The force is PMO’s Special Reaction Team and their mission is to deal with extreme criminal situations on Marine Corps installations, such as barricaded suspects and hostage situations.
The Special Reaction Team serves as PMO’s Special Weapons and Tactics team.
They operate on the same level as civilian police SWAT teams and constantly train to prepare for extreme situations. The team conducted a building takedown during a mock hostage situation Jan. 24 at the Camp Lester Middle School.
The SRT Marines drove up to the school, disembarked and began assembling their gear and developing a plan to assault the mock assailants inside the school. The school is composed of five buildings and contains dozens of rooms calling for a detailed entry plan. The team studied the building layout while 14 Marines from Landing Support Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 37, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, posed as mock aggressors and hid themselves throughout the school.
Prior to entry, Sgt. John Rosales, team leader with SRT, ensured his Marines understood the plan, rules of engagement and how to properly handle any noncombatants they might encounter. As a final bit of motivation, Rosales casually told the SRT Marines to deal with any aggressors they might encounter, ‘accordingly’.
After the brief, it was game on for the Marines as they entered the school armed with their standard equipment of M-4 carbines, M-9 pistols, flak jackets, radios and flex cuffs. The 11 Marines quickly secured the main reception area and then split into two teams to secure the ground and top floors.
“Normally if we are entering small buildings such as houses, we have one small team enter so that we can move quickly and efficiently,” said Rosales. “But with bigger structures, such as the school, we enter as a large team and then separate to secure it quickly.”
The teams moved throughout the school, securing room after room. During the room clearing, the team encountered mock assailants who threatened the Marines with mock weapons. Using their close-quarters battle skills, sharpened through constant training, the SRT Marines quickly took down and detained the aggressors. A few aggressors, having been told beforehand to act aggressively if they felt like it, found themselves quickly on the ground, weapons removed and defeated.
“I think a lot of them didn’t expect to get taken down hard and fast like that,” Rosales said with a laugh. “CQB is what we do, everyday it’s always some kind of CQB training. We believe in making ourselves hard targets and using the necessary amount of force in every situation, which deters force against us.”
The aggressors were quickly defeated one by one, and the SRT Marines moved to secure the entire school. The team detained 14 aggressors and cleared and secured five buildings in 21 minutes.
Rosales, one of the senior Marines on the team, grudgingly admitted that the Marines did ‘okay,’ but said that there is always room for improvement.
The middle school was the first of several schools where the SRT Marines hope to train.
“I eventually want to have these Marines to have practiced at every [military] school on the island,” said Rosales. “That way, we can come up with a unique plan based on experience with every school if a situation ever occurs. I’ll train these Marines at any sort of structure that we are allowed to; it’s what will make us better.”
Cpl. Jason Hillman, a primary breacher with SRT, attributed the team’s success to their high level of training and camaraderie.
“We’ve rehearsed assault plans like this multiple times,” he said. “Practice makes perfect, and we definitely practice a lot. Additionally, everyone on the team loves doing their job, and us being so close is what makes doing what we do easy. Every man on the team knows that if they ever have to enter a hostage situation, their teammates will have their back.”