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article imageFBI counter-terror team celebrates 30 years of service

By Shawn Kay     Aug 12, 2013 in Politics
Quantico - The FBI is celebrating the 30th anniversary of its Hostage Rescue Team. Always ready to respond to a crisis situation, this specialized entity is America's premier SWAT team and a world renowned counter-terrorism force.
This month marks the 30th anniversary of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Hostage Rescue Team. Formed three decades ago as the absolute last line of force and defense in American civilian law enforcement, this elite team is the nation's best chance — and sometimes its last hope — in saving lives threatened by terrorism.
HRT is the most storied and honored law enforcement tactical unit in American history. Its name is legend and it is highly revered by both its law enforcement and military counterparts domestically and abroad.
Throughout its history HRT has gone up against some of the most dangerous individuals and organizations that this world has ever known and has successfully tackled some of the most complex and daunting missions ever encountered in U.S. law enforcement, including some that have proved to be too vexing and extreme even for other SWAT teams.
Whether repelling down the side of a craggy mountain range in the deserts of Arizona or a gleaming skyscraper in the urban terrain of Philadelphia, trekking across a frozen tundra in Alaska or wading through the sweltering swamps of the Florida Everglades, HRT stands capable and ready to combat terrorists and defend Americans from the nation's Atlantic Coast to its Pacific Coast.
They are the very best at what they do.
The highly skilled counter-terrorism strike force has long been a source of pride and prestige for the FBI who is commemorating HRT's 30th anniversary with a year long celebration. The celebration, which began earlier this year, includes an extensive online feature at the FBI's official website highlighting HRT's history, accomplishments, and continued contributions to law and order, national security and the defense of the American way of life.
FBI HRT operators have a suspect cornered during a training exercise. The Hostage Rescue Team is a c...
FBI HRT operators have a suspect cornered during a training exercise. The Hostage Rescue Team is a civilian law enforcement counter-terrorism team under the command of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) - a civilian law enforcement agency.
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
The Hostage Rescue Team: 30 Years of Tactic Excellence in Law Enforcement
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is the nation's lead and most influential law enforcement agency. Headquartered in Washington D.C. (as is its parent agency, the United States Department of Justice), the FBI has investigative jurisdiction over violations of more than 200 categories of federal crime throughout the U.S. and its territories and occasionally travels abroad to work with foreign officials on criminal investigations in countries where American citizens have been the victims of a violent crime.
The 13,913 Special Agents and the 22,161 non-law enforcement or non-sworn employees of the FBI have a presence in all 50 U.S. states and territories as well as international offices, called "legal attachés," in over 50 foreign nations.
On its official website, the FBI defines its mission as follows:
The FBI's main goal is to protect and defend the United States, to uphold and enforce the criminal laws of the United States, and to provide leadership and criminal justice services to federal, state, municipal, and international agencies and partners.
Of the 200 separate categories of federal crime that it has jurisdiction over, the FBI views the defense of the United States from terrorism as its top priority.
According to that agency, there is no higher priority for it than to defend the U.S. against this threat which it considers to be it's highest national security concern. This has always been true of the FBI - even before the 9/11 attacks.
The J. Edgar Hoover Building  headquarters of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Washingto...
The J. Edgar Hoover Building, headquarters of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Washington, D.C.
The formation of the Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) by the FBI was a response to the steady increase of terrorism globally during the 70's, especially the Munich Olympic Games massacre.
At the 1972 Summer Olympic Games in Munich, Germany, several heavily armed Palestinian nationalists took 11 athletes of the Israeli Olympic team hostage and later murdered them.
That terrorist attack made the FBI realize that the U.S. needed a full-time domestic counter-terrorism team at the civilian level, especially after terrorism and tactics experts the world over concluded that law enforcement capabilities and resources were inadequate in countering terrorists.
Federal Bureau of Investigation s Hostage Rescue Team (FBI HRT). Members of this elite law enforceme...
Federal Bureau of Investigation's Hostage Rescue Team (FBI HRT). Members of this elite law enforcement counter-terrorism team are commonly referred to as "operators," "operatives," or "assaulters."
Youtube Screen Capture
HRT's formation coincided with the creation of hundreds of other military and police counter-terrorism teams in nations throughout the world largely in response to that terrorist attack at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games.
The Hostage Rescue Team finally became operational in August 1983.
The 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles was one of the first challenges faced by HRT.
The elite outfit worked with other FBI units, officials from other federal law enforcement agencies as well as with thousands of state and local police personnel to successfully secure the Olympic Games in LA.
According to the FBI, HRT possesses capabilities that do not exist anywhere else in civilian law enforcement.
HRT operators are trained to fast-rope out of helicopters, parachute from planes with full mission equipment, conduct advanced SCUBA techniques, close-quarters battle skills and hand-to-hand fighting, proficiency in a variety of breaching techniques that include the use of explosives. Operators are also trained to be superior marksmen and are subject matter experts on all aspects of hostage rescue, CQB, raids and small-caliber weapons and infantry weapons.
The team's myriad of capabilities allows it to effectively engage virtually any terrorist threat via land, air, or sea.
The FBI informs that whenever HRT is needed, it is prepared to deploy within four hours of notification to any point in the U.S. in response to a terrorism event, hostage affair, major criminal threat or any other emergency.
"They are elite because of their training," said former HRT member Sean Joyce who is now deputy director of the FBI. "But they are FBI agents first and foremost, and they have the ability to perform special agent duties - whether it's obtaining evidence or interviewing an individual - anywhere in the world while being able to operate in all types of environments no matter how inhospitable."
The missions most frequently undertaken by HRT, or its mission profile, includes the following: counter-terrorism; hostage rescue; barricaded subjects; helicopter operations; high-risk raids, searches, arrests, and warrants; tubular (mobile) assaults; manhunt and rural operations; maritime operations; cold/extreme weather operations; intelligence collection and sensitive site exploitation; dignitary protection; force protection for FBI personnel overseas; assistance to military special missions operations forces.
In addition to that mission profile the team also conducts tactical surveys (threat assessments) and security in support of national and international special events such as the Olympic Games, presidential inaugurations, and political conventions, as well as disaster relief operations.
FBI HRT operator as seen through night vision goggles after the  arrest  of a emotionally disturbed ...
FBI HRT operator as seen through night vision goggles after the "arrest" of a emotionally disturbed man during a training exercise in Virginia. The exercise involved an emotionally disturbed and disgruntled man who was overheard by a co-worker discussing five explosive devices he had secretly placed around the nation’s capital. The subject in this training exercise was “arrested” without incident and the bombs located and safely defused.
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
The FBI further describes HRT as:
...highly qualified and motivated FBI Special Agents volunteer to respond to challenges that are the most complex, critical, and urgent. They are a tight-knit team — highly trained, specially equipped, always prepared.
HRT's services have been in very high demand since the 9/11 attacks upon the United States. In fact, the team has never been more active in it's history than at this current time.
The FBI notes that the operational tempo of HRT is "high." The team is currently experiencing an unprecedented level of activity, including a notable increase in the number of missions it is called upon to perform for the U.S. government both domestically and overseas.
On September 11  2001  a team of 19 hijackers from al-Qaida  an international terrorist organiation ...
On September 11, 2001, a team of 19 hijackers from al-Qaida, an international terrorist organiation of an Islamist ideology, hijacked four commercial airliners and used them to attack the World Trade Center in Downtown Manhattan and The Pentagon in the Washington, D.C. metro area. The attacks resulted in the complete destruction of the World Trade Center as well as over 2,800 deaths and 12,000 wounded. The U.S. would declare a "War on Terrorism" in response.
Youtube Screen Capture
HRT is the absolute last line of defense in American civilian law enforcement before the military counter-terrorist teams of U.S. Navy Seal Team Six or the U.S. Army Delta Force (which is actually so secretive that the U.S. government will not officially confirm it's existence) is called in to resolve the crisis.
The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 generally bars the military from large scale operations and law enforcement activities inside the United States without presidential approval.
A distinct exception to Posse Comitatus are both Seal Team Six and Delta Force who have always been exempt from this law for the purposes of counter-terrorism.
However, while HRT has undertaken some rather extreme missions, it has never in it's 30-year history found itself in a position where it had to turn an operation over to the military because it could not effectively resolve a crisis within it's own skills and capabilities.
HRT is about as hardcore and extreme as you can get in civilian law enforcement without crossing over into the realm of the Armed Forces.
While originally intended to protect American lives and property from terrorism, HRT is increasingly being used by the FBI to apprehend conventional but nonetheless exceedingly violent, desperate and well-armed criminals.
Within recent years FBI officials have dispatched HRT to the cities of San Juan and Detroit – two cities that are easily amongst the nation’s most dangerous top ten - to help local police and federal agents working in those municipalities with their efforts to crackdown on heavily-armed street gangs and drug dealers fueling the extraordinarily high-levels of street crime in those areas.
The team is considered federal law enforcement's first-tier tactical team.
Ask any member of HRT how they feel about being on that elite team and they will likely tell you that it is one of the most demanding - and rewarding - jobs in the FBI.
Everyone who is on HRT wants to be there and has worked very hard to get on and stay on the team. All FBI agents on this elite force have volunteered for the duty and do not receive any additional or special pay.
No one is ever ordered or forced by the FBI to join HRT.
HRT is based near the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. It is in that town where the team conducts much of it's training. A U.S. Marine Corps base is also nearby.
Quantico is a known stronghold and the main training center for all of the FBI's employees. The only location with more influence and prestige within that agency is Washington D.C., which is where the FBI's main headquarters are located at.
The essence of HRT's work can be summed up in a statement by Kevin Cornelius, the current commander of the team:
There is no greater mission we have than to save somebody's life.
In fact, HRT's motto Servare Vitas, when translated from it's Latin into English, is "To Save Lives."
FBI Hostage Rescue Team during urban warfare training.
FBI Hostage Rescue Team during urban warfare training.
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
The Pursuit of Excellence: The Training of the Hostage Rescue Team
The Hostage Rescue Team's mastery of tactics is due in large part to it's training which is intense and virtually ceaseless.
Training takes place during both the day and night hours with the team preparing to engage every crisis imaginable (and some unimaginable) through scenario-based exercises.
While exercises typically take place at HRT's training facilities in Quantico, the team sometimes will travel to other venues in the U.S. and abroad to train and test skills.
FBI HRT members practicing air assault skills.
FBI HRT members practicing air assault skills.
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
Training to achieve and maintain it's noted level of excellence and to always be prepared to go head-to-head with terrorists becomes nothing short of an obsession.
The grueling and relentless, but also highly diverse nature of it's exercises are a hallmark of HRT as well as emblematic of the FBI's overall reputation for excellence in all that it does.
Because HRT is the force that everyone turns to when a crisis overwhelms all other law enforcement resources, it's level of preparedness, skill and capabilities must be among the very best if not the best.
However, this high-level of performance and excellence comes at a great sacrifice that is sometimes paid for in blood.
Most counter-terrorism teams live by the philosophy of "training as you fight." Because of the intensity and degree of their training, serious injuries and even deaths occasionally occur among police and military counter-terrorism teams throughout the world (though they tend to be higher for military teams which have a more extensive and expansive mission profile than do their civilian law enforcement counterparts).
HRT happens to be no exception.
Since it's inception in 1983, HRT has had at least four members who paid the ultimate price and became "Service Martyrs" in the FBI's Hall of Honor. The title of "Service Martyr" is something the FBI bestows upon Special Agents killed in the line of duty. All four of these deaths were the result of accidents during training. The fallen HRT members include:
*Special Agent James K. McAllister died during a training accident involving a fast rope insertion exercise near the Quantico-based FBI Academy in 1985.
*Special Agent Gregory J. Rachoi died at Fort A.P. Hill in Caroline County, Virginia during a live-fire tactical training exercise designed to prepare HRT personnel to be dispatched to Iraq in 2006.
*Special Agents Christopher Lorek and Stephen Shaw died after falling from a helicopter during a fast rope insertion training exercise off the coast of Virginia Beach on May 17, 2013. The deaths of both Shaw and Lorek have cast a dark pall over the FBI's year long celebration of HRT's 30th anniversary but also serve as stark reminders of the dangerous work and sacrifices that these elite lawmen are willing in defense of American society.
All four of the aforementioned HRT operatives were killed during training exercises gone awry. No member of HRT has ever been killed by a criminal or terrorist adversary during an actual operation though that possibility remains ever present due to the extremely high-risk nature of their purpose. The repetitive and intensive nature of their training - though occasionally dangerous itself - reduces the odds of being killed by a criminal adversary (conventional criminal or terrorist) while on an actual mission.
Sacrifices by agents in HRT also manifest themselves in more subtle ways. Operators are often away from home for long periods of time and can be called away with little notice.
However, Deputy Director Joyce described HRT's mission and the extensive and continuous training that it's members undergo as being absolutely essential
because what you do in practice is what you're going to do when the real game is on.
FBI HRT operators storm a large sea vessel during a maritime-based counter-terrorism exercise.
FBI HRT operators storm a large sea vessel during a maritime-based counter-terrorism exercise.
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
For those aspiring to join HRT, they must first complete a grueling two-week selection course that is held at Quantico each year.
Selection is an unforgiving series of trials that pushes candidates to their breaking points both physically and mentally. It serves as a pre-training for the actual HRT program.
Sleep deprivation features prominently during selection.
Former HRT operator and current Deputy Director Sean Joyce informs that the process is designed to identify individuals who will perform the best in a crisis situation. "The point is to break you down to see how you perform under stress. When you don't get a lot of sleep - sometimes going on one or two hours a day - over a period of time, it's going to break you down pretty quickly," said Joyce.
During selection, evaluators look for the core qualities in a candidate that makes for a good HRT operator, including: teamwork, loyalty, leadership, and discipline.
Evaluators note that while being in peak physical condition is vital, candidates must also do well on firearms tests and during complex arrest scenarios.
Candidates for HRT should not have a fear of heights, water, or be claustrophobic.
According to instructors, the first day is actually the easiest and that half of the class will eventually drop out of selection for various reasons. Instructors also note that even if an individual is still standing at the end of the two week selection course does not guarantee he will make the team. "Just surviving is not enough," says Special Agent John Piser, a former HRT operator who now runs the team's selection process.
Candidates who successfully pass selection are admitted into New Operator Training School (N.O.T.S.) - the actual training program for new HRT operators.
This is where the real challenge begins.
Recruits undergo approximately eight months of extensive tactical training while in N.O.T.S.
Training drills become more elaborate as the new operators advance in tactical expertise. Training often mimics actual operations and includes CQB (Close Quarters Battle) exercises in HRT's famed "shooting house."
Many of the recruits fail the training but for those who remain and complete the 32 week N.O.T.S. course, they are offered the coveted position of being an operator on HRT.
In it's 30 year history, fewer than 300 men have been selected to join the team.
There is not now nor has there ever been a single woman in HRT.
No woman has ever successfully passed the two-week selection course followed by the 32-week N.O.T.S. to become an HRT operator.
However, membership is and always has been open to female Special Agents. In fact, the FBI – a very woman and minority friendly organization – encourages women to try out for the team.
All positions that are open to male Special Agents of the FBI are also open to female Special Agents, including the SWAT teams and HRT.
In 2006, the FBI established the Tactical Recruiting Program (TRP) as a way to recruit more individuals with tactical experience.
To qualify for the TRP, candidates must already be FBI special agents having met each one of the stringent - and non-negotiable - requirements and having successfully completed the FBI Academy. Candidates must also have extensive prior experience in a U.S. military special operations unit or tactical law enforcement team (SWAT unit).
Special Agents recruited into the FBI through the TRP must serve as field investigators before trying out for HRT. No one is recruited straight into HRT.
"You have to prove yourself as an FBI agent first before you come here," says Special Agent Piser, the supervisor of the HRT selection program.
However, Special Agents in the TRP are fast-tracked for HRT eligibility. While TRP candidates follow the normal process to become FBI agents, they are eligible to try out for HRT after only two years of work as a field investigator.
The FBI website further informs that candidates must also demonstrate motivation and commitment to apply for the HRT when eligible, and to serve on the team if selected.
Most candidates applying to TRP have served in the military on a special operations team before joining the FBI while others are former police officers who have served on the SWAT team of the municipal police department they were formerly employed with.
Special Agents seeking to join HRT but are not in the TRP must serve at least three years as field investigators before trying out for the team.
Nevertheless, Piser warns, "the selection process operates in a vacuum." It doesn't matter who you are or what you have done previously. "If you don't perform well at selection, you aren't going to make the team."
The Supporting Cast: HRT's Role In The FBI's National Crisis Response Network
The Hostage Rescue Team is under the command of the FBI's Critical Incident Response Group (CIRG). Like HRT, CIRG is headquartered in Quantico.
Formed in 1994, CIRG, former known as the Support Operations Branch and based near HRT in Quantico, was intended to integrate tactical and investigative resources and expertise for crisis management and critical incidents which necessitate an immediate response from law enforcement authorities. CIRG offers a variety of resources and expertise to local, state, federal, and international law enforcement to resolve critical incidents.
RIVALRY ALERT: a member of the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Maritime Safety & Security Team (MSST) during...
RIVALRY ALERT: a member of the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Maritime Safety & Security Team (MSST) during an exercise. Jurisdictional issues may lead to a turf battle between MSST and the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team should terrorists hijack a ferry or cruise ship with passengers. While the USCG has lead police duty (including enforcement, investigation and crisis response) in U.S. waters, the FBI has supreme jurisdiction over any and all acts of terrorism – including those of a maritime nature.
United States Coast Guard
CIRG will deploy investigative specialists to respond to terrorist activities, hostage takings, child abductions and other high-risk repetitive violent crimes. Other major incidents include prison riots, bombings, air and train crashes, and natural disasters.
This entity of the FBI also provides training to Special Agents who work undercover.
On the FBI website, CIRG informs the public about it's core purpose on it's webpage:
Our mission is to help protect you, your children, your communities, and your businesses from the most dangerous threats facing our nation—from international and domestic terrorists to spies on U.S. soil…from cyber villains to corrupt government officials…from mobsters to violent street gangs…from child predators to serial killers. Along the way, we help defend and uphold our nation’s economy, physical and electronic infrastructure, and democracy.
FBI HRT operators rappelling from an FBI Blackhawk helicopter as seen through during a late night tr...
FBI HRT operators rappelling from an FBI Blackhawk helicopter as seen through during a late night training exercise. HRT team trains relentless during both the day and at night, regardless of weather.
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
CIRG encompasses all of the FBI's special operations assets. HRT is part of CIRG's tactical section (or the Tactical Support Branch), which also includes the FBI's SWAT teams.
Besides being under it's command, CIRG also occasionally provides vital analyatical and logistical support to HRT.
HRT often calls upon the crisis negotiators, behavioral science analysts and other experts within CIRG to carryout it's operations.
The FBI's tactical units are organized in a tiered structure and include three types of tactical teams: SWAT, Enhanced SWAT, and HRT.
FBI SWAT teams: similar to the SWAT teams found in many local and state law enforcement agencies, the SWAT teams of the FBI perform duties that involve: high-risk warrant service, hostage rescue and barricade suspect incidents. dignitary protection, providing additional security at special events, and manhunts for dangerous fugitives.
FBI SWAT teams are increasingly receiving training in anti-hijacking and weapons of mass destruction operations and are capable of carrying out low-level counter-terrorism operations.
Some SWAT team members may specialize as snipers, medical technicians, rappelmasters, or breachers.
According to the general information posted on the official FBI website, the agency's SWAT teams can also patrol areas and provide security, navigate tough terrain by climbing and rappelling, use special techniques to stop fleeing cars, and conduct site surveys for special events. The teams are highly trained and heavily equipped, with expertise in a variety of weapons, including pistols, assault and sniper rifles, and shotguns.
High-risk search and arrest warrants against violent groups or individuals being sought by the FBI or other federal law enforcement agencies are the bread and butter of FBI SWAT duties. When a situation involving a criminal poses a high potential for violent confrontation that may result in severe injury or even lose of life to law enforcement personnel or innocent bystanders, special agents make the decision to call in FBI SWAT.
All 56 of the FBI's Field Offices located throughout the continental United States and it's territories has a SWAT team.
The average FBI SWAT team may include anywhere from two to three dozen members.
Any FBI Special Agent may apply to become a member of an FBI SWAT team. The FBI informs that the process to join is "highly competitive" with applicants and team members having to pass rigorous fitness tests and be expert marksmen. Decision making and command ability are also a major part of training.
A growing number of the applicants for these teams are special agents with special operations military experience that were recruited into the FBI through the Tactical Recruitment Program but failed to make it on to HRT.
The distinction between the FBI's SWAT teams and HRT has much to do with training and capability. Whereas the FBI SWAT position is a part-time duty requiring the team to only be operational for high-risk law enforcement activity and three to four days of training a month, HRT is a full-time force that trains relentlessly to maintain the skills needed for it to handle the duties in it's much higher mission profile.
When not on an actual mission or training, members of FBI SWAT carry out their regular investigative duties as special agents.
FBI Enhanced SWAT teams: In the FBI’s tactical tier-level, the Enhanced SWAT teams are in the middle – not quite at the level of HRT but having a significantly higher degree of training and capability than the average field office SWAT teams.
The difference between the FBI’s SWAT and Enhanced SWAT teams is in the training, capabilities and mission profile. The Enhanced units perform the same duties as the regular FBI SWAT teams, but possess a wider array of equipment and methods. They have a higher level of training than the regular FBI SWAT teams and a higher level of mission capability. For this reason, the mission parameters in which they operate are much largely than that of other SWAT teams. The Enhanced teams also stand ready to come to the aid of the regular FBI SWAT teams should they encounter a criminal or terrorist threat that exceeds their capability and resources.
A special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation s (FBI) New York Field Office Special Weapo...
A special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) New York Field Office Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) team standing on the rooftop of a skyscraper in Downtown Manhattan
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
These teams have the capability to deploy to any part of the continental United States and it’s territories in support of FBI operations involving criminals or terrorists and other national security threats, or in assistance to military and intelligence operations. These teams also have a higher focus on counter-terrorism and weapons of mass destruction than the SWAT teams.
The Enhanced SWAT teams, also commonly referred to as regional teams, are typically stationed in FBI field offices in major cities throughout the U.S., including: Chicago, Washington D.C., New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta, and several others.
Originally there were nine of these teams but that number was expanded to 14 after the 9/11 attacks.
The Enhanced teams are slightly larger than the regular FBI SWAT teams and may number anywhere from three dozen to 42 members.
The Enhanced SWAT teams are largely modeled after HRT and utilize many (though not all) of the same techniques and equipment. Because the Enhanced units work more closely with HRT than the regular FBI SWAT teams and may be with HRT on the scene of an incident involving heavily armed terrorists, frequent training sessions between the two are important.
The Enhanced SWAT teams are equivalent in skill and capability to some of the nation’s most reputable big-city local police or state police SWAT teams like those of Chicago Police SWAT, Washington, D.C. Metro Police Emergency Response Team, New Jersey State Police T.E.A.M.S. as well as a few others.
Training with municipal and state law enforcement tactical units in major metropolitan areas is an occasional activity of the Enhanced teams.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation s (FBI) Los Angeles Field Office Special Weapons And Tactics (SW...
The Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Los Angeles Field Office Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) team conducting hostage rescue training on the rooftop of a skyscraper in Downtown Los Angeles. The LA Field Office SWAT team is an "Enhanced" team.
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
As with HRT, any FBI Special Agent may apply to become a member of an FBI Enhanced SWAT team, though the screening process is said to be extremely rigorous and includes a two-week selection process.
While only a few are accepted to SWAT, even less make it on to the Enhanced SWAT teams. Competition for positions on the Enhanced teams is fierce. A growing number of the applicants for these teams are Special Agents with special operations military experience that were recruited into the FBI through the Tactical Recruitment Program but failed to make it on to HRT.
The distinction between the Enhanced SWAT teams and HRT largely comes down to training, capabilities and responsibilities. Whereas the training of the Enhanced SWAT teams is three or four days a month (the same as the regular FBI SWAT teams), HRT is a full-time entity that trains daily to maintain proficiency in a core set of perishable specialty skills not utilized or required by FBI SWAT teams. Also, unlike HRT, the Enhanced SWAT teams are only operational as criminal and terrorist incidents arise or for their monthly training.
HRT commander Cornelius further explains the contrasts between HRT and the FBI's other tactical teams.
The HRT is federal law enforcement's first-tier tactical team because of it's advanced training and capabilities, notes section chief and HRT commander, Special Agent Cornelius, That's the main difference between SWAT teams and HRT. Whereas the Bureau SWAT members train a few days each month - while maintaining their full-time jobs as investigators - HRT operators train full-time and have capabilities SWAT teams don't possess, such as the ability to operate in extreme climates and non-permissive environments.
"When a crisis situation exceeds the capabilities of local and regional teams," Cornelius said, "then HRT gets the call. Because of our extensive training, we are more prepared to address complex problems."
When not performing their SWAT duties or training, the Special Agents on the Enhanced teams perform their general FBI responsibilities which largely involve criminal investigations.
After HRT, the Enhanced SWAT teams are the most tactically sound and advanced force within the FBI. Membership on an Enhanced SWAT team is considered to be a very prestigious position within the FBI.
Of the FBI's 13,900 special agents at least 1,200 serve on it's tactical teams, including SWAT, Enhanced SWAT, and HRT.
The FBI maintains a fleet of armored vehicles that are utilized by its SWAT, Enhanced SWAT and HRT teams. These armored vehicles include: the peacekeeper armored car, the M113 and M60 armored personnel carriers, the Bearcat armored truck and the Mine Resistant Ambush vehicle (MRAP). The Bearcat and the MRAP are the most recent and advanced armored vehicles used by the FBI’s tactical teams and thus see more action than the other aforementioned armored vehicles which are older models.
HRT exclusively utilizes the LAV armored personnel carrier. This unique armored vehicle, which has amphibious capabilities, was specifically designed for the U.S. Marine Corps and is not in use with any other civilian law enforcement entity than HRT. The LAV is used primarily for defense purposes (rescuing bystanders, hostages and law enforcement personnel trapped by criminal or terrorist gunfire) by HRT. Unlike the military version, the LAV utilized by HRT does not contain offensive weapons.
The McDonnell Douglas 530 helicopter named "Little Bird" and the Bell 412EP are HRT's favorite aircraft for it's operations, including insertions into target locations and air assaults. A small fleet of these aircraft are maintained by the Tactical Aviation Unit (TAU). TAU is an elite corps of FBI helicopter pilots with a special mandate to assist HRT with air transport to a crisis location and air assault operations. The TAU is also under the command of CIRG.
Through a long standing agreement the FBI has with the U.S. Department of Defense, HRT can call upon the U.S. Army or U.S. Air Force to provide C-130 cargo planes and the military pilots needed to fly those planes when the team needs to transport large numbers of personnel, equipment, and vehicles (especially armored vehicles which generally weigh several tons) to a crisis site anywhere in the world.
Missions of the Hostage Rescue Team
Since it's beginnings in 1983, the Hostage Rescue Team has been deployed both throughout the continental United States, it's territories as well as around the globe nearly 800 times.
Missions undertaken by HRT are usually of a national security nature and may involve anything from arresting terrorists to counter-intelligence (arresting foreign spies from enemy nations operating on U.S. soil). Other missions undertaken by the team may include the apprehension of non-terrorist but nonetheless extremely violent and well-armed conventional criminals or highly dangerous situations of a complex nature that involve heavily-armed criminally insane individuals barricaded in a fortified structure, perhaps with hostages.
HRT's operations include some of the most harrowing experiences ever encountered in American law enforcement.
Members of the FBI Hostage Rescue Team at a tactical briefing.
Members of the FBI Hostage Rescue Team at a tactical briefing.
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
*April 19 - 22, 1985 - Elijah, Missouri: HRT along with nearly 300 other officials from the FBI, Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), and state police lay siege to the heavily fortified 224 acre compound of the Convent, the Sword, and the Arm of the lord (CSA), a white supremacist group.
Authorities are eventually able to negotiate a peaceful conclusion to the standoff. Over two dozen of the group's members would be successfully prosecuted by the Justice Department.
Upon seizing and searching the compound at the conclusion of the standoff, FBI and ATF agents uncovered an arsenal of weapons that included over 100 handguns, shotguns, and assault rifles; one heavy caliber machine gun; a rocket launcher; flamethrowers; a substantial amount of C-4 explosives; and an armored personnel carrier. The armored vehicle featured a rotating turret with a rotary cannon affixed to it.
Authorities also uncovered a 50 gallon steel drum containing cyanide on the compound deep within Missouri's Ozark woods. the CSA had plotted to use the cyanide to poison the water supply of Chicago. However, the FBI considered the plot to be at the aspiration stage rather than at the operational stage.
Since the siege, the loss of it's compound and the prosecution of most of it's members, the CSA is now defunct.
*September 1987: Fawaz Younis, a Hezbollah terrorist is arrested by HRT while on a yacht in international waters off Cyprus.
Younis lead a team of hijackers that stormed Royal Jordanian Flight 402 as it sat on the tarmac at Beirut International Airport. Of the 70 passengers onboard the aircraft, at least four were Americans.
After a 13-hour siege, the hijackers released all of their hostages unharmed and blew up the plane.
Younis was convicted at trial for the hijacking and sentenced to 30 years in prison under the U.S. hostage taking statute.
After serving 16 years of his sentence, Younis was released from prison. He was deported to his native Lebanon in March 2005.
*Hormigueros, Puerto Rico - September 23, 2005: after 15 years of life on the run, FBI investigators successfully track down 72-year-old Puerto Rican nationalist Filiberto Ojeda Rios to a house on the outskirts of Hormiguerous where he and his wife lived. The militant is killed in a shootout with HRT.
Rios, the leader of a militant Puerto Rican nationalist group known as the Boricua Popular Army (Ejército Popular Boricua-EPB), also popularly known as, Los Macheteros ("The Machete Wielders") was being sought by the FBI in connection with his role in the brazen 1983 robbery of a Wells Fargo depot.
On September 12, 1983, a heavily armed group of EPB militants led by Rios raided a Wells Fargo depot in West Hartford, Connecticut. During the assault on the depot, the group disarmed, bound and gagged several armed guards before successfully making off with seven million dollars.
In a communiqué released to the public, the group described the action as
a symbolic protest against the greed-infested men and mechanisms which stain our elected officials, government agencies, and social aspirations in this country as well as in Puerto Rico.
According to sources close to the EPB, the radical group intended to use the money, none of which was ever recovered, to fund future militant activities.
Rios, remained free for nearly two decades after the depot heist, living a quiet life and maintaining a very low-profile with his wife in a secluded area of Puerto Rico before the law finally caught up to him and HRT kicked-in his door.
HRT's efforts to arrest the aging militant were met with violence as Rios opened fire on the heavily-armed FBI agents.
Rios was shot during one of several exchanges of gunfire with the HRT operatives and bled to death while barricaded in his home.
Two HRT members were shot and wounded by Rios during the gun battle, including one that had to be airlifted by an emergency medical helicopter from the scene and hospitalized with serious injuries. Both of the wounded HRT members made full medical recoveries and later returned to the team.
Rios' wife, who was not home at the time of the gun battle, was unharmed.
EPB has been active since 1978 and has a history of extreme violence. The militant Puerto Rican nationalist group has claimed responsibility for numerous armed robberies, attacks on the military and bombings in both Puerto Rico and on the U.S. mainland.
The group considers U.S. governance of Puerto Rico to be oppressive colonization and advocates the latter's independence.
Since the late 90's, the group has largely foregone violence and now focuses on non-violent militant social activism.
The U.S. government has classified the EPB as a left-wing domestic terrorist group.
*Iraq and Afghanistan - 2006 to Present: HRT has been working very closely with the U.S. military intelligence and special operations community to fight Islamic insurgents in those two nations.
FBI Hostage Rescue Team during urban warfare training. Because of HRT s training and experience abro...
FBI Hostage Rescue Team during urban warfare training. Because of HRT's training and experience abroad with fighting insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is the only civilian law enforcement tactical team in the U.S. capable of actually fighting an insurgency and one of the few in the entire world. HRT has a very high level of capability which allows it to perform low to moderate level tactical operations in non-permissible environments (i.e., war zones) overseas.
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
*Addy, Washington - March 9, 2011: HRT arrests white supremacist Kevin William Harpham, 36, after an attempt to bomb the Martin Luther King memorial march on January 17, 2011 in Spokane, Washington.
Harpham had placed a backpack containing a pipe bomb along the route of the march. However, the bomb was discovered and safely defused by police who turned both the bomb and backpack over to the FBI's main laboratory in Quantico, Virginia for further analysis. A subsequent FBI investigation linked Harpham to the failed bombing plot.
On December 20, 2011, Harpham was sentenced to 32 years in prison.
*Midland City, Alabama - February 4, 2013: HRT breached through a fortified booby-trapped underground bunker to rescue a five year-old kindergartner by the name of, Ethan from his heavily-armed kidnapper, Jimmy Lee Dykes.
Dykes, a 65 year-old Vietnam war veteran, stormed a school bus on January 29, shooting the driver dead and abducting the five year-old child. The abductor took his victim to a nearby fortified underground bunker located on his property.
At least 200 local police, county sheriffs, and state troopers from the Alabama State Police descended upon Dyke's property. The FBI dispatched a SWAT team and hostage negotiators to assist local and state authorities in the standoff with the gunman.
The FBI also summoned HRT to respond to the incident.
HRT closely monitored Dykes through the use of a small fiber-optic camera inserted into a nearby well.
After negotiations broke down and agents observed Dykes mental state deteriorating, FBI leadership gave HRT the green light to go forward with an assault.
HRT shot and killed a rifle toting Dykes during the assault while Ethan was recovered unharmed.
*Watertown, Massachusetts - April 19, 2013: terrorist Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 20, is captured by what is believed to be a joint tactical operation between HRT and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) Police Department SWAT team.
Dzhokhar and his brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, detonated two pressure cooker bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Boylston Street near Copley Square on the afternoon of April 15, 2013. Three are killed and 264 are wounded or maimed.
The FBI and a small army of over 1,000 federal, state, local police and National Guard officials lockdown the entire city of Boston for a massive and unprecedented manhunt of the perpetrators of the terrorist attack.
As the FBI begins to close in, the Tsarnaev brothers become desperate and make the decision to strike out in one final bout of murder and mayhem.
The zenith of this affair began on the night of April 18 when the terror brothers shot and killed a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) police officer as he sat in his patrol car on the campus of that prestigious university in Cambridge. The pair then carjacked an SUV before engaging in a wild car chase and shootout with police in Watertown that left Tamerlan dead and an MBTA police officer critically wounded.
Dzhokhar, who was actually able to escape the scene, was captured later the next night severely injured from a gunshot wound. He is expected to live and will stand trial when his period of convalescence is over. If convicted he will most likely be sentenced to death.
The Tsarnaev brothers, who both happen to be Islamic extremists of Chechen ethnicity, carried out their acts of terrorism as a form of direct protest to U.S. wars in Muslim nations. Another motive for the terrorist act is believed to be a deep hatred stemming from their inability to reconcile their Islamic beliefs with American culture and lifestyle.
Not all of HRT's operations are publicized. Many of these missions - both domestically and abroad - take place outside of public view while others are kept secret by the U.S. government for reasons that typically involve national security.
In Good Company - The Brotherhood of Law Enforcement Tactical Counter-Terrorist Teams
Over the course of it’s 30 year history, HRT has had the opportunity to train with some of the very best law enforcement and military counter-terrorism teams in the world. As a result of these joint-training sessions, close bonds are often formed.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation s Hostage Rescue Team executing a mock assault on a building dur...
The Federal Bureau of Investigation's Hostage Rescue Team executing a mock assault on a building during counter-terrorism training. HRT was created to provide an effective civilian response capability to terrorism.
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
HRT receives very high marks from it’s foreign counterparts.
Here is a brief look at a few of the law enforcement counter-terrorism teams that HRT occasionally trains with and shares close relationships with. All of the following teams are amongst the very best in the world, and, like HRT, they are widely considered to be the gold standard in tactical law enforcement.
GSG9 - Germany
GSG9 (Grenzschutzgruppe 9 or Border Police Group 9) was the world’s very first law enforcement counter-terrorism team. Formed a year after the terrorist massacre of Israeli athletes by Palestinian militants at the 1972 Summer Olympic Games in the German city of Munich, the team is under the command of the German Federal Police and is tasked with combating armed terrorist groups throughout that nation.
Operators of GSG9  Germany s national counter-terrorism police tactical unit conduct  training.
Operators of GSG9, Germany's national counter-terrorism police tactical unit conduct training.
Screen Capture
From 1972 to 2003, GSG9 reportedly completed over 1,500 missions, discharging their weapons on only five occasions, this according to the German Federal Police.
GSG9 has long been considered a model law enforcement team and instructs similar police units throughout the world in various tactics.
During the buildup to the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, several members from the State of Georgia (Georgia Department of Public Safety - State Patrol) SWAT team quietly traveled to Germany to receive hostage rescue and counter-terrorism training from GSG9.
The State of Georgia SWAT team spent two weeks training at "The Schoolhouse," which is the nickname of GSG9's famed training center.
The State of Georgia SWAT team along with HRT and 30,000 other federal, state, local law enforcement and military officials provided security at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.
In the wake of the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks by Islamic extremists, Germany provided assistance to India by sending a team of GSG 9 operators to help train and upgrade the National Security Guards, the primary Indian counter-terrorism unit. The team also provided further help to the Mumbai Police by helping it to organize, train and arm it's very first SWAT team.
GIGN - France
In 1973, in response to the Munich massacre, French authorities decided to create GIGN (Groupe d'Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale or National Gendarmerie Intervention Group), an elite national level police unit capable of countering acts of terrorism throughout France.
Training for GIGN is as grueling as that for any other counter-terrorism team. Over the course of it's existence the team has lost seven men in training exercises gone awry.
The team places an unusually high focus on the prevention of violence. GIGN members are strongly encouraged to use dialogue and negotiation whenever possible to defuse a situation involving dangerous subjects followed by less than lethal weapons that may include: tasers, bean bag munitions and other methods. Deadly force is meant to be used only as an absolute last resort. This approach, to employ all other options before resorting to force, has led to the numerous criminals and terrorists being captured alive.
GIGN operators are trained in placing shots to neutralize or disable suspects, rather than killing if possible. This is a practice disdained by most military counter-terrorism teams.
Assaulters or tactical operators of Groupe d Intervention Gendarmerie Nationale (GIGN)  France s cou...
Assaulters or tactical operators of Groupe'd Intervention Gendarmerie Nationale (GIGN), France's counter-terrorism police unit conduct training to keep skills razor sharp.
Youtube Screen Capture
GIGN has traveled to Bosnia where it hunted and arrested several persons who were wanted by the United Nation's administered International Criminal Court. The arrested individuals were later indicted in The Hague on war crime charges for their actions during the Bosnian War. HRT traveled to Bosnia to protect FBI agents and forensic teams gathering evidence that would bolster the war crimes case against those arrested for atrocities during the Bosnian War and standing trial in The Hague. HRT was assigned to provide force protection to other FBI officials and did not participate in the actual hunt for war criminals. However, U.S. Navy Seal Team Six participated in the hunt for war criminals.
Like it's U.S. counterpart, the Hostage Rescue Team, GIGN has traveled to Afghanistan and carried out several operations in support of French military forces serving in the American-led coalition working to stabilize that nation and counter militant violence.
GIGN's anti-hijacking training and expertise is of such an extraordinary degree that it was selected by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to teach the police tactical teams and military special forces of it's member states in hostage-rescue and counter-terrorism exercises aboard planes.
EKAM - Greece
EKAM, also known as the Special Counter-Terrorist Unit, is an elite police team of Greece tasked with fighting the scourge of terrorism in that nation.
The 200 member team was created in 1978 and is under the command of the Hellenic Police. Though based in Athens, the team has several detachments spread throughout Greece's major cities. Hellenic police personnel seeking to join EKAM must first pass a grueling training course with the Greek Army Rangers before being admitted into EKAM’s counter-terrorism training school.
EKAM is also frequently called upon by authorities to fight non-terrorist but otherwise well-armed criminals.
It’s biggest challenge to date came in the form of the Summer Olympic Games which were held in Athens in 2004. To prepare for the unique security challenges this event posed EKAM trained with the famed Special Air Service (SAS) counter-terrorism unit of the British Army.
The 2004 Athens Olympic Games were held in their entirety without incident.
Today, EKAM busies itself by focusing on combat against Greece’s top two national security threats, which include a leftist terrorist threat in the form of anarchists and Islamic terrorism which remains a universal and ever present threat to the Western world as a whole.
A member of EKAM  the national-level counter-terrorism team of Greece s Hellenic Police force.
A member of EKAM, the national-level counter-terrorism team of Greece's Hellenic Police force.
Youtube Screen Capture
Directorate of Special Units (DSU) - Belgium
Created immediately after the terrorist attack upon Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, the Directorate of Special Units (DSU) is a federal police team with a mandate to combat terrorist groups and violent criminals throughout the nation of Belgium.
The team was originally known as SIE (Dutch: Speciaal Interventie Eskadron) but changed it’s name to DSU in 2001. It shares a very close bond with GIGN.
The elite counter-terrorism unit is also popularly known by the name of Diane (Group Diane). The team takes it’s name from Diana (also known as Diane) - the Greek goddess of birthing, hunting, and the moon.
Yamam – Israel
Yamam was established in 1974 after a terrorist attack in which heavily armed Palestinian militants dressed as Israeli soldiers stormed an elementary school in the Israeli town of Ma'alot and took 115 students and teachers hostage. The incident ended with the gunmen embarking on a shooting spree that left 25 hostages (22 of which were children) dead and another 70 wounded. All of the terrorists were killed by Israeli soldiers who stormed the school during the shooting spree.
The incident is commonly known as The Ma’alot Massacre.
Yamam (an acronym for Yehida Merkazit Meyuhedet or Central Special Unit) is Israel’s national-level counter-terror police strike team and is tasked with combating extremism on the Israeli mainland and within the Palestinian Territories. The team is a unit of the Israeli Border Police and is under the command of that agency.
Like many other law enforcement counter-terrorism teams throughout the world, Yamam has also been dispatched to handle incidents involving conventional but otherwise heavily-armed and dangerous criminals.
On September 8, 1992, the team shot and killed a mental deranged man after he stabbed four women to death at a psychiatric institution in Jerusalem.
Yamam is widely considered to be the best law enforcement tactical team in the world (yes, even better than HRT) and is reportedly said to be one of the top five hostage rescue teams – including both law enforcement and military – in the world.
Besides training with it’s sister law enforcement units the world over, HRT has also trained with various military counter-terrorism teams throughout the world, the most notable of which being Britain's Special Air Service (SAS). HRT also trains often with and has a close relationship with Seal Team Six and Delta Force, both of whom contributed much in helping HRT gain a world-class caliber of proficiency as a counter-terrorist force during it's early days. Delta Force was especially instrumental.
Tomorrow's Opponents of the Hostage Rescue Team
The following are future threats that criminal justice professionals believe HRT may have to go up against in the very near future. Many of these threats have long been sources of deep concern to the law enforcement community at the federal, state and municipal levels and include a wide array of individuals and groups that are both dark and extremely dangerous. In short, they threaten America's stability and way of life on an extraordinary level.
Emerging Threat: Mexican Drug Cartels and Cross-Border Violence
The current drug war in Mexico has claimed the lives of over 40,000 within the past decade.
The drug cartels in Mexico do not fear authorities and are even brazen enough to attack police stations. Police officers are typically overwhelmed by the sheer firepower the cartel gunmen employ during their assaults, including heavily caliber machine guns and rocket propelled grenade launchers (RPGs).
Local police are afraid of the drug cartels and often submit to them or turn a blind eye to their crimes to avoid confrontation. The full force of the federal police and even the military has done little to stem the tide of violence in the ongoing drug insurgency.
The ongoing conflict is threatening Mexico’s stability as a state.
As the Mexican drug war increasingly spills over into the U.S., a growing number of Americans now wonder if the violence that has gripped that nation in fear for so long will soon play out on the streets of U.S. cities with innocent bystanders trapped in the middle.
The cartels have shown little fear of American law enforcement.
Cartels seeking to expand their drug trafficking networks deep within the U.S. have shown themselves willing to do battle against rival cartels from Mexico and even local drug dealers and street gangs in U.S. cities.
Of particular concern are the Zetas, a cartel comprised almost entirely of special operations soldiers who defected from the Mexican Army for a life of wealth and crime through drug trafficking. Because of their wealth of military training and experience, the Zetas are said to be the most organized, best trained, and violent cartel in the Mexican drug war.
Illegal cross-border incursions into U.S. towns along the Southwest border region by heavily armed Army and Marine troops from Mexico are another concern. U.S. Border Patrol agents who have confronted these troops and ordered them to return to the Mexican side of the border have been threatened, assaulted and even shot at. Border Patrol agents and occasionally Texas Department of Public Safety officers (state police) are usually outnumbered and outgunned as they risk their personal safety when confronting Mexican soldiers or Marines. The Army or Marine troops making their illegal incursions from Mexico usually number as many as a dozen and are all armed with M-16 rifles. They travel in military Humvees with M-60 machine guns attached to the roofs.
Drones are being used by DHS to monitor drug trafficking  illegal immigration and other criminal act...
Drones are being used by DHS to monitor drug trafficking, illegal immigration and other criminal activity along the U.S.-Mexican border.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA(
Emerging Threat - Military Trained Urban Street Gangs
Urban street gang members with military training are a very severe and emerging public safety concern. In 2010, the FBI released a public statement in which it said urban street gangs with military training are a national security threat. Local police and the media have dubbed gangs with military training as "supergangs."
Some urban gangs are graduating from merely being a local public safety concern to becoming a national security threat thanks in large part to extensive warfare training they have received courtesy of the the U.S. Armed Forces.
The mass proliferation of gangs in the military are a direct result of lowered recruitment standards to fill the ranks during the occupation phase of the America's highly controversial adventure in Iraq. During that particular period, desperate military recruiters knowing (and most likely negligently) recruited thousands of convicted felons - some gang affiliated and some not - to satisfy enlistment quotas in the midst of a recruitment crisis for the controversial military occupation of Iraq.
Urban gangs like those of the Bloods, Crips, Latin Kings, Gangster Disciples, The 18th Street Gang, Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13), Mexican Mafia, Nortenos, Surenos, and Vice Lords and others are believed to have currently hundreds of members on the U.S. military.
Besides receiving high-end training, gang members in the military sometimes smuggle assault rifles, grenades and other military-grade weaponry out of armories and into the hands of their fellow gang bangers on the streets.
The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) acknowledges the phenomenon of gang bangers within the ranks of the military as a growing public safety concern warranting attention, but generally does not agree with civilian law enforcement on the severity of the threat. DOD does not share the FBI's sentiments about this unique concern rising to the level of a national security threat.
United States Army soldiers in training.
United States Army soldiers in training.
Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod - United States Army
According to the DOD, of the 1.2 million servicemen and women within the ranks of the Armed Forces - Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force - no more than 1,000 are believed to be members of an urban street gang. However, military police have been ordered to step up efforts to combat this threat and now work even closer with their civilian counterparts.
Criminal justice experts warn that warfare training from the U.S. military will significantly enhance the lethality of street gang violence and endanger law-abiding citizens in residential communities - both urban and suburban - throughout America.
Emerging Threat: The Disgruntled War Veteran
The disgruntled war veteran is the typical tale of the heroic soldier who has performed valiantly for the U.S. on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan but upon returning home is unable to reassimilate into mainstream civilian society and has trouble reconciling the horrors he experienced while overseas.
War veterans suffering from significant emotional and psychological issues, dissatisfaction with their post-war life in conventional civilian society, or bitter about what they perceive as a lack of recognition and respect for their contributions and sacrifices through their service to the U.S. may be privy to violence against innocent civilian lives.
This past spring, the Centre for Military Health Research at King’s College London released a study that revealed British soldiers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan and who have participated in active combat were more likely to commit violent crime than their civilian counterparts.
The study found that male soldiers in combat roles had a 70 to 80 percent higher risk of becoming violent criminals and were more than 50 percent likely than those in non-combat roles to commit assaults or threaten violence after returning home from war.
The disgruntled war veteran is a unique challenge for the American law enforcement community.
Soldiers with a special operations background who decide to go rouge, take up a life of crime, or simply undergo an emotional or psychological breakdown are uniquely dangerous and would present a nightmare opponent for any tactical law enforcement team.
United States Army Special Operations troops during training.
United States Army Special Operations troops during training.
Trish Harris - United States Army
Emerging Threat: State Terrorism
U.S. officials have recently expressed concern over the possibility that intelligence agents and Revolutionary Guard troops quietly residing in the U.S. on sleeper cell status, may launch acts of terrorism against this nation in retaliation for any attack on the Islamic Republic of Iran by the U.S.
The long feared sleeper cell threat may finally materialize if the U.S. and Iran go to war.
The ongoing cold war between these two nations has been a leading source of international tension. The U.S. and many European nations have long been in dispute with Iran over it's nuclear energy program, which many believe to be a clandestine nuclear weapons project. The U.S. has also expressed anger towards Iran over it’s threats towards Israel.
It is not unthinkable to believe that the Iranian regime would be forward thinking enough to quietly place undercover intelligence agents and special operations troops in U.S. cities with the expressed purpose of using vicious terrorism to cripple the U.S. or turn public opinion against a war with Iran.
Of particular concern is the regime’s Quds Force, a special military commando unit of the Revolutionary Guards that specializes in assassinations and unconventional warfare (terrorism) on the mainlands of various Western nations.
The Quds Force is believed to have anywhere from several dozen to hundreds of members quietly living in North America as well as in Europe.
The Quds Force is also suspected to have trained Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in unconventional warfare tactics.
Emerging Threat: Nuclear Weapon Armed Terrorists in an American City
This is considered a nightmare scenario for the U.S. government and HRT’s ultimate challenge.
Government concerns about nuclear-armed terrorists in an American city date back to the 80’s. However, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, those concerns have increased ten-fold.
The most likely culprit to launch a nuclear attack within a U.S. city remains al-Qaida. That particular terrorist organization has long made it’s desires known to obtain and detonate a nuclear device within a U.S. city and kill millions while crippling the rest of the nation with a wave of mourning and fear.
The skyline looking south at dusk from the observation deck at Rockefeller Center in Midtown Manhatt...
The skyline looking south at dusk from the observation deck at Rockefeller Center in Midtown Manhattan-New York City.
Dschwen (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Not only would a nuclear attack outright destroy a city; it would also ruin the U.S. economy. This would be especially true if the attack took place in New York City - al-Qaida’s favorite target and what many experts believe to be the most likely site for such an attack by terrorists (with Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles a close second).
It is no secret that New York City would be the most attractive target for such an attack.
HRT has a mandate from the U.S. government as the lead civilian entity for providing a forceful response to resolve an incident involving terrorists armed with a nuclear weapon on U.S. soil.
This apocalyptic-type nightmare is a matter that has received an immense amount of attention from both HRT and the FBI as well as the U.S. government as a whole.
Members of the FBI s Hostage Rescue Team dressed in special Chemical  Biological  Radiological  and ...
Members of the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team dressed in special Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) protective gear conduct training. The team considers a group of terrorists armed with a nuclear weapon inside of an American city as it's ultimate challenge and is the best prepared tactical team in civilian law enforcement to handle such a crisis. However, while nuclear weapons are the top concern, biological, radiological and chemical weapons are also very high level concerns.
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
No other law enforcement tactical unit in the nation is more prepared to handle such an operation.
The U.S. Army’s super secretive Delta Force also has a mandate to take down any group of terrorists in possession of a nuclear weapon on U.S. soil.
HRT and Delta Force are the last line of defense in such a situation and may work alone or in tandem to stop the terrorists and take possession of the nuclear weapon which would be turned over to government scientists.
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