Response team tests skills in drill

Published 5:00 am Friday, June 20, 2008

The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department’s Special Response Team,now a little over a year old, tested their mettle Thursday night intactical drills geared at preparing them to handle situationsinvolving anything from hazardous materials to hostagesituations.

Team Commander Dustin Bairfield said the main point of theexercise is to learn, and the best way to learn is to practice.

“When we go out to do our scenarios, we try to make themrealistic so we’re most accurately practicing real life,” hesaid.

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The SRT team, which is equipped and funded through HomelandSecurity, receives highly specialized training.

Deputies on the team must meet higher minimum standards thanother patrol officers. As such, the team also has a wide range oftraining because they’re geared to face many different kinds ofthreats.

“If we’ve got people who have some training and we can securethe scene it keeps others from being possibly contaminated byhazardous materials or facing other dangers,” Bairfield said. “Andit secures the scene until the threat is neutralized or the properauthorities get here to handle it if they’re needed.”

Another important perk of suiting up and running drills isgetting used to wearing all the heavy protective gear required forthe SRT team.

“Realistically for any type of special response team there isadvanced equipment, some of scenarios we did called for heavy dutyequipment such as the shields. So we need to get use to handlingit, because there is a weight factor involved,” he said. “When timecomes for you to actually use it, you could have fatigue anddistraction kick in.”

Thursday night’s exercises, held in an empty house off BristerLoop, included entering a possible hostage situation. During thedrill, SRT members in teams of two surrounded the house where”hostage takers,” simulated by Lincoln County Civil DefenseDirector Clifford Galey and other civilians, played out a scenarioin which hostages were being held and possibly executed. When the”hostage takers” refused to release the hostages in the scenario,SRT members entered the house.

During the drills, SRT team members worked on communications,stealth tactics, search patterns and entry techniques designed forminimal property damage and protection.

Each member of the team has a specific purpose he serves on theteam, though they are all trained in each other’s duties as well,Bairfield said.

“In a sense it’s like a football team and everyone has theirrole they practice more than the other roles,” he said. “But theway we train everyone knows each other’s jobs because in real life,someone could be on vacation or sick when an incident happens.”

Thursday night, team members searched rooms of the house andfound “hostage takers” in various hiding places throughout thebuilding. Part of the drill was to be certain the perpetratorscould not sneak up on them while they searched the house, and thatthey were apprehended with minimal incident.

In addition, portions of the exercises were videotaped for laterreview, Bairfield said.

And like any other team, the SRT members practice in order tobuild team rapport and trust, Bairfield said.

Teamwork is one of the strong points of the group becausethey’re allowed to train often, and in day or night situations, hesaid. Also, Sheriff Steve Rushing’s attention to the importance oftraining has been a great asset for the team.

“We’re extremely fortunate that we do a lot more training thanreal-life scenarios,” Bairfield said.

“But our biggest asset is actually having a sheriff who lets ustrain even though we’re not actually used that much. He knows youwould not want a team who doesn’t train, because in a realsituation someone would get hurt.”

“We’re extremely fortunate that we do a lot more training thanreal-life scenarios,” Bairfield said. “But our biggest asset isactually having a sheriff who lets us train even though we’re notactually used that much. He knows you would not want a team whodoesn’t train, because in a real situation someone would gethurt.”