Military SWAT the real deal
Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan -- The sky is overcast and a brisk wind sends a chill across flat, featureless terrain. Men dressed in flak jackets and Kevlar helmets ready themselves to engage targets downrange.
“Threat!” barked a tall, broad-shouldered man in green coveralls. His voice carried a thick southern accent that echoed through the air. The five men on the firing line ahead of him respond in turn, drawing their pistols and shooting at targets 50 yards away.
The man yelling was Staff Sgt. Brandon Price, commander of the Special Reaction Team with the Provost Marshal’s Office, Marine Corps Installations Pacific-Marine Corps Base Camp Butler, Japan. Their mission, like Special Weapons and Tactics teams for civilian law enforcement, is to respond to high-priority calls such as hostage situations, active shooters and drug raids.
“Today we went through the fundamentals,” said Price, an Alma, Georgia, native. “No matter how far along you are or how far along you think you are, it’s always good to go back to the basics.”
The team trains constantly to be ready at a moment’s notice. They participated in marksman/observer training with the M110 semi-automatic sniper system Jan. 6. They then trained on a static 100-yard range doing close-quarters shooting Jan. 8, and used the M1014 shotgun, the M4A1 service carbine, the M45A1 and the M9A1 pistols in multiple courses of weapons training that included both stationary and moving drills.
Training makes their responses second nature in difficult, high-pressure situations. The most important factor in their job is keeping a cool head and knowing the risk they take when they respond to a call according to Cpl. Michael Fuentez, a member of the SRT.
“When I step into a house I’m like, ‘if I die today I don’t care, as long as none of my teammates get hit, I’m good,’” said Fuentez, a Los Angeles, California, native.
A small group consisting of six members, the team has developed nicknames over their time working together.
“With our nicknames it’s kind of one of those ‘you had to be there’ things,” said Cpl. Tyler “Staples” Stampes, whose nickname comes from the fact that everyone seems to read his name tape as Staples rather than Stampes.
Cpl. Brett Roth, the team’s training noncommissioned officer, is always striving to make the team better.
“Don’t take the shot unless you have it,” Roth, a Vancouver, Washington, native, urged the team to consider throughout the day.
SRT trains monthly, focusing their skills on different scenarios and melding their individuality into one single cohesive unit.
“When you go into a house and there’s a guy who has a gun trying to kill you, you have to know exactly what your teammate will do when he goes around that corner,” said Stampes, a Bakersfield, California, native. “Being close with other members on the team really helps.”
As the team began to take their equipment off and clean up, they shared a few laughs and exchanged some jokes. The day was like any other on the range. Difficult and constant, their training keeps them keen and ready for the first step into the unknown.