Fort McCoy News March 14, 2014

Fort McCoy's SRT ready for crisis response

Public Affairs Staff

Imagine finding yourself in a situation where someone wielding a gun decides to take you and your co-workers hostage. Who is going to come and help you?

Photo 1 for SRT article
Special Reaction Team members
scale the stairs during a training
exercise at the Combined Arms
Collective Training Facility.

Fort McCoy's team of specially-trained police officers is ready to respond installation-wide to a hostage-taking or related event at any time. This Special Reaction Team (SRT) is part of the Fort McCoy Police Department. "The SRT is a critical element in a crisis response plan," said police Lt. Brian Bomstein, SRT commander.

"The role of the SRT is to be the garrison commander's principle response force in the event of a major disruption or high-risk incident on the installation."

By Army definition, an SRT is a "team of military or security personnel armed and equipped to isolate, contain, gather information for, and, if necessary, neutralize a special threat." Specific missions and response capabilities of an SRT are determined by the threat and availability of equipment and training time.

Essentially, an SRT is the military equivalent to a civilian Special Weapons and Tactics, or SWAT, team. They offer that additional arm of action when the situation calls for it, Bomstein said.

"We have an excellent team of professionals ready to respond quickly with precision as the situation requires," said Bomstein, who is also a graduate of the FBI Academy. The team that includes military and law enforcement veterans "with many diverse skills who can make a difference in these situations."

As SRT commander, Bomstein oversees the overall aspects of the team and ensures training time and resources are available. The entry team provides the "punch" to the SRT. The team is trained to go into the face of danger to neutralize a threat when required.

All together, the SRT provides capabilities like none other on post whether responding to a hostage crisis, an active-shooter incident or any other special threat. The team can be committed to a graduated response to resolve a situation and restore law and order.

Photo 2 for SRT article
Special Reaction Team members prepare to enter a room in the Combined Arms Collective Training Facility during a recent training session.

"Everybody who works on this post has an expectation they will be safe while working at Fort McCoy," said Sgt. Chase Laffea, entry team member of the SRT. "Our job as the police is to provide that security, and the role of our SRT is to handle those special high-risk situations if they occur. The last thing anyone wants, for example, is a hostage- or active-shooter situation or any myriad of high-risk situations that could happen.

"With the SRT, the installation commander now has a specially-trained, well-equipped unit of police officers who can counter and eliminate those threats."

Members of the SRT regularly train to prepare for a variety of scenarios. For example, with an incident where a person takes hostages and barricades themselves into a building, room or a vehicle, the SRT can go in and locate a target, identify if the target has a weapon and then engage if needed.

"This type of training is important to my team because in most cases, they will be entering a building with at least two or more rooms," Bomstein said.

"By practicing and training they stay tactically and technically efficient for entering buildings, clearing rooms, engaging hostiles, securing the scene and evacuating people."

Photo 3 for SRT article
Special Reaction Team members used a variety of armored vehicles to support a recent training session at Fort McCoy's Combined Arms Collective Training Facility.

Officer Grant Rothnem, the entry team leader, said team members must maintain monthly weapons qualifications and familiarization with SRT tactics. Being on the team is an additional duty that he said he's proud to support.

"We work hard on the SRT, and I can't remember a day where I haven't gotten home from training where I wasn't sore," Rothnem said. "However, with that soreness there is also a sense of accomplishment and duty. I am proud to serve those who serve us as a member of the Fort McCoy SRT."

Lt. Chris Henke, marksman-observer team leader for the SRT, agreed.

"It can be a difficult and challenging additional duty that requires training time and resources, but is worth it for the value added to community support," Henke said.

"The SRT is important because its heightened response times and specialized training allows a police response that may save lives and end situations quickly."

History shows that dangerous events have taken place at military installations, and it's good to have trained and ready teams like an SRT, Laffea said.