66 ~ December 2009/January 2010
Counter Terrorism Operations for SWAT Units By Richard A. Ganey II
law enforcement (LE) tactical teams possess an
impressive array of skills, techniques, and tools to deal with the threats that they typically encounter during their standard operations. Around the country, teams have shown a remarkable ability to adapt to new and evolving threats and situations in their areas of responsibility, such as the active shooters that we have seen all too often in the past few years. Th is adaptability demonstrates the professionalism and experience of those chosen to serve with tactical teams.
Th ough hardly a new threat, the post-9/11 reality of international terrorism perpetrated domestically has provided U.S. LE tactical teams with perhaps their greatest challenge to date. Forward-thinking teams have faced this challenge with a determination to be prepared for the day they are called upon to protect citizens in their charge from the threat of terrorists. Th ese teams have understood that to truly be prepared to combat terrorism, they must adjust their existing capabilities to the realities of counter terrorism (CT) and acquire new capabilities as well. Th ough certain tactics and techniques utilized against criminal activity are transferable to the CT realm, there are many that would be ineff ective and actually work to the benefi t of the terrorists.
From October 2008 to October 2009, Security Solutions International (SSI) conducted 12 SWAT CT courses around the country with hosting agencies. Th e courses have been taught on the East Coast, on the West Coast and in the Midwest, with a total of 48 LE agencies participating. In addition to LEOs, members of federal agencies and the U.S.
military have taken part as well. Th e primary training objective of the SWAT CT course is to provide teams with operational tools, based on experience, for dealing with terrorists in their jurisdiction.
Th e curriculum refl ects the international experience of SSI instructors who are veterans of U.S. and Israeli special operations and CT units. Th e tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) presented are based on real-world experience in combating terrorism around the globe and across the operational spectrum, from high-risk terrorist arrests to terrorist hostage rescue (HR). Instructors acquired their skills and knowledge through operations conducted in the United States, Europe, Israel, Lebanon, Gaza/West Bank, Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. Utilizing personal experience
as the primary instructional platform, the absolute emphasis is on placing global CT experience into the context of the domestic, local reality. Th is includes complex operational scenarios combining restrictive rules of engagement and use-of-force parameters.
Th e training commences with classroom presentations on CT operations to include dealing with suicide terrorists. Case studies are utilized to facilitate discussion on the unique facets of fi ghting terrorism that require altering traditional LE TTPs. Participants are encouraged through a dynamic classroom environment to think outside the box that they are familiar with. Case studies and specifi c operational examples are used throughout the course to explain TTPs presented and to place them into context for the students. Th e morning session of the fi rst day includes a presentation of the
Operator provides security to EOD technicians dealing with a booby trap hostage. Photo: Courtesy of SSI.
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topics to be addressed during the course and the rationale behind them. Students are also briefed on safety procedures that will guide them during the scenario-based training exercises.
The afternoon session of the first day opens with a safety brief and inspection, followed by movement to the training facility. The first subject introduced is a method of clearing a structure, which is alternately referred to as secure search or deliberate clearance. This method places an emphasis on techniques that maximize force protection and minimize exposure to threats during operations dealing with terrorism, whether serving arrest warrants or search warrants involving terrorist elements. Emphasis is placed equally on mission accomplishment and mitigating
risks to team members. Techniques are taught through
fundamentals that are relevant and critical to all tactical movement and engagement of threats. This teaching methodology not only increases understanding of the efficacy of the techniques, but also aids in applying them to varying contexts and circumstances. All scenarios are initiated with a short brief to place the students in context and to provide them with clear rules of engagement, two critical elements affecting real-time decision making.
The second topic introduced is containment and isolation of the target structure. An emphasis is placed on detailed planning, control measures, and positioning of elements to maximize containment and provide safe fields
of fire 360 around the objective. The students are introduced to both stealth-approach techniques and rapid-vehicular options which maximize surprise, thereby increasing the probability of successful containment and preventing escape of the terrorists. Subsequent to containment, callout procedures specific to CT and potential suicide terrorists are discussed and practiced.
A third topic presented is terrorist HR, including bus assaults and structure assaults. Building on existing team skills, advanced bus HR techniques are taught with a focus on simultaneous assault from all sides in a safe and effective manner in order to overwhelm the threat before he can begin executing hostages or detonate an explosive charge.
A scenario debrief. Photo: Courtesy of SSI.
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Individual techniques are tied together in full profi le exercises, both dry fi re and using Simunition. Techniques taught for terrorist HR operations in structures also build on existing LE TTPs, altering and adapting them to the CT reality, particularly the presence of explosives and multiple breach points.
Th e subject of suicide terrorist interdiction is addressed through the scenario of a suicide cell en route to its target in a vehicle. Th e fundamentals of the interdiction are explained and demonstrated, with a military style L-shaped ambush as the basis. Th e eff ectiveness of the technique is shown while dealing with several diff erent contingencies during scenarios. In addition to TTPs, relevant technologies that contribute to the success of the mission and the safety of the team are discussed. As with all topics, numerous examples from the personal experience of the instructors are presented to aid in explaining the realities of dealing with suicide terrorists.
Th e course culminates on the last day with a rolling exercise, which incorporates several scenarios tied together through intelligence provided by instructors and information discovered during preceding scenarios. As an example, the day may open with an HR operation leading to information on cell
leaders who planned the hostage taking. Th e students are given the mission of arresting these leaders in their safe house, where they will fi nd information on a suicide terrorist cell due to launch its attack. After interdicting the cell en route to its target, the interrogation of one terrorist who surrendered provides information on an additional safe house that doubles as an explosives lab that must be neutralized.
Th roughout the week of training, liberal use is made of role players, pyrotechnics, simulated explosive devices, fl ash bangs, and Simunitions to add realism and to provide context. After each scenario is run, quick debriefs are conducted to ensure lessons are learned. Th ose lessons are then integrated into subsequent scenarios for reinforcement. Th e course begins with basic CT TTPs and progresses through increasingly complex scenarios that build one upon another. A crawl, walk, run progression from a focus on individual skills to team-level techniques is employed to ensure that the material is absorbed by students. Time is set aside on the last day to evaluate the course, and to discuss lessons learned throughout the week and possible methods for their implementation in future operations.
While many aspects of operations combating terrorism overlap traditional
tactical LE operations, SWAT teams must recognize those elements that are particular to terrorism. CT, in the past a responsibility solely of military special mission units and dedicated federal government organizations, is now understood to be well within the realm of local LE in the United States. Experience has shown that the fi rst responders to a domestic terrorist event, the tip of the homeland security spear, will be local LE teams. It is imperative that teams plan and prepare to successfully engage terrorists in their jurisdiction. SSIs SWAT Counter Terrorism Operations Course provides teams with a valuable base of knowledge and tools for developing capabilities critical to CT operations.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Mr. Ganey has more than 28 years
of military experience in the United States and Israel. He retired last year from the Israel Defense Forces with 18 years of service with special operations and counter terrorism units. He holds a BA in International Aff airs, an MA in Middle East Studies, and is pursuing a PhD in Middle East History. He currently leads SSI Basic and Advanced CT courses.