Printer Friendly

Countdown to teamwork.


TEAMWORK IS AN ESSENTIAL part of any security organization and one of the key elements in a successful systems approach to security services. Nowhere is teamwork's importance more evident than in special emergency response forces. The names applied to emergency response forces vary -- special weapons and tactics (SWAT) team, emergency response team (ERT), and tactical neutralization team (TNT), for example. The common denominator for all these groups, however, is the emphasis on the team.

These special response teams are reserved for special and demanding missions. They are the last line of defense for the organizations they protect. The men and women who comprise these teams must tackle problems that have reached the worstcase scenario. When called, these officers know they will probably face armed adversaries and will need all the skills they have acquired through training, practice, and experience. Perhaps most important, though, these offiers know they will have to rely on teamwork if they are to survive.

Often a special response team is part of a government organization--a police force, government agency, or military unit--or under contract to a government agency such as the Department of Energy. Companies that can provide such specialized security forces are the exception rather than the rule in the private security industry. One of these exceptions is EG&G Florida. As the base operations contractor for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, EG&G provides a number of security services, including a specialized SWAT team. With government oversight provided by the security operations office of NASA Protective Services, EG&G has built on the skills of highly trained individuals to form a cohesive and effective SWAT team.

The NASA security operations office is faced with one of the most complex security operations in the nation. Under its guidance, policy and programs are established for assets protection at KSC. These assets include the space shuttle orbiters (designated national resources by the President) and other unique NASA equipment.

In addition, KSC has hosted guests ranging from highly visible heads of state and royalty to 50,000 space enthusiasts on launch days to the daily bus tourists. Another factor is the terrain and environment of KSC, which is as variable as the assets to be protected. With vast areas of swamp and water, hundreds of miles of roadway, and over 150 buildings, security must be prepared to respond in many ways.

One priority is a competent, well-equipped emergency response force. To provide this service to NASA, EG&G Florida's security services began developing a small existing core of specially qualified security officers into a large, well-prepared SWAT team.

EG&G came to KSC in January 1983 after being awarded the base operations contract. The previous contractor's requirements for security had included a small contingent of camouflage-clad officers armed with M-16 rifles. Changes in NASA policy required that the emphasis on military-style training and individual skills be redirected to develop a unified team that would face threats against the space center.

NASA considered the most likely threats as stemming from an outside adversary--hard-core terrorists or less professional adversaries such as amateur political activitists or employees with a grudge against NASA or the US government. This threat assessment pointed toward a security approach that accounted for the well-armed and dedicated terrorist but also comprised a general law enforcement and industrial security program.

EG&G SECURITY SERVICES IMMEdiately began to transform the existing security force into one prepared to implement NASA's policy. The first step was to move the officers away from the military style of operation they had adopted. To replace the old fatigue-style uniform, security services chose a police-style gray shirt with black pants bloused into high-topped, laced boots. In the absence of a badge the uniform has a unique KSC security patch over the left breast pocket and a shoulder patch depicting a space shuttle.

This uniform distinctly identifies the SWAT team member from the rest of the security force while playing down the combative image presented by fatigues. The subdued colors do not present any natural aim points and allow officers to blend into the background of urban-style complexes and buildings. The combination of gray and black lets officers use shadows for concealment. The special uniform and emphasis on the space shuttle in the insignia reinforce the sense of mission and espirit de corps felt by each officer.

Changing the officers' perspective on the team's mission began with a change in uniform, but the more radical transitions occurred in training and tactics. One of the most evident changes was the withdrawal of the M-16 rifles. Under NASA's threat model, the team had to be prepared to deal with adversaries in close quarters, in a combat environment rich with specialized and potentially hazardous equipment (rocket motors or other ordnance), and various hazardous substances. The use of a full-sized, high-velocity automatic rifle did not best meet these requirements. Instead, EG&G turned to the 9 mm automatic pistol and the MP-5 submachine pistol as basic weapons for SWAT officers.

The 9 mm handgun provides the officer with a safe, rapid-fire weapon capable of delivering 14 rounds of accurate fire. The use of lower velocity 9 mm semijacketed hollow-point ammuition decreases the risks to bystanders and officers alike because of its tendency to break up rather than ricochet. Also, its decreased velocity reduces the chance of potential penetration of equipment or other items.

The MP-5 submachine pistol as a secondary weapon gives the officer a firepower on par with that of the terrorist while retaining the safety characteristics inherent in the 9 mm. With this combination of weapons the SWAT officer is prepared to defend himself or herself and KSC's assets. Security services retains its inventory of M-16s to allow flexibility in its response if the requirements or the threat changes.

The change in basic equipment was not limited to the individual officer's issue. KSC's SWAT team is able to deploy an array of small arms and auxiliary equipment including mobile command posts, heavy caliber weapons, state-of-the-art countersniper rifles, laser sights, and ballistic protection systems.

THE NEXT STEP WAS TO PREPARE the individual SWAT officer to react as part of a team. Each candidate for KSC's SWAT team undergoes screening that includes psychological and physical testing and a review of his or her work record. After passing these first hurdles the SWAT candidate participates in 80 hours of basic training. Basic training encompasses subjects such as the use of basic weapons, deploying individual equipment, rappelling, and responding to security incidents.

The greatest emphasis, however, is placed on operating as part of a response and building entry team. Repetitive scenarios allow the officer to participate in tactical problems that exercise different responsibilities--including acting as the intruder. Exercises are conducted in industrial settings, in the dense swamps surrounding KSC, and under conditions simulating actual incidents. The demanding effort and difficult conditions in basic training have an added benefit: The officers that succeed and complete the course develop a sense of accomplishment and pride that reinforces the team spirit.

Emphasis on team effort and training does not end with the basic course--each year SWAT officers undergo 40 hours of refresher training. During this training officers practice skills they have already learned, receive advanced training, and conduct more tactical maneuvers. The resources available to security services include airboats, helicopters, K-9 teams, and electronics. The team members find there is always a new technique to practice or new information to digest.

Even with annual refresher training, security services is concerned with keeping an officer's knowledge and skills in top condition. EG&G has developed a program where small teams work, practice, and have days off together. To arrive at this approach EG&G divided the available SWAT resources equally among three shifts. These were further divided into two groups per shift (Team A and Team B), with a SWAT-qualified supervisor assigned to each shift. By staggering the days off for each team, officers are able to share a common schedule. Each officer always works with the same team members and even shares days off (allowing the officers to form social ties as well as work relationships). The greatest benefit in this staggered schedule is a surplus of officers when both teams are on duty.

The overlap allows security services to conduct weekly practice sessions to keep the officers sharp and to reinforce the team skills developed during the basic and refresher training. Each team participates in eight hours of training weekly, with a half day of team testing.

WHILE THE SWAT FORCES ARE A team, it is important to recognize they are also part of the larger security services team. The uniformed forces of KSC's security services have three elements--plant protection, law enforcement, and SWAT. Each of these components complements the other two in the systems approach to security adopted by NASA and EG&G.

Officers receive training appropriate to their part of the mission, including an understanding that each is part of the larger security services team. The plant protection officer's role consists mainly of access control and patrol duties. As the largest team of officers, their primary responsibility is to provide observation around static posts.

The law enforcement officer is continually mobile and acts as the eyes and ears for security. These officers are highly trained in their own speciality and are authorized by the State of Florida to effect arrests. The SWAT officer, while usually mobile, remains near the critical assets he or she is assigned to protect and is always prepared to intercede between the threat and the asset.

The result of this team approach to security services can be seen in the well-coordinated interaction of one group with another, in the strong security posture evident at KSC, and in the excellent relationship EG&G enjoys with the NASA security operations office.

While some organizations would be content with these strong working relationships, KSC's SWAT team goes one step further. Each year more than 40 SWAT teams from around the country arrive in the nearby city of Orlando for a SWAT-skills competition sponsored by the Florida SWAT Association. In recent years KSC's SWAT team has been among the competitors, and the teamwork of the officers has paid off. Although the EG&G team is the only representative of private security, it has placed consistently in the top 10 against such prestigious organizations as the Washington, DC, police department, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and the National Park Service.

The NASA security operations office, EG&G Florida, and the security services SWAT officers can point to this and other accomplishments as examples of the excellence they have achieved through dedication, planning, and, most importantly, teamwork.

About the Author . . . C. Gordon Jenkins, CPP, is the operations officer for EG&G Security Services at the Kennedy Space Center. He is a member of ASIS.
COPYRIGHT 1989 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:special response team at the Kennedy Space Center
Author:Jenkins, C. Gordon
Publication:Security Management
Date:Mar 1, 1989
Previous Article:Libraries: the untold story.
Next Article:Training to take the heat.

Related Articles
Blast Off to a Space Adventure.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2016 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters