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Correctional Hostage Rescue Operations - CHRT - Part 2

STL Joseph Garcia

Taking Your Team to the Next Level the Right Way

“Our team is CHRT trained and we sent a couple of guys to SWAT school.” This statement should cause every administrator and CERT Commander great concern. Countless units are operating under the false impression that they are ready to handle responsibilities as difficult as corrections hostage rescue with minimal training and preparation. It will take more than a week of class to get your team ready for CHRT operations. It will surely take you longer to work out the bugs in these operations. If you have been trained by a SWAT / Military oriented group, be warned now that your agency faces the possibility of receiving the wrong or non-industry related training. It is unfortunately similar to a neurosurgeon being sent to a heart specialist school and returning a proclaimed authority on the brain. CHRT training is demanding, specific, and technical, and most training programs will not provide adequate preparation. Your unit needs to meet CHRT standards, anything less is a liability to operators and everyone else in your facility.

Self CHRT Audit

Do you think your team can properly conduct corrections hostage rescue operations? Often, teams will brag that they are prepared, equipped, and capable. I say great, let’s see what you’ve got! It is important that CHRT have the equipment, training, understanding, and mindset required to be successful in these hazardous situations. There are many situations and considerations specific to corrections operations that urban training does not properly address. That’s fine – they train for urban situations. You work in corrections; you need to be prepared. Are you? Let’s find out. Don’t worry – no one is looking, only you and this article. Ready?

Does your team have:

Breachers? – That’s right a breacher! Does your team have a specialist who can breach in corrections facilities? Our Master Breacher Senior Chief Felix Aponte (one of the nations premiere non-explosive Prison Breachers) lovingly calls them “can openers.” Breaching in correctional facilities has a different set of difficulties and considerations than in urban environments. A team that can rescue and fight will be worthless if they can’t get in the door (which is probably made to not move, it is a prison). What is a corrections specific breacher? Our class, taught by Senior Chief Aponte’s is one of the most rigorous breaching programs in the prison / corrections world. At the end of the course, our breachers will be able to successfully breach in low light, from a rappel line, through brick walls and steel doors, make holes in roofs, manipulate locks, thermal cut, cold cut, use the new Shock Breach method, and much more. This is a critical element to any CHRT unit. No breacher, no entry! And don’t think you can have the police breach for you. If the police breachers are trained to work in corrections operations, it is unlikely that this breacher you don’t know will work smoothly with your team. Their breacher works with their team. So get a breacher. Train him. Don’t forget equipment. The police won’t share theirs, or it won’t be reliably available. Get the best equipment you can and train with it. It is that important.

Snipers (Inside and Outside Capability)

You say your snipers have .308 rifles, spotters, 100 – 300 yard shots, cold barrel shot, min to angle, yada yada… you know the language. As a graduate of the USMC Advanced Urban Designated Marksman’s Program, I can tell you that before you think all your sniper shots are going to be from the outside with a .308, you should consider the following.

The majority of hostage situations are isolated inside a facility, with no view from the outside. A true CDMCERT Designated Marksman Program should include the use of a specialized MP5 with a suppressor, equipped with the SE-532 Green Laser, FN-303 with the ALD Combat Optics system kit and special handgun with modification (for security reasons we cannot go into detail here).

If your team is not prepared for internal sniper operations, your program is poorly equipped and poorly prepared to handle Correctional Sniper Operations. US C-SOG’s program is the only in the world to have a 100% designed, designated marksman program. Our teams have worked with a number of agencies in this area of operations. I say this because many teams have police oriented sniper training, leaving them ill equipped, and are only now starting to modify their programs. However, this is a critical area for any CHRT program or high speed Tier 1 or Tier 2 program.

Tactical Medics

Do you have one? If you don’t, you should put the acquisition of a trained medic at the top of your to-do list. During a hostage situation, or in any operations that require the use of a team with expected use of force, you will need a combat medic to be an initial first responder for the team, hostage, or inmate. (And in that order!)

A tactical medic is needed for the team and is inserted into a prison / jail combat zone. This specialized operator is self-sufficient and is a capable combat warrior. Regular non-combatants should never be inserted into areas that are unstable and haven’t been secured. A tactical medic is trained to work in the same conditions as the CERT, alongside and aiding. While long-term medical treatment will not be done in an unstable area, life saving attention can be given. A combat medic is a highly trained individual that is Paramedic certified and combat trained. A good foundation for any CERT – Combat Medic qualification is First Responder qualified, CPR, First-Aid, etc.

Vertical Assault Team – (Or Monkey Team, no pun intended)

What do you need a vertical assault team for? When was the last time your unit trained for unconventional vertical assault operations? Does your facility have an elevator that transports inmates? If it does, is your CHRT unit trained for Elevator Hostage Situations?

A vertical assault team can overcome debilitating gravity issues and can operate without hesitation. A good vertical assault team can work in many conditions – fast rope, rappelling, rescue rope operations, confined spaces, and so on.

Our own Senior Chief Aponte is one of the nation’s most respected and highly qualified tactical rappelling and Rope Rescue Master Instructors. In his words, “rope work is only a small part of our operations, however if you fail to address this area and don’t have a corrections-certified rappel program, you are severely limiting your team.” A vertical assault team will be responsible for special insertion of a unit where conventional means are either too cumbersome, will compromise the unit, or are high-risk operations with potential high-risk asset losses.

Are You Prepared for the Fatigue Factors and High-Risk Areas?

Is your team prepared to deal with the potential fatigue factor?

Can they handle long standoffs?

Do you have the skill sets in place to deal with these factors?

Can your team handle multiple situations simultaneously?

Can they handle the break down of an emergency process without guidance?

Are they self-sufficient?


Are you prepared to handle combination hostage situations, like a riot/hostage situation at the same time in the same area?

Are you trained for a kitchen hostage situation?

A laundry room situation?

What if you lose the master control? It can happen: staff on staff violence, etc. Even if no one talks about it, these things do happen.

Situations in inmate work areas?

Are you prepared for situations in your towers?

Operators, you must understand this: If you cannot arrive on scene and put together a recovery operations plan in minutes that is both technically and tactically sound, including all elements already discussed as needed, then you have a serious gap in your CHRT process. I am not saying that you cannot do it, instead that if your planning and training are not equal to your facility’s needs, then you must close those gaps, or the potential for failure increases substantially.

Circling the Drain

If your team is not properly trained, and does not maintain that training, your team might be doing just that. Bad training or no training will cause poor readiness, which will cyclically further reduce the training and preparation levels of your team. You must recognize that corrections hostage rescue is a very specialized area of operations, and if your team does not train properly, is not equipped properly, and does not have a complete functionality, then you are missing the foundations that will help success.

Don’t despair if your team is in this cycle, it isn’t too late to pull away from being flushed. Here are a few tips that can salvage your team and place you on the right course:

The 1st Steps in a Successful CHRT Program

—Support your CHRT program with proper and sound training

—Increase training time

—Increase funding for CHRT specific training and weapons

—Get rid of the “It couldn’t happen here” mentality

—Look, act and train with the highest professional standards.

Stop training with equipment that is clearly not suited for CHRT operations I see teams training with shotguns carrying the wrong munitions and whose helmets have antiquated full-face fishbowl riot gear setups. Riot helmets with the full-face masks should never be used in CHRT operations for a number of technical, tactical and safety reasons. Same with the old style steel vests – don’t use them for CHRT response. Have the right equipment in place, and use it. If you want to know what equipment to use for specific operations then ask a Tier 1 or Tier 2 unit who they use-companies like the ALD Company. This company lives and breathes corrections special operations and their knowledge is unmatched. This company is an example of modern, custom CHRT kit programs. (Visit the website at

Stop training with weapons and munitions that clearly have questionable accuracy – like 00 Buck for CHRT ops! I’ve seen teams use that and worse. Some of you have asked if the FN-303 weapon can be used for CHRT operations. Without hesitation, A BIG YES! The FN-303 is perhaps the most accurate less lethal .68 caliber weapon in the world. The impact from this weapon can kill, seriously hurt or knock out a potential inmate hostage-taker. This is one example of a proper weapon for CHRT. Know what is best to use for your situation, and use it.

The FN303 800 lbs Gorilla in the Room

Just for a moment, I want to further discuss the issue of the FN-303 being used in CHRT operations. 1st, the FN-303 is designed for Less lethal Operations and is ready built for such use. 2nd FN does not condone the use of their weapon for CHRT operations (They can’t because the weapon design is for less lethal) However, NO ONE CAN DISPUTE that the FN-303 and other less lethal weapons can be used as an option to resolve any life and death situation! The FN-303 weapons are currently being used by a number of Tier 1 and Tier 2 teams as an available option. Many administrators don’t want to consider MP5, UMP 40, .223 weapons coming into their facility. The FN-303 is often a more palatable way of arming a unit. For confidentiality reasons, we cannot go into deep discussion about the use of the FN-303, but for more information or for a confidential paper on the Combat FN-303 program please write to

When lethal force is needed, it is within the departments mandate to use such methods. If necessary, you can use your DT empty hand techniques or use a baton to kill an inmate. This can be difficult, but to save yours, or another’s life, it can be necessary.

Select the Right Training Partner for your Program

I have nothing against military training units, but please remember, they are only that: military training units that train for an urban environment and are not corrections specialists. I don’t want to see the day when a team that has been trained by a SWAT / Military organization has to go to court to justify the results of Jail / Prison Hostage Rescue Program. That private training unit is going to say one thing, “They knew that we were a SWAT / Military based foundation,” and they will no longer be liable! A serious SWAT / Military training firm will not sit on a stand and assume full responsibility for their complete training program. Remember, you went to their school, and they taught you to operate in the environment that they work in, not in your environment. You took their tactics, training and then were forced to modify them for your needs! You modified something that has not been proven; your original training firm did not approve those modified techniques. Once this Pandora’s box has been opened in court, just pull out your checkbook and think of a number with a lot of zeros!

Stop training with both internal and private instructors who have no clue what they are doing. It is important that you calibrate your unit correctly from the beginning. Operators, correctional hostage rescue requires you to save a life in the worst situations imaginable, and you must train accordingly. Here a few questions that you should consider:

How do you practice for hostage rescue?

Do you train at night?

Do you train in the areas that the situation will mostly take place?

Have you even shot inside your facility?

Have you trained inside the kitchen? (It is difficult and takes time to master – you won’t master it in 8 hours)

Have you trained inside the laundry facility?

Have you trained inside the medical unit considering all of its barriers and obstacles?

Have you trained in your sally port?

What about the Corrections Bus? (Depending on how your bus is set up, you will find real problems just with making entry into one of the Bluebird or MCI caged buses)

Have you tried the booking areas or the administration if you have “Trustees” working in it?

Have you trained in master control?

Teams Like Israeli Prison Service’s – Masada Unit, Minnesota DOC, Rikers Island, Solano County, San Joaquin, Maryland DOC Baltimore Reception Center, Spartanburg County Detention Center SWAT, SC and a number of other Tier 1 and Tier 2 CERT SOU teams make these a part of their regular training operations.

Looking Forward to the End State!

Operators, a lot has been said in this two-part article. Some of it is harsh, but with no apologies, I want to emphasize that if you think any of this is unrealistic, I hope that you never experience a real world hostage situation. You will be ill prepared.

For agencies that are pondering the implementation of a CHRT unit, remember that it is not easy and is much more than a letter on your t-shirt, or a few words on a certificate; CHRT Operations is a way of life. It is unforgiving when mistakes happen; you will become experts in a necessary tactical area.

The 4 C’s of Success – Caution, Care, Courage and Commitment

Move forward with caution and with your agency’s eyes wide open. Think about the training and safety issues; don’t get pulled into a false sense of security by words that you read. Audit and test your team.

Care for the unit operators that have made a conscience decision to be part of your unit is very important. Take care of these few men and women that are out there. CHRT require administrators, commanders, senior trainers and team leaders to take care of you and help you do your job. They will become one of your most valuable assets.

Courage must be at the core of every member involved in a successful CHRT program. Without courage to lead, work, train and operate the unit will be weak. Courage comes in many forms but the truest form of courage is the ability to see problems within, and do something about it. It is seeing your faults, faults in your unit, and operator weakness, and working to improve that shows real courage.

CHRT perfection is not gained in one training session; it is gained over time. Commitment from all involved operators, administration and unit leaders and support staff is essential. You need commitment regardless of whether the team has had to respond to a situation in a while, or if serious situations have developed in the past. Remember, being trained and ready is half the battle!

When you’ve addressed your specific issues and problems, are properly equipped, trained, and are at your cutting-edge readiness level, you are ready to ask yourselves some new questions. I ask these questions in a loud and passionate voice to all the teams we train after a serious training evolution. Go ahead, do the same:

Who can train like us?

Who can fight like us?

Who wants to be like us?

Who are we?

A well-trained team is a vital asset. You will be able to handle the worst situations that can come against you, and deliver the best possible results while ensuring the safety of your team. It is important that you train your CHRT with specific correctional tactics, and continue training. The team will reward you with competency, capability, and a safer, better run facility.

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