By STEVE REEVES, Fort Jackson LeaderSeptember 24, 2009
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- The day started with a physical fitness test at the break of dawn, which was followed up with a grueling run made no easier by all the equipment that needed to be carried.
And for the military policemen who were hoping to earn a spot on the 17th Military Police Detachment's Special Reaction Team, the day was only beginning.
Taking a brief break at the end of the first of two runs the SRT hopefuls - on this day all Soldiers - would endure that day, Sgt. Richard Hirneisen took a moment to answer a question about why he wanted to be on the Fort Jackson SRT team.
"It's just a drive I've always had," Hirneisen said. "I've always wanted to be on a team like this."
Hirneisen said the daylong tryout was a difficult test not only of physical stamina, with long runs and obstacle courses, but mental strength as well, with a session at the end of the day involving being peppered with questions from SRT members.
"The hardest part is trying to keep your mental focus, to work through the pain," he said.
Hirneisen was one of eight Fort Jackson MPs competing for two slots on the 15-man SRT during a tryout Sept. 14. Those selected go on to attend a two-week school that trains them in SRT tactics.
The SRT is made up of MPs and DoD law enforcement officers who train to respond to crisis situations. In addition to their regular law-enforcement duties, they have to be ready at a moment's notice to rescue a hostage or assist other officers in making a high-risk arrest, at any time, day or night.
The tryout, held whenever the team needs to replenish its membership, is a test of tactical and technical proficiency, as well as mental toughness.
"We're looking for people who won't quit," said Sgt. Michael Cavaliere, an SRT member who served as an evaluator during the Sept. 14 tryout. "We want somebody who's in pretty good shape, motivated and works well in a team."
After the early morning PT test, the Soldiers were required to run to the Fit to Win course on Golden Arrow Road. There, they negotiated obstacles such as balance beams and culverts, all at top speed with SRT members shouting encouragement.
Then it was off for another run to Range 6, where they were tested on their marksmanship skills with the M-9 and M-4. Later in the day, they tackled Victory Tower for rappelling and then demonstrated their skills in clearing a house and searching for a suspect.
At the end of the day, each SRT candidate was graded on how he performed on the physical aspect of the tryout, as well as marksmanship and tactical skills.
Last was an appearance before a board composed of SRT members who asked them questions meant to test their knowledge of tactics and reveal their attitude toward teamwork.
Sgt. Jeffrey Denton, an MP who went through the tryout, said it is the high standards of the SRT that enticed him to try out.
"I always try to achieve the best," Denton said. "When you're SRT, you're looked at a little bit different."
All of the tasks are designed to reveal a candidate's motivation, as well as his or her ability to perform under stress and make potentially life-or-death, split-second decisions.
"You've got to be able to think, shoot and work as a team," said Officer Lionel Brown, a DA police officer and SRT member. "In short, we want the best of the best."