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Army’s special-reaction teams fill SWAT role

Squads are last line of defense in high-risk operations and situations

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POSTED: January 2, 2013 10:38 a.m.

The military has its own version of special weapons and tactics teams used by civilian law enforcement. According to Sgt. Alex Bruce, noncommissioned officer in charge of Fort Stewart’s special-reaction team, the military recognized the need for a last line of defense in “high-risk operations and situations” on military bases and military communities.
“Special reaction teams were developed across the military as specialized teams with extensive law-enforcement and tactical training,” Bruce said. “Due to the immense threat in our streets and local communities, (civilian) law-enforcement agencies developed tactical teams (called) SWAT to aid in the high-risk threats officers were experiencing. The military then adopted that concept and use military police to complete the same mission.”
Bruce said SRT members are military police officers with at least one year of experience in law enforcement beyond their advanced individual training. He said candidates sometimes go through two- to three-day tryouts to determine their physical and mental fitness. Each member then has to complete phase 1 training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
Phase 1 training consists of room-entry tactics and other scenario-based training, he said. Phase 2 training is conducted in accordance with the unit’s standard operating procedures and can include marksman/observer training, also called sniper training.
Bruce said most installations have an SRT, though members of an SRT vary. Some teams are soldiers only, some Department of Defense civilians only and some are both. Each team consists of an officer in charge, who has completed at least the Phase 1 training; a non-commissioned officer in charge, who has completed both phase 1 and phase 2 training; a two-man marksman/observer team; a shield-man; breach-man; and entry-team member.
Bruce said some SRTs only have one person performing both duties of marksman and observer. He said his SRT’s marksman/observer team members are equally qualified as snipers. He emphasized that team leaders ensure each member of the SRT is versatile and can serve in all positions.
He described an SRT as an “on-call” team that can be used in any high-risk situation at the discretion of the “on-scene” commander, who usually is a Criminal Investigation Command agent. He added that only the U.S. Army Garrison Commander for Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield can give the “green light” to actually deploy the SRT.
Bruce said Fort Stewart’s SRT has performed escort missions for visiting high-risk targets, augmented local law-enforcement agencies in specialized missions and conducted weapons and tactics training to fellow soldiers and leadership. The SRT also has been called on to conduct perimeter security at special events like 4th of July celebrations.
He said in August 2012, the SRT was deployed to conduct a raid on the home of two soldiers who were suspected of murder and belonging to an anarchist group.
“The SRT has been deployed on various occasions around the installation,” Bruce said. “Most recently was to conduct a raid on the home of the two soldiers who had extensive plans to assassinate President Obama. The team ... found written plans and weapons caches.”
Pvt. Isaac Aguigui, Sgt. Anthony Peden, Pvt. Christopher Salmon and Pfc. Michael Burnett were arrested and charged with the murder of former soldier Michael Roark and his girlfriend, Tiffany York. According to Burnett, whose charges were reduced for his cooperation, the group called themselves FEAR — Forever Enduring, Always Ready. They reportedly had plans to conduct various acts of domestic terrorism.

 

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