If practice makes perfect the deputies on the Special Weapons and Tactics team got a little closer to that ideal on Oct. 29.
Eight of the nine members of Bee County Sheriff Carlos Carrizales’ SWAT team gathered that evening at the law enforcement building at Coastal Bend College for a little practice involving some of the students in their drill.
The team was there at the invitation of Deputy Sgt. Kevin Behr, who also is in charge of CBC’s law enforcement department. Behr came to the department and to CBC with a law degree and extensive experience as an investigator, undercover narcotics officer and private investigations work several years ago.
Cmdr. Karl Brune oversaw the training from the time it began shortly after 5 p.m. until the session wrapped up at about 7 p.m. SWAT team members including Cmdr. Mike Page, SWAT Team Leader Sgt. Craig Gisler, Behr and Deputies J.S. Aguirre, Jason Alvarez, Simon Moya and Bob Meakins joined the session. Sgt. Ronnie Jones was unable to attend the session.
Four law enforcement students, Richard Vela, Eddie Romero, Kristina Zambrano and Refugia Hasette joined CBC employee Ninfa Castillo as observers and later as bag guys hiding in the building to ambush the team as it entered. At one point, one of the students actually “killed” one of the SWAT team members during an entry, giving team members something serious to discuss.
Carrizales showed up to watch some of the training at one point during the evening. The sheriff used to be the commander of the Beeville Police Department’s SWAT team and training program.
“All these guys have been certified by SWAT instructor Paul Castle,” Behr said as he looked around the group before the first entry. Castle, who received his training while in the British Army and while guarding Queen Elizabeth, II, is well known around the country for the training he provides across the nation.
Before the first entry, Gisler called all his team members together and checked their weapons, a collection of semi-auto hand guns and one assault rifle, to make sure none of them were loaded.
“That way no one gets shot accidentally,” Gisler said. “We don’t want anyone having a live round.”
Otherwise, the entries were as realistic as possible.
The team gathered at CBC that Wednesday night has had plenty of real-life experience entering the homes of suspects in recent years. Most of them have taken part in the numerous drug raids and arrests that deputies have made in the years since Carrizales began cracking down on drug traffickers after being elected to office.
Castle trains officers by having them use actual grenades designed especially for building entries and even has officers train using live ammunition, taking advantage of some of the latest assault weapons available to law enforcement officers.
Although each deputy on the team is highly trained and certified to enter buildings looking for bad guys, everyone involved in SWAT work acknowledges the importance of training.
During Wednesday night’s drills, deputies made a number of mistakes. But Brune either corrected the errors as they were made or had the deputies stop after each drill and discuss what they had done and how they could have done it better and more safely.