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Special Forces Operators and Improv Comedy Theater Partner To Form Most Unusual Corporate Training Program

What do Special Forces Operators and Improv Comedians have in common? Both work in highly stressful jobs where teamwork is paramount, quick thinking and adaptability are required skills, and potentially dying is part of the job (One literal, one metaphorical).

Arrow Security & Training, one of the foremost military, and government training companies in the world, and Improv Asylum, a global leader in improv comedy performance and training, have teamed up to create an unlikely partnership. Each company brings their unique approach to teamwork, communication, problem solving and innovation to create a one of a kind immersive interactive learning experience.

“When I first met Norm and we got to talking about what our companies do, I was blown away by the similar skill sets that are needed to do each job, even though on the face of it they seem wildly different” Says Joe Lopez , Founder and owner of Arrow Security & Training and a retired Special Forces operator. Arrow Security & Training facilitates live immersive training for military personnel preparing to deploy overseas, creating entire immersive worlds that soldiers live and interact in prior to shipping out to some of the most hostile places on the planet. AST works with Green Berets, the Navy SEALS, Marine Special Ops and even the CIA creating realistic environments, from rural Afghan villages to foreign embassies, teaching participants the skills they need to problem solve, work as a team and in many cases stay alive in threatening situations.

“Joe and his people are just amazing. They are the real deal and as soon as you meet Joe and talk to him you realize that these people are doing something really fantastic with their approach to training. Once I got past the fact that these people are actual American heroes, and that I make pretend for a living, we started to realize that at the base of things we both have devoted our lives to becoming experts at very similar skill sets; performing under pressure, problem-solving with not much more than our wits, and delivering results in a hostile environment; albeit in his environment are people trying to shoot you, ours is drunk people yelling shit at us.” says Norm Laviolette, owner and founder of Improv Asylum in Boston and NYC.

The two companies began testing an immersive training program at a private compound in New Hampshire that combined the brain training required for improvisation with on the ground SF activities to include withstanding interrogations, restraint defeat, rappelling, weapons training, reacting to a hostile adversary, negotiation techniques and much more. This led to the formation of a joint program called Series 18, with training facilities in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Virginia.

“The most effective way to learn is to feel it. To do it. You can go to as many power point seminars as you want, nothing rewires your brain like being in a blacked out room handcuffed to a pole with AC/DC blasting as you try to stay calm and pick cuff’s lock” says Lopez. At the end of the day, it’s not about if you were able to pick the lock, it’s about staying calm and in control of your emotions when faced with an adverse situation”.

“The crazy thing to me is that the activities that people most feared weren’t the firing of machine guns, or being hooded and interrogated or rappelling off a cliff, it was doing improv. That just blew my mind and also says something about the universal fear people have of public speaking and presenting” says Norm.

Series 18 programs can be utilized by companies looking for an intensive team learning experience, or by individuals who can sign up for periodic public training sessions. Companies can choose from core programs to ultra-customized offering that can include anything from evasive driving techniques to multi-day military-style missions to performing a live improv show for an actual audience.

To learn more about Series 18 and their programs please contact Norm Laviolette at norm@series-18.com or go to www.series-18.com. Be forewarned, you will need an access code to view the website, and the Series 18 team is somewhat particular about who they give access to.

Team Bios

Joe Lopez is the owner of Arrow Security & Training LLC, out of Nashua NH, a successful government contracting company currently providing training and linguists for Special Operations Command, Marine Special Operations, Intelligence and Security Command, National Guard Bureau, and Customs and Border Protection. Joe’s background is Army Special Operations (Green Beret) and as a commercial helicopter pilot. He is a combat veteran with one tour in Afghanistan in 2002 through 2003 on a Special Forces Detachment Alpha as a Special Forces Engineer/Demolitions Sargent.

Mario Volpe is a retired Special Forces Operator (Green Beret); he served three tours in Afghanistan conducting combat operations in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. A large portion of his career was spent conducting Counter Drug and Counter-Insurgency throughout South America. Mario spent the first half of his Special Operations career as an Engineer/Demolitions Sargent on his team; he then finished out his career as the teams Intelligence Sargent. Since retirement Mario has continued working with the Special Operations Community as an Instructor at the Marine Raider Training Center.

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