By Ms. Elyssa Vondra (Jackson)May 2, 2019
When disaster strikes, the community counts on law enforcement agencies to come together to stem the issue, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation-led FBI/SWAT tactical training summit on-post aims to prepare them to do just that.
"One of the main reasons that we're doing this is to help build a community of the tactical teams in South Carolina," said Mike Kelly, SWAT team leader for the FBI in South Carolina.
Members of on-post law enforcement, the FBI, state SWAT teams, and Special Reaction Teams all found their way onto this year's roster for the fourth annual training session.
Prior to 2016, efforts between law enforcement agencies were "not coordinated" and it sometimes took as much effort to work together as it did to "fight the bad guy," said Sheriff Leon Lott of the Richland County Sheriff's Department, one agency that has participated every year.
"We don't want to do that," Lott added. "We want to concentrate on the bad guy, so that's why we have these summits."
Roughly 170 members of law enforcement, split between 46 agencies -- from the local, state and federal level -- signed up to participate this year, breaking past years' records.
"This is free training for law enforcement," said Ray Smith, deputy director of the Directorate of Emergency Services on-post.
For four days starting April 29, participants are staying at installation barracks, eating at Fort Jackson dining facilities and sharing their knowledge on tactics, techniques and procedures to enforce the law.
"(The summit) helps solidify our partnerships," Smith said. It prepares agencies to work together in the case of a situation that requires the knowledge and resources of numerous agencies.
"If something happened big, we would all respond to it," Lott said.
The region has already seen the benefits of the synchronization in action, he added.
In the case of the 2016 active shooter incident in a Columbia shopping mall, several SWAT teams responded with an effective joint effort, because they were prepared to work together, he said.
During the summit, agencies "get to know each other, train with each other, know the capabilities of each other," Lott said, "so when something does happen, we have a coordinated effort instead of mass confusion.
"We're able now to work with other agencies. We have a major event somewhere, I don't care how large your agency is, you're going to need help, and you don't want to start training when that incident happens."
Classes revolve around topics like firearms and close quarter and vehicle close quarter combat training, hostage rescue, sniper skills and more.
Fort Jackson offers up its ranges for the event since the installation has "many more resources than they do at any local police department," Smith said. In return, the military police and the Fort Jackson security guards who go through the training get "better knowledge in tactics, techniques and procedures."