By Colleen Flaherty
Fort Hood Herald
At 9:31 a.m. Thursday, an armed gunman took a desk officer at a police station hostage, demanding to talk to his chief about a traffic violation ticket.
A background check revealed the gunman to have numerous prior offenses.
With that briefing, more than a dozen members of the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport Department of Public Safety SWAT team deployed to Modern Operations in Urban Terrain Site Boaz, ready to rescue their brother from simulated harm.
Boaz is one of several Middle-Eastern-looking "villages" in Fort Hood's remote training areas used to prepare soldiers for urban warfare, including room clearance. Post officials also make the training areas available to various law enforcement agencies.
The Dallas-based SWAT team's mock-hostage exercise was the culmination of four days of intense training last week that included long-distance sniper training, explosive breaching and dynamic entry skills.
By all accounts, the scenario was as realistic as possible.
"This enforces what all the guys who have been with us a while know, and is new practice and training for guys who haven't been with us very long," said team trainer Sgt. Jay Shipp, adding that the team is often tasked with dignitary protection detail - in addition to the ultimate well-being of the 61 million travelers who pass through the airport each year.
In fact, the scenario was a little too realistic for officer Scott Boucher, who played the role of captive.
"Did you like it when he hit me in the head?" Boucher asked the team during an after-action review, gesturing to his captor, Sgt. Jason Byers, who was taken down by the team after shooting officer Joe Hernandez with a colored Simunition round. "I was like, God (darn), man, that was supposed to be pretend!"
Officer Mark Hamilton joked, "You've got some frustration to work out."
Lt. Jon Taylor, team commander, observed and directed the exercise from his vehicle, communicating with the assault team via radio, as well as two snipers, whose primary job was to gather intelligence on the gunman's location in the building.
Taylor said he was pleased with what he saw, and that the training Fort Hood's facilities provided was far beyond what could have been accomplished in the population-dense Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex and with the distractions of everyday work.
"We're going home knowing this was well worth the trip," said the lieutenant.
Bunking together at North Fort Hood's "tent city" also helped build team camaraderie, said Shipp.
The urban warfare training sites are open for free training use to law enforcement agencies.
"Fort Hood routinely allows various law enforcement agencies to use our range facilities, which offer training that may not be available to the civilian sector," garrison commander Col. Mark Freitag said in a written statement.
"By allowing these agencies to use these facilities, it allows Fort Hood to contribute in a small way to their ability to have greater success in providing public safety and protection for our civilian and military communities."
The Dallas SWAT team's visit was inspired in part by SWAT officer Tim Ellis, a former 1st Cavalry Division soldier who trained at the urban warfare sites between deployments to Iraq through 2005.
It was fun to be back at Fort Hood training again, he said.
"It brings back so many memories."
Contact Colleen Flaherty at email@example.com or (254) 501-7559. Follow her on Twitter at KDHFortHood.