Tuesday, April 10, 2007

"Milles Enfantes"

Which either means "a thousand babies" or "baby steps". For a long time it was our unofficial motto. When Ron was first putting together the tactical team he had to fight a beauracracy that didn't like change; other agency members who didn't want an elite; people who felt it would be 'unfair' and possibly a violation of labor law to only include people in good shape who could fight; and a huge lack of information. Very few other corrections systems had teams. Most of those were little more than getting the biggest guys, putting them in armor and giving them big sticks.

The fact that there wasn't a lot of information didn't prevent people from trying to sell it. One of the vendors Ron interviewed included MBE in the alphabet soup of letters after his name.

"What does that stand for?" Ron asked.
"Member of the British Empire," the vendor said proudly.
"You're a whack job," Ron said, "get out of my office."

The vendor we originally went with was worthless, but we didn't know it for a while.

Here's a thing, as I try to shepherd this motley crew in a transition from an extraction and riot control team to a full service team that can handle anything up to technical hostage rescue: If we define a successful hostage rescue as one in which the tactical team had to go in, none of the hostages or team were injured and none of the hostage takers escaped, name an agency that has had two successful hostage rescues. Then go on-line and do a search for, say, "hostage rescue training". Where do all of these experts come from?

Starting the team was like that- lots of ignorance and lots of people willing to sell imaginary knowledge.

Baby steps. As we learned and trained, Ron would say it often. Baby steps. "You guys will never be activated." Then one day we got the pagers. Baby steps. "Well, you got the pagers, but you'll never get a budget." Small the first year, but we got a training and equipment budget. "You guys will never be called out." Six months after the inception, we had our first call-out. A full scale riot. We coordinated with another agency for the breaching capability and it went well. Tactically perfect. Upper management in our own agency were overheard saying, "Who were the guys in black? What do you mean we have a team for stuff like this? Why didn't I know about it?" Baby steps.

The training and recruiting picked up piece by piece.

A large scale disaster drill: "That's all well and good but who around here has the capacity to hold and control a large group of people in an uncontrolled environment?" "We can," Ron said, "It's basic jailin'"

"What resources do we have for high-risk transport of high-profile offenders?" Ron raised his hand: he'd arranged specialized EVOC and training with a Federal unit who handled those missions.

Urban disaster rescue and body search from the Office of Emergency Management. WMD classes from FEMA. Instructors for almost every less lethal platform on the market. Combat lifesavers. First responders. Commercial driver's licenses.

A sergeant from the enforcement tactical team- within our agency but outside the jails- had his feelings hurt. A neighboring jurisdiction had asked for my team, not his. "You're nothing but a cell extraction team," he sneered (or maybe pouted.)

"Look around. Every one of your officer survival classes is taught by one of us. My team is teaching you to shoot, to fight and to search buildings."

Baby steps.

Craig's going away party was this morning. He's headed for greener pastures and I hope the best for him. In all the years we've bled and sweat together I never once had to look over my shoulder to see if he was there.

Part of his farewell speech (we're mostly brawlers, a long speech from us is about ten sentences):
"Over the years, we've experienced something that very few people in this world have," he frowned a bit, "and they probably shouldn't..."

Henry the Fifth's St. Crispin's day speech was in my head: "We few, we merry few, we band of brothers, for he that sheds his blood with me today is my brother..."

Good roads, my brother.

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