SRT: Elite guards behind the gate

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Siuta B. Ika
  • 49th Wing Public Affairs
Throughout history, leaders of civilizations and empires have often formed special groups of elite soldiers to safeguard themselves, their families or their belongings.

While the emperors of ancient Rome and China were protected by the Praetorian Guard and Imperial Guard, at Holloman, the Airmen of the 49th Security Forces Squadron Special Reaction Team stand ready to defend all of the men, women and children who call the installation home or work.

As a unit within the 49th SFS, the SRT is a specialized team responsible for responding to high-risk situations within the base.

"We are essentially Holloman's [Special Weapons and Tactics] team," said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Joseph Sapikowski, 49th SFS SRT NCO in charge. "Other bases have SRTs and this is something that used to exist in the past under a different name -- an Emergency Service Team or EST. It faded away as deployments picked up but now the need for the team here is essential."

The decision behind assembling the SRT was easy, said U.S. Air Force Maj. David "Woody" Boyd, 49th SFS commander.

"It's a needed capability because on the installation we should be the responding experts," he said. "We are trained to a high standard of response when it comes to insider active shooter threat. However, the purpose of the SRT is not an active shooter response, but rather a barricaded suspect or hostage situation response. We're ensuring we can handle any threat that comes our way without having to rely solely on outside resources."

Because they will be responding to any active shooter, barricaded suspect or hostage situation on base, the SRT must complete additional training to augment their security forces training.

"We need to accomplish 120 hours of training together as a team, however long that may take," Sapikowski said. "That training will consist of a lot of firearm work at combat arms, breaching training, room clearing, repelling, snatch-and-grab missions, hand-to-hand combatives and simulated gun fights. We're going to be doing a lot of training with the New Mexico State Police, Las Cruces and FBI SWAT teams as well. Also, we're going to be going over to White Sands Missile Range to do live fire shootouts and other drills."

Since the team will have extensive training time together, they will differ from a Quick Reaction Force, explained Sapikowski.

"They go through similar training but QRF teams haven't trained 120 hours together," he said. "With the SRT you're going to know how everybody thinks and moves. The training is a lot different because we will use tactics from the Army schoolhouse, which is much more in-depth and specialized for a SWAT team."

To ensure SRT candidates can handle the physical demands of being a team member, the selection process, or tryout, includes many physical obstacles.

"Phase I is a cross-fit workout and members must first complete a one-mile run, then do five pull-ups, 10 push-ups and 15 squats, followed by a 400-meter run -- and repeat everything except the one-mile run five times," he said. "Phase II is at the obstacle course where they have to complete eight stations including a 100-yard fireman's carry, truck push, climb up a three-story tower, pull a tire up the three-story building, carry a 180-pound dummy for 50 feet, 10 yards of plyometric burpees, then a 100 yard run with a breaching ram -- and do everything again in reverse in less than 15 minutes. Phase III is all at the shooting range with the M-4 and M-9."

With the 20-man SRT ready to react at a moment's notice, Team Holloman can sleep peaceably at night, Boyd said.

"The people of Holloman need to know that their defenders are ready to provide the defense and protection necessary to ensure their safety and security," he said. "This team is an extension and reflection of all of our outstanding Airmen here and I'm very proud to be associated with this group of elite defenders."