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Local SWAT teams conduct exercise at Onizuka AFS
ONIZUKA AIR FORCE STATION, Calif. -- Officials with the Santa Clara, Calif., Special Weapons and Tactics team set up operations at Onizuka Air Force Station, Calif., in preparation of a multi-jurisdictional exercise with base officials March 26. The exercise tested local agencies' counterterrorism and high-risk law enforcement capabilities. (U.S. Air Force photo/Valerie Joseph)
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Local SWAT teams conduct exercise at Onizuka AFS

Posted 4/2/2008   Updated 4/2/2008 Email story   Print story


by Valerie Joseph
21st Space Operations Squadron Public Affairs

4/2/2008 - ONIZUKA AIR FORCE STATION, Calif. -- To the casual observer, it might have appeared as if Onizuka Air Force Station was under siege March 26 when Special Weapons and Tactics teams converged in the parking lot mid-morning. 

About 50 weapons-toting, armor-wearing police officers from Sunnyvale and Santa Clara's SWAT teams came here to put their specialized training - domestic counter-terrorism and high-risk law enforcement operations - to the test. 

Base officials invited local SWAT team members to conduct operations at Onizuka in a multi-jurisdictional exercise with Air Force members. Maj. Scott Selchert, the base's chief of security forces, said the exercise had tremendous benefit for everyone involved, adding the installation is heavily dependent on the surrounding community in the event of a high-risk situation. 

"What was truly beneficial about the exercise was only a handful of people knew what the entire event was going to be," the major said. "Onizuka readiness folks put this event together very quietly and challenged us with the level of detail they threw at us." 

The exercise scenario involved a disgruntled base employee who 'shot' a guard and took three people hostage. After the 'shooter' hid in the vastness of the Blue Cube, base officials directed all employees to remain in their offices while base security and SWAT team members searched and cleared approximately 20,000 square feet of unoccupied office space. At the same time, base commander Lt. Col. Sam McNiel activated the Emergency Operations Center to support operations. 

Once the 'shooter' was located, a hostage negotiation team made contact to try and resolve the emotionally charged event. 

"This was a prime opportunity to test our needs with their capabilities," Major Selchert said. "It also afforded SWAT and hostage negotiation team members the opportunity to test their abilities in an unfamiliar environment and out of the public eye." 

The joint exercise tested every aspect of SWAT operations, hostage negotiations and coordination with the Air Force, and base officials declared it a complete success. 

"This was a great opportunity for 21st SOPS security members and our incident commander to work with local police agencies," Colonel McNiel said. "We often have to simulate their response during exercises; this time there were real people with real weapons and equipment on site. I think all agencies involved in the exercise learned a lot about working together and the environment here at Onizuka. 

"This was a good use of some of the space in 'the cube' we're not using for operations anymore," the colonel added. "We have a multimillion-dollar facility, and the more we can use it in ways that contribute to the defense of the country, the better stewards we're being of taxpayers' dollars."

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