Smoke On The Water
By Brian J. Stas
Here I am cold, wet and sandy swimming in the dark toward a shore I can barely see loaded with gear. Add the fact that a great white shark just killed a man in these very waters last week to the equation, and the “pucker factor” has been raised. I can feel every goose bump on my skin. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m immersed in a new tactical waterborne course developed by SEAL veterans John Beltran and Jason Padilla. Two men who although highly trained and combat branded were able to communicate with each of us like we knew them for years. The course was devised to help bridge the gap in law enforcement tactics and military special ops tactics in the water. It is all too common for law enforcement to look at the water as an obstacle rather then seeing it as an asset.
Myself and the other students work together to learn the most we can in this environment. The students come from law enforcement and military backgrounds. Although some of us have had some time in the water, the tactics taught by these two professionals are humbling.
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Before moving into anything high speed, first we must be comfortable in the water environment. It doesn’t matter if it’s the ocean or a pond. Safety is always first. A poor choice in gear or clothing can lead to your quick demise. So learning about the different types of water and its effect on people with gear in this environment is paramount.
Whether protecting or assaulting in the water, stealth is always a main component to a waterborne tactical opera- tion. Like smoke on the water operators must be able to fade in and out of this environment without detection. This can be an enormous challenge given the many different types of weather and other natural or man made obstacles. Imag- ine attempting a shore landing to an observation post and a sudden storm or fog rolls in. Things can sink really fast, pun intended. We spend a lot of time just being in the water, learning how to navigate in it, be it dark or daylight. With confidence in this environment came enlightenment and a fresh outlook on the many options the water can provide to the operator.
The course enhanced the student’s ability to succeed in the many duties they have to per- form in the water. Such as, search and rescue, tactical operations, reconnaissance, navigation, port security, ship boarding and clearing, to name a few.
Another helpful section of the course was the gear and weapons instruction. Tips on how to develop a waterborne team for law enforce- ment, acquire boats gear selection and weap- ons care were welcomed. Police department budgets can be very strained these days and these tips help provide the officers with op- tions to either birth their waterborne needs or improve on them.
Whether you like it or not, if your area of operation includes some type of water, chances are your going to end up in it. How deep depends on how well prepared for it you are. Maybe it’s to search for a perp who has taken a hostage at gunpoint and fled on a boat to a small island laden with booby traps. Or maybe it could be a team of terrorists about to try to take out a bridge in your area of patrol. Years ago I learned a term I will never for get.” Not on my watch”! I pray you are all watching.