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MISSION — The Special Weapons and Tactics, better known as SWAT, teams are a common staple on television. They carry shields and batons going into dangerous riots, geared up and ready to run into a house to apprehend a suspect and rescue hostages.
But SWAT teams do more than just that, and Mission’s SWAT team is a prime example.
They don’t just break down doors or catch criminals. Their primary goal is to save lives. This SWAT team that uses tactics and other training to achieve an objective while bringing as little harm as possible to themselves and the suspect.
Mission’s team has been around for over 30 years, taking care of Mission and assisting federal agencies. The 12-person team doesn’t only perform SWAT duty, though. This is only part-time for the team members. They also perform regular municipal law enforcement jobs such as serving as a patrol officer, investigator or security at a high school. But, they do more than that, too.
They learn the city and its buildings, practice self-defense, issue high-risk warrants, help with search and rescues, perform brush training, participate in raids and home invasion rescues and help federal agencies when asked. The SWAT team even performs water rescues.
During the summer, the SWAT team trains at schools, learning the layout of the buildings and how to deal with a potential school shooting. The team has also trained at the local movie theatre.
The team makes sure they are ready for any incident in or around the City of Mission. They have all the gear – the shields, telescope, weapons that injure and weapons for distraction.
“Wherever it may lead us to, we’ve got an idea on how to react in that kind of situation,” said SWAT commander Sgt. Ted Rodriguez, a member of the team for 14 years.
The team learns how to defend themselves and keep their fellow officers safe, he explained. They’re all trained in first aid so they can use their tactical maneuvers to rescue an officer, stabilize them and get them out of the situation. If the team is then able to go back for the suspect, they will.
Some of the team members live for SWAT, Rodriguez said. They live for the adrenaline rush that comes before going into a possibly dangerous situation.
It’s like seeing the football players that slap themselves in the face to get revved up for an intense game, he said.
“It’s not that you’re being a caveman or anything, it’s just that the adrenaline is so high,” he said. “I have been doing it for a long time. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve gone out, driving to the place, your heart is racing.”
But once the SWAT team gets ready for a call, the ride to a location is quiet. Once closer to their location, they’ll slow down and start opening their doors. Sometimes the team will silently look at each other to signal they’re ready before jumping out of their vehicles.
SWAT IN TRAINING
The SWAT team trains for these situations. They don’t have actual training facilities, but they have been able to adapt what they have to fulfill their training needs. They have a house for training exercises and they train for situations often using school buses and other vehicles.
On training days, the team begins with calisthenics and wellness training. They also include self-defense and other hand-to-hand combat tactics they would use to subdue a suspect. Rodriguez said the goal is to restrain someone without causing injury or as little bumps and bruises as possible and to keep in shape.
When the chief activates them, it is usually a high-stress situation, said Rodriguez. During a recent incident, the SWAT team was called out to assist on a home invasion and hostage situation. They specialize in dealing with incidents that a normal patrol officer is not trained to handle, said Rodriguez.
This week, the team trained for high-risk traffic stops where they need to rescue an officer who has been shot.
The primary objective when an officer is down is to rescue that officer, said Rodriguez.
Team members play out the whole scenario, covering every aspect of a “what if” situation, like knowing what to do if an officer is shot or a suspect doesn’t leave the incident.
You never know what is going to happen, but it is always best to be prepared for the worst, said Rodriguez.
At training sessions, the officers don their gear, grab their training guns, air soft ammo and act just like they were participating in the real situation.
Some sessions turn into work. This week’s training took place just after some officers and Border Patrol detained 13 illegal immigrants in an orchard near where the SWAT team was training.
Rodriguez said during another training, officers were called out to Rio Grande City for a shootout that was happening between law enforcement and illegal immigrants. The SWAT team responded, but the suspects had already swum across the Rio Grande River before they arrived on scene.
Rodriguez said another important part of the job is investigating. Team members evaluate an entire situation before acting. In two previous incidents, the SWAT team assisted ICE in detaining a convicted murderer and a person that was law enforcement. He said they knew before going into these situations that there was a huge risk of a gun being drawn by the suspects. In one incident, the suspect picked up a handgun but never raised or pointed it at anyone. After a small struggle to subdue the suspect, they left the scene without any injuries. It could have been a bad situation, said Rodriguez.
SWAT training always provides valuable lessons. They learn each other’s movements, to watch where everyone is and how to perfect their tactics every time they go through a scenario.
If there is a high-risk situation, Mission’s SWAT team has trained for it and they will be there to save lives and apprehend their suspect.
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The Progress Times is the hometown newspaper for the local communities of Mission, Sharyland, Alton, Palmview, La Joya and surrounding areas in Western Hidalgo County. We have a staff of veteran reporters who work diligently every week to bring our readers the latest news as it affects their hometown area and people.