Military, civilians band together for domestic threat response training

Photo: Citadel cadets gather together during a joint training exercise with Charleston County S.W.A.T. and 628th Security Forces Squadron April 12, 2019, on Naval Weapons Station-Charleston (Courtesy: Joint Base Charleston)

As seen on Defense Visual Information Distribution Service, by Airman 1st Class Helena Owens

The 628th Security Forces Squadron partnered with Citadel cadets, as well as the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office S.W.A.T. and Marine Patrol teams for a joint training exercise April 12, 2019, on Naval Weapons Station Charleston, Joint Base Charleston, S.C.

A member of the Charleston County S.W.A.T. team dons his gear for a joint training exercise (Courtesy: Joint Base Charleston)

The intent of the operation was to execute defense support for civil authorities. The training focused on developing leadership, interagency interoperability, hands-on experience, communication, collaboration and cohesion while demonstrating capabilities. The Joint Task Force did this by leading platoons through the woods to a mock enemy location, providing 360-degree surveillance, using flash bangs and smoke grenades as distractions and infiltrating the shoot house.

“We came together and started looking at opportunities to work with the Joint Base, local law enforcement and other agencies in the area to put together the joint training exercise,” said Timothy Terese, an Army contractor with The Citadel’s ROTC program. “Charleston has a lot of areas that are possible threats for terrorist’s attacks, to include the ports of Charleston, the Air Base, the Weapons Station, the international airport, railroads and more; so this training seemed like a great opportunity to bring together all the different agencies.”

The Charleston County S.W.A.T. team dons their gear for a joint training exercise
The Charleston County S.W.A.T. team dons their gear for a joint training exercise (Courtesy: Joint Base Charleston)

The end goal of the training was for the Joint Task Force to be able to train and execute as a team and build lasting cooperation while mitigating all risks and participating in the training safely.

“The overall mission for us is to ensure we have an airtight security for the United States,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Tanner Baird, a 628th SFS unit trainer. “Incorporating the other agencies is going to help us in our knowledge of the other branches and building better relationships. Interagency interoperability is a fantastic asset for us because in real world situations, we may need to call upon the local law enforcement agencies to assist us in protecting not only the base but the good people of Charleston.”

Members of the Charleston County S.W.A.T. team clear a room in a “shoot house” during a joint training exercise
Members of the Charleston County S.W.A.T. team clear a room in a “shoot house” during a joint training exercise (Courtesy: Joint Base Charleston)

This exercise included water and land infiltration and a mission to save simulated hostages from a shoot house occupied by mock enemies. The S.W.A.T. team invaded the location using aluminum and plastic ammo to engage the mock terrorists. Once all the enemies were detained, the team brought them out of the shoot house and prepared to set up for another round.

“It is a little bit overwhelming but awesome to get the opportunity to work with the different agencies here today,” said Mark Niely, a cadet at The Citadel. “It’s a blessing in disguise because it’s hard to do it, but its preparing me for what it will be like in the future. I’m really happy to get to do something like this.”

Simulated hostages are detained during a joint training exercise
Simulated hostages are detained during a joint training exercise (Courtesy: Joint Base Charleston)

At the conclusion of the event, once all of the mock hostages were rescued and placed in the protective care of the Charleston County Sheriff’s department, the mock terrorists were secured in the S.W.A.T. team’s armored vehicle and The Citadel’s Cordell Rangers completed final clearing of the grounds.

Terese praised the agencies on a great training event and prepared to vacate the area.

“Since 9/11, we have become more joint-oriented towards terrorism, whether international or domestic,” he said. “We are going to have to work with our partners, overseas or here at home. It’s all about cooperation, training and learning each other’s language. This will enable us to be ready when disaster comes.”