Elite Unit Prepares For Maritime Operations, Uses Illinois River as Conduit
Ottawa – Today, the Illinois State Police Special Weapons of Mass Destruction Team (SWMDT) conducted a maritime dignitary protection training scenario along the banks of the Illinois River near Heritage Harbor Marina in suburban LaSalle County. ISP SWMD officials said that this is the Agency’s second largest training exercise this year.
The Agency’s SWMDT was designated by a Governor's mandate in 2000 to be prepared for a unified response to any nuclear, chemical, or biological threat in Illinois. Led by State Police Special Operations, the elite Unit is divided into north, central, and south divisions. ISP’s Special Operations also commands the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Unit, and has the ability to deploy ISP SWAT resources to address human threats, followed by a multi-agency response to prevent and/or mitigate any Weapons of Mass Destruction threat.
The SWMDT is comprised of specialists from the Secretary of State's Bomb Squad, National Guard's Civil Support Team, Illinois Emergency Management Agency, Department of Public Health, Environmental Protection Agency, and the Illinois Medical Emergency Response Team.
The semi-annual training conducted at the end of the year is part of the Special Operations Command’s on-going efforts to train unit members to master their specialized skills. This training exercise included the maritime patrols using zodiac boats and specialized surveillance equipment. The SWMDT often trains in urban and rural areas to prepare for various contingency operations.
“ISP SWAT utilizes opportunities such as this to hone the skills of our officers so that they are well prepared for any crisis response mission,” said ISP Director Hiram Grau. “Their specialized skills, knowledge base, equipment, and response tactics may be called upon at a moment’s notice, and we want them to be unequivocally prepared for the unknown.”
In 2011, ISP Special Operations Command conducted 300 tabletops and remote training missions that involved a variety of high-risk operations, response, and preparedness tactics. Today’s live training exercise is the second largest conducted this year and challenges the unit’s ability on rules of engagement, evacuation, communication and trauma response to an area hospital.
The Unit trains once every week, and many surrounding and local municipalities rely on ISP SWAT/SWMDT for tactical operations support and assistance.
The Officer in Charge underscored that training also reinforces practical experience when operating in an all hazards environment, particularly with large scale international security events like the NATO Summit and the Ryder Cup Golf Tournament.
“Our mission continues to focus on the highest level of tactical performance and training that challenges our response capability for the unexpected,” said ISP Special Operations Master Sergeant Bob Gembara. “Our officers have specialized training at every level of operational tactics and understand that every threat, every hazard, and every crisis will require high risk response operations,” he added.
ISP SWAT and SWMDT are fully certified as the State’s law enforcement response for any type of tactical or hazardous crisis and are dedicated 24 hours.