All 15 members of the Lincoln County SWAT team, including 14 deputies and one tactical officer with Emergency Medical Services, recently joined with three other state law enforcement agencies in enduring an intense, five-day tactical training session alongside the Marine’s Special Response Team (SRT) at Camp Lejeune.
“It was the best free training we could receive anywhere,” Sheriff David Carpenter told the Times-News. “They trained from the best.”
It was the first time the team participated in the out-of-town bonding experience, both gaining experience from other units and offering their own tactical tips throughout the week.
Each day, the agencies underwent between eight and 12 hours of training including dodging simunition – nonlethal training ammunition rounds — inside the military base’s “million-dollar city,” an area filled with houses, banks, condominiums, schools and other facilities typically found within a community.
Comprised of blue and pink soap, the colorful simunition rounds were helpful in marking an officer when he got hit.
Robert Jeffries, Lincoln County Sheriff’s sergeant and one of two SWAT team leads, felt the incorporation of simunition rounds highly escalated the scenarios’ intensity level.
The“city,” constructed for the sole purpose of scenario training, allowed officers to repetitively drill their strategies and response times in a variety of perilous conditions including bus assaults and building clearing.
In addition to scenario training, the teams repelled, a first time initiative for many of the men, who were forced to scale a six-story building, and practiced range shooting.
“Our sniper/observer hit a target from 1,000 yards,” SWAT commander Jason Reid said.
The large-scale shooting range and “city” were just some of the training areas not typically available to the Lincoln County SWAT unit back home.
Additional North Carolina agencies at the event stemmed from Catawba, Union and Pitt counties.
The Lincoln County SWAT unit’s specialized training and groundwork preparation alongside the Marines is evidence of the team’s more systematic and purposeful existence since its inception five years ago, Jeffries said. The training is also indicative of the current Sheriff’s Office administration’s support.
The changes are obvious to Jeffries, who served nine years with Conover Police Department before joining on with Lincoln County.
“We are … way ahead than what we had before,” he said. Jeffries attributes much of the team’s success and organization to Jason Reid’s leadership, which commenced in 2010.
“Since Jason came onto the team, the team’s much more focused and better prepared,” he told the Times-Newslast week. “Reid has been doing this all of his career–something we didn’t have before.”
The Sheriff’s lieutenant has nearly a decade and a half of tactical experience, previously serving on teams in Catawba and Iredell Counties.
In addition, Jeffries said in the past two years, the Sheriff’s Office has contributed much more funding towards the training and advancement of SWAT.
“Sheriff Carpenter has been more proactive with aid for the team,” he said. “We’re now equal to any other SWAT team in the state.”
Outside of special tactical trainings such as Camp Lejeune, the team currently trains once a month inside the county, but Reid hopes to return to the military training event with his team each year.
“If it’s available, and the Sheriff will allow us, we’re going to go,” he said.
He believes that with a more skilled SWAT team, Lincoln County citizens can feel more safeguarded in their communities.
“Guys will come back and pass on their training and experience to other deputies,” Reid said.
While SWAT was out of town, Gaston County’s tactical team remained on stand-by for potential Lincoln County emergencies.