’t for you, you can help the guys who are there to receive the training, receive the training. It’s as simple as that. Be the best bad guy you can be, to make the simulation as realistic as possible.


The worst thing you can do as OPFOR is to let the good guys get bored.


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