Other Special Operations Forces

FBI Hostage Rescue Team (HRT)

The Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) is the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Counter-Terrorism tactical unit. The Hostage Rescue Team was founded in 1982 in preparation for the Los Angeles Olympic Games, as a response to possible terrorist actions, such as occurred at the Munich Games. But the real cause for the unit’s creation was for legal reasons: the Department of Justice had criticised the common practice of using the US Army’s Delta Force (the only Counter-Terrorism unit existing at that time in the U.S.) on the territory of the U.S. because of the Posse Comitatus Act, which restricts US military involvement in civilian law enforcement duties.

The HRT became part of the Critical Incident Response Group upon its formation in 1994 as a result of the need to consolidate the assets necessary to respond to a critical incident in one group. Its purpose was, and still is, to serve as a domestic Counter-Terrorism unit, to offer a tactical resolution option in hostage and high-risk law enforcement situations. It originally comprised 5 operators, and this number has increased since. The members of the HRT are among the most highly trained and best-equipped tactical personnel in the world, although they have rarely been called upon to fulfil their original mandate of rescuing hostages. The HRT commonly functions as a national SWAT team in highly sensitive or dangerous situations.

The HRT is known to train with units such as the Army’s Combat Applications Group (otherwise known as 1-st SFOD-D Delta Force), France’s GIGN, Britain’s SAS, Germany’s GSG 9 and other international units.

The operators of the HRT are selected on a strictly volunteer basis after successful completion of an extremely rigorous and demanding two week selection tryout. After a four-month initial training period, they are headquartered at the FBI Academy, Quantico. In 2003, members of the HRT were deployed on more than 200 missions, including to Afghanistan and Iraq.

The HRT was a participant in the infamous incidents at Ruby Ridge and Waco, as well as at the hostage rescues of prison guards at Talladega, Alabama, and St. Martinville, Louisiana. Both of these incidents led to changes on when the HRT is used or not.

What is HRT?

The FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) was established in 1983 to be a national level counterterrorist unit, offering a tactical option for any extraordinary hostage crisis or other law enforcement situation that may occur within the United States. Today, HRT responds to the most urgent and complex FBI cases in the U.S. and abroad. It is part of the Tactical Support Branch of the FBIs Critical Incident Response Group (CIRG), and is based at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia.

Tactical Recruiting Program.

The operational tempo for HRT has been high in the years since the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01. This has required that the staffing of HRT be increased to meet these demands. For the first time, the FBI is seeking candidates with special tactical qualifications, to become Special Agents (SA), and to serve as HRT Operators. This competitive program will be open to candidates with extensive tactical experience. To qualify, candidates must be fully qualified as Special Agents, and possess at least three years of either law enforcement or military tactical experience. Tactical candidates should be in excellent physical condition. Performance on the Special Agent Physical Fitness Test is expected in excess of minimum requirements. Physical fitness is one of the dimensions evaluated in this competitive program. Candidates must also demonstrate motivation and commitment to apply for the HRT when eligible, and to serve on the team if selected. Persons employed under the FBI Tactical SA program will receive accelerated eligibility to attend HRT selection, with possible assignment to the HRT.

To apply for the FBI Tactical Recruiting Program (TRP), applicants must first apply for the FBI Special Agent position using the on-line application. The link to the TRP application is located at the end of the SA application. Those candidates who qualify as SA applicants and the TRP based on the on-line applications, will be scheduled for the Phase I test. Those candidates who pass the Phase I test will then have a telephonic interview with the TRP program manager at HRT to ensure the candidate is fully informed about the TRP as it relates to the SA hiring process, and that the candidate understands all of the ramifications of the program.

Those candidates who pass the telephonic interview will continue their processing as TRP candidates. Those candidates not deemed eligible as TRP candidates will be so informed, and will continue their SA processing under their original critical skills category. Those persons not accepted as TRP candidates, who later become FBI SAs, will be eligible to try out for HRT under existing program guidelines.

You Should Know:

TRP candidates must understand that they are applying for the SA position first, and must gain at least two years of FBI investigative experience before receiving transfer to HRT. Selection to HRT is not guaranteed. After completing New Agents Training and being assigned to a field office to gain investigative experience, the candidate must compete for a place on HRT by attending a two-week selection course. HRT Selection tests for physical fitness, firearms skills, problem-solving ability, leadership, team compatibility, and other characteristics deemed essential for an HRT Operator. TRP candidates should understand that, if accepted to HRT, the minimum term is four years. There is no mandated maximum term, assuming continued satisfactory performance. There are promotional opportunities within the HRT structure, as Operators gain experience, to serve as team leaders or in other positions of leadership on HRT. HRT Operators are eligible to return to the field in an investigative role, or may compete for other FBI management positions, after completing the HRT tour.

Who can join HRT?

Selection to HRT is open to all FBI Special Agents who have achieved a prescribed level of FBI investigative experience, and have demonstrated excellent firearms and physical fitness skills.

Tactical Experience Requirements.

To qualify for the Tactical Recruiting Program (TRP), you will need to bring some special skills, talents, and experience. All candidates will be rated based on their experience levels, and the most qualified will be eligible for this program. Each candidate will have the opportunity to summarize tactical training and experience in the Tactical Recruiting Program on-line application, which may be accessed after completing the Special Agent application. Here is a snapshot of those qualifications.

Must have at least 3 years of tactical experience in either law enforcement or the military.

Law Enforcement Experience:

  • With a Federal Agency tactical team (This category includes all Military Police.).
  • Or with a Local/County/State Agency or Department tactical team.

– Full-time tactical team experience will carry more weight than part-time experience.

– Completion of continuing education courses in at least three of the following: Basic SWAT Advanced SWAT Hostage Rescue High Risk Arrest Barricaded Subject Basic Sniper/Observer Advanced Sniper/Observer Tactical Firearms Mechanical Breaching

Military Experience Army
Combat Arms experience. Service in Special Forces Group or Ranger Regiment will carry more weight.

Military Experience Navy
Must have served in the Naval Special Warfare Community as a SEAL or Naval Special Warfare Officer.

Military Experience Marine Corps
Combat Arms experience.

Military Experience Air Force
Must have served in Combat Controller, Combat Rescue (Pararescue), or Tactical Air Control Party fields.

Physical Fitness.

Tactical candidates should be in superior physical condition. Performance on the Special Agent Physical Fitness Test is one of the dimensions scored in this competitive program, and is expected in excess of minimum requirements. Expected performance is in the range of:

50 sit-ups in one minute
50 push-ups
1.5 mile run in 11:09 or less
10 pull-ups

Tactical Candidates who become FBI Special Agents and later attend HRT selection will be required to take the HRT Fitness Test. The Basic HRT Fitness Test consists of pull-ups, sit-ups, push-ups, and a two mile run. Minimum standards for HRT selectees are:

12 pull-ups
60 sit-ups in two minutes
50 push-ups
2 mile run in under 14:59

These are minimum standards. HRT candidates should strive to score well in excess of these minimums. The tasks which HRT Operators must be prepared to undertake require excellent physical condition, endurance, and perseverance. HRT selection reflects these requirements, and is very physically and mentally challenging.

The Selection Process.

FBI Special Agents who are invited to attend an HRT selection course undergo a physically rigorous and mentally demanding evaluation process. HRT selection is designed to identify those candidates with the physical toughness, mental acuity, and strength of character to operate in the demanding counterterrorist environment. Because a relative few possess all of these characteristics, attrition from selection is high.

Specialized Training and Resources.

When not deployed operationally, HRT conducts training at the FBI Academy and at sites across the nation. The instruction, simulations, and exercises involve highly specialized counterterrorist tactics and techniques. With leading-edge integrated capabilities, which include aviation, maritime, and ground assets, HRT stands as one of the nations most sophisticated law enforcement tactical units.

Being a member of HRT entails great responsibilities as well as great opportunities. HRT members must be ready to deploy on short notice to any location in the United States, or internationally. They perform a wide range of law enforcement tactical functions in all environments, under a variety of conditions. With its enhanced training, resources, and manpower, HRT is designed to confront the most complex of threats. HRT candidates must be ready to make a significant personal and professional commitment. While the selection process, training, travel, and daily operational tempo are highly challenging, equally exceptional are the opportunities to make important contributions to the FBI and to the United States.

Mission profiles include

  • Hostage rescue
  • Barricaded subjects
  • Helicopter operations
  • High-risk raids, searches, arrests, and warrants
  • Mobile assaults
  • Manhunt and rural operations
  • Maritime operations
  • Cold/extreme weather operations
  • Dignitary protection
  • Force protection for FBI personnel overseas
  • Assistance to military special missions




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