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The Trends of Corrections Special Operations

STL Joseph Garcia

Progressive Training – that is, training centered on multiple threat operations – appears to be gaining traction in the CERT world. Thankfully, the days of “hats and bats” are over; nowadays teams are focusing their budgets and training time on becoming proficient with leaner, meaner and more flexible equipment.

For traditional large teams, which are in most cases overloaded with obsolete gear, this represents a new and potentially challenging trend in team management, budgeting, staffing, and training. In the new world of progressive training, an off year in terms of personnel problems or budget shortcomings could jeopardize the efficacy of the entire unit. Smaller units that have adopted the progressive training doctrine are easier to train and equip, more mobile, more flexible, and have TOEs (Tables of Organization and Equipment) modeled along the lines of the military’s special forces. This module has worked for elite special operations forces for quite some time, and it also applies to CERT units.

Self-contained, high-speed training is just one of the characteristics that distinguish progressively trained teams from those of the traditional model. Prior to 2003, many team operated with large and cumbersome equipment and tactics; in the past three years we have seen a definite shift to teams that are streamlined in equipment and train in high speed, flexible operational tactics. Many teams that as few as three years ago were deploying with “B tier” gear have converted to “A tier” gear that includes the SE532 Green laser system, barrier shield, Specialized Jump Suits, Matterhorn boots, CEOTronics Head Comm Gear and other similar high-speed equipment.

When it comes to training, progressively trained teams have become proficient in CHRT, Close Quarter Riot Control, Rapid Deployment High Risk Security Patrols, and formal High Risk Inmate Transport Operations. These specialized types of training are now available for these smaller, more flexible teams. However, because the progressively trained model is so new, some teams have been trained by uncertified instructors. Many commanders are realizing the potentially disastrous impact of this in-house inbreeding. Untrained instructors make for unproven tactics and unproven tactics can pose serious combat issues for any CERT unit, regardless of size or model.

Within the progressively trained model, specialized units are just one of the areas that CERT units around the world have adopted. Even more progressive teams are redefining the concepts of Correctional Breaching, CERT Tactical Medics, Correctional Designated Marksman Ops, Vertical assault team (formerly known simply as Rappelling Operations). For example, US C-SOG has the world’s only Correctional/Prison Special Operations Vertical assault school. Some of the areas of operations include confined space assault operations (Elevator shafts for the untrained), External assault ops, Dorm fast rope ops, External and internal multi-tier assault ops, including how to breach from a rappel strong hold, shoot for vertical assault positions, etc. You may be wondering why many CERT units have these specialized teams: It’s simply because we have learned to become self-contained, and to develop and deploy our organic resources as circumstances demand.

The progressively trained model weds new and emerging technology, equipment, and resources to specific mission requirements. How many times have we operators invested in equipment based on what we’ve read or what the equipment looks like – with no real evaluation program or system in place? The progressively trained model makes sure our equipment is tested and evaluated for our purposes before we make a significant investment in it.

For example, the CERT Tactical Network tested the Taser and Stinger tools; in the end, CTN experts (highly experienced operators) determined that for CERT combat operations the Stinger is the weapon of choice for CERT Operators. The CTN also tested the pepper ball and FN303 and determined that the FN303 was a less lethal weapon that served many combat operations in a variety positions and tactics.

Beyond training and gear, the progressively trained model demands more from operators. Because of the variety of missions operators may be called upon to execute in the progressively trained team, they must be more motivated, in better physical shape, and mentally prepared. They must be highly knowledgeable in the Use of Force continuum and disciplined to deploy the proper amount of force for the given situation. These are just some of the characteristics that 21ST century operators must possess. Teams that are adopting the progressively trained model understand that our prison systems are getting more violent and inmates are not playing. With violence on the increase, teams must have the tools, training, and staffing necessary to protect facility, staff, and inmate safety and security. The progressively trained model provides a roadmap to the future of CERT operations.

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