News: Fort Hood SRT proves their worth
Story by Sgt. John Healy
FORT HOOD, Texas - “Let’s be honest here Brian. Tell me about your wife. Tell me about your kids.”
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Brandon Manzo of Fort Hood’s Criminal Investigation Division has been on the line for nearly an hour, attempting to negotiate a peaceful surrender. His hands are bridged against his forehead, thumbs massaging his temples while he waits for a response.
Manzo is speaking with Brian over a piece of equipment known as a throw phone, a type of ruggedized speakerphone which has been deployed by the Fort Hood Special Reaction Team, the military police equivalent of Special Weapons and Tactics.
Manzo’s headset and the throw phone are connected via hardwire, trailing through the open window where Manzo sits, outside, down the wall, across the lawn, and into Brian’s smashed kitchen window.
The exercise has been underway since nine that morning, when a Military Police patrol responded to a call involving a man who had barricaded himself in his home in Chaffee Village, inside an area of homes reserved for Military Police training.
They arrived just in time to see the man flee his car, dashing hurriedly into his house.
Moments later a woman exits the home, sprinting through the front door. But she isn’t fast enough. Brian catches her on the lawn and drags her back inside, slamming the door shut behind them. He is armed.
Capt. Jonathan Caylor, the supervisory training officer and Special Response Team training officer for the Department of Emergency Services on Fort Hood surveys the events with extreme scrutiny. Not even he knows what the outcome will be.
“It all depends on their performance,” Caylor explains. “It’s based off of what the negotiations are able to achieve, it’s based off of what the tactical team is able to do. If they’re not meeting their tactical training points then they are going to have other various stimuli given to them to help them get through the mission.”
Today, the SRT will be completing their quarterly certification in conjunction with the 89th Military Police Brigades patrol members and Fort Hood’s Criminal Investigation Division. It is during this exercise that the team will prove that they are good enough to operate on Fort Hood.
What separates today’s training from other SRT certifications in the past is that the SRT usually conducts their training without the support of outside organizations, says Caylor.
“When it comes time to respond to a real world incident, we’re all going to all be responding together,” Caylor added. “If we’re not training for that together, then we’re going to be leaving the installation vulnerable.”
This change in tactics came about in part due to the observations of Lt. Col. David Stender, the installation provost marshal, who made it a priority to include other organizations in the SRT training upon assuming his post.
“I quickly saw with the incidents that we were receiving, [they] didn’t really practice us the way we wanted to,” said Stender.
The SRT conducted their first joint certification exercise in November, making this their second time training in conjunction with the installation’s other law enforcement agencies.
“Each time it’s gotten better,” said Stender, proud of the team’s accomplishments.
The Military Police and the CID have established their command center in one of the abandoned houses in the training area.
The next house over is completely surrounded by military police. Inside is Brian, an actor playing a soldier who upon learning of his wife’s infidelity turns to violence, placing his wife and two children in jeopardy.
“The patrols have responded to a call where a male subject has taken his wife and two kids hostage, and during that process the patrols are trying to determine exactly what’s going on within the building,” Caylor says, outlining the events that have taken place until now. “They’re feeding that information to the incident commander and that information is in turn being relayed to the CID hostage negotiation team and the SRT.”
Nearly two hours into the standoff, neither side has shown any intention of backing down. Communication is breaking down, and negotiations are at a standstill. Then, the worst possible scenario becomes reality. Shots heard fired within the building.
The order is given for the SRT to breach.
The SRT vehicle, affectionately dubbed “The Bearcat” screams down the road. Massive tires vault the rightfully intimidating bulletproof monster up and over the curb, tearing muddy tire tracks in the ragged lawn.
The SRT leaps from the back of the shelter and stacks on the door, ready to breach. One SRT member stands to the side with a battering ram at the ready while Sgt. Phillip Carr, the SRT team leader, reaches out tentatively to try the door. It was open all along.
“Open! Open!” Carr shouts, leading the team through the threshold with weapons held high. The sharp staccato of short-range training ammunition erupts from within the home as Brian and the SRT finally come face to face.
The SRT had encountered the assailant in his bedroom closet with weapon in hand. Within that fraction of a second, a decision was made, and a finger squeezed the trigger.
In the aftermath of the brief firefight, Carr calls for the SRT to count off, a quick status check among members to ensure that no one is injured. Only once he is sure that his team is safe do they secure the gunman. Though wounded, the Soldier would live.
“These are things that we train for all the time,” says Caylor. “We spend that time going over all of our tactical procedures and making sure that the team is properly prepared to do the things that they need to do should they get called out to a real-world situation. If we don't train for the event, if we don't train for every occasion that we could possibly be exposed to, the installation is vulnerable. Most of the time we’re the difference between life and death.”