By Colleen Flaherty
Killeen Daily Herald
FORT HOOD - With 61 million travelers passing through Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport each year, its Department of Public Safety's SWAT team has to be ready for anything.
Four days of preparing for just that concluded Thursday with a mock hostage situation at Boaz, one of several Middle-Eastern-looking "villages," or modern operations in urban terrain courses, at Fort Hood.
By all accounts, the scenario - in which a gunman took a police station desk officer hostage and demanded to speak to the chief after becoming irate about a traffic ticket - 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 explosive-breaching techniques, sniper practice and dynamic entry skills learned throughout the week all had been incorporated.
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 and two snipers via radio.
He 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 area law enforcement agencies, according to Fort Hood officials.
The Dallas SWAT team's visit was inspired in part by officer Tim Ellis, a former 1st Cavalry Division soldier who trained at the urban warfare sites between deployments to Iraq.
It was fun to be back at Fort Hood training again, he said.
"Riding past all the firing ranges, the guys were like, 'What's that, Timmy? And what's this thing?'" he said, smiling. "It brings back so many memories."
Contact Colleen Flaherty at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7559. Follow her on Twitter at KDHFortHood.