FBI Tactical Operations

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The Tactical Section of the FBI’s Critical Incident Response Group (CIRG) is made up of the federal government’s most elite tactical teams – Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT), Hostage Rescue Team (HRT), Crisis Negotiation Unit (CNU), among others.

These highly skilled and trained operatives are on par with any Navy Seal or Army Ranger in terms of stamina, speed and combat training. Originally created in 1983, the FBI Tactical Operation Section has successfully performed over 850 missions related to terrorism, criminal investigations, and violent crimes.

The Tactical Section has also taken the lead in hostage rescue, undercover operations, high-risk apprehensions, and surveillance missions in the U.S. and abroad.  This select group of the nation’s top tactical officers has also ensured the safety of FBI personnel in combat zones like Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as conducted rescue missions in the wake of natural disasters.

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The Selection Process for FBI Hostage Rescue Team Jobs

The Tactical Section is made up of the federal government’s full-time tactical teams designated to respond to terrorist threats.  In order to effectively neutralize threats to the U.S. government, citizens and infrastructure, the various tactical teams are equipped with the world’s most sophisticated weaponry, equipment and training. The Tactical Section has also helped develop response strategies and resources that are utilized throughout the world, including the Quick Capture Platform, which enables investigators to collect fingerprint and other evidence for rapid analysis and input into the intelligence pipeline.

As one of the most highly trained units in the FBI or any other agency, the Tactical Section has one of the most rigorous selection processes of any military or law enforcement team. Candidates must successfully complete an intensive two-week selection program that emphasizes the highest levels of tactical performance despite extreme exhaustion, hazard and duress.  Only FBI Special Agents who have served in the field for two to three years may submit their candidacy for these programs, and most of these candidates possess highly developed tactical skills from experience in police tactical units or elite military outfits.

Tactical Section personnel are on call around the clock and are expected to maintain optimal mission capability.  Their year-round training programs includes joint operations with military Special Forces, deployment to high-risk zones like mountaintops and Arctic areas, and urban combat programs. Read more…

Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT)
All of the FBI’s 56 field offices in the United States garrison their own SWAT team.  These specialized teams may comprise up to 42 members and are used primarily to intervene in dangerous situations like hostage crises, aircraft and vehicle assaults, WMD missions, and high-risk arrests.  The primary factors governing deployment of SWAT teams include likelihood of violence, risk to law enforcement and public, and case requirements. In order to join a SWAT team, FBI Special Agents must pass a rigorous selection process, which includes a strenuous physical program and marksmanship skills.  SWAT team members must also possess well-developed investigative skills. SWAT teams include specialists like snipers, assaulters and breachers who specialize in various aspects of mission operations. Read more…

Enhanced SWAT
Nine of the FBI’s swat teams are labeled Enhanced SWAT for their larger size and ability to provide mission support to Hostage Rescue Teams. These groups are usually assigned to larger metropolitan areas that present a greater number of possible incidents.  Enhanced SWAT is distinguishable from regular SWAT by their access to a wider array of tactical weapons and equipment, as well as the ability to deploy to locations anywhere in the world. Enhanced SWAT teams are also more intensively trained prior to and during their job posting than regular SWAT, but not as intensely as HRT who train full time. Read more…

FBI Sniper/Observer
These highly skilled specialists must meet marksman standards with a variety of long-range rifles as well as in the operation of an array of surveillance tools.  Unlike a military sniper, which may not be concerned whether a discharge leaves a target alive and communicable, FBI snipers must consider the condition of the target as well as the possible damage to bystanders, witnesses and hazardous materials.  FBI snipers receive specialized training prior to posting as well as throughout their career that includes the strictest discipline, awareness of target environment, long range shooting, wind reading, and prolonged stalking.  The additional training for a sniper is an eight weeklong program at the Marine Corps Sniper School. Read more…

Crisis Negotiation Units
The FBI employs almost 300 specialized hostage and crisis negotiators that can be deployed 24 hours a day with Hostage Rescue Teams.  These Special Agents possess unique instruction in negotiating tactics, legal issues, and kidnapping response strategies.  The FBI’s Crisis Negotiations Units are considered the designated representatives of the U.S. government in international crises.  CNU units have participated in over 300 incidents since its inception in 1990.  In order to qualify for these teams, candidates must complete a two-week course at the FBI Academy and continue to receive training periodically. Read more…

Tactical Helicopter Unit
The Tactical Helicopter Unit (THU) uses a variety of helicopters to deliver and extract HRT and SWAT teams to locations around the world.  These units recently added eight UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters to provide added mission capabilities.  The Special Agents who pilot these highly maneuverable combat and law enforcement aircraft are recruited from the best military cadres and private organizations in the world. The pilots are highly experienced in inclement weather, high-risk environments, assault force delivery, vehicle interdiction, and medical evacuations.  These helicopters are also extensively used by HRT teams in training for their “fast rope” deployments. Read more…

Tactical Mobile Units
In situations that necessitate an armored vehicle, the FBI uses a variety of secure personnel transport vehicles. Tactical units may also use a variety of disguised vehicles like buses, trucks and passenger vehicles to covert intrusion. The FBI also operates a fleet of vehicles used for high-speed pursuit and interdiction functions.  All Special Agents receive some form of enhanced driver training through the Tactical and Emergency Vehicle Operations Center, but specialized tactical units receive unique training in transporting explosives experts, canine units and surveillance specialists. Some FBI personnel like executives, legal professionals, personnel security also receive training in attack recognition, collision avoidance, and other counter-terrorism techniques. Read more…

Hazardous Materials Response Unit

The HRMU is a specialized unit that is designed to identify, contain and neutralize hazardous materials and attached explosive devices or methods of dispersion. These highly trained personnel must engage in nerve-wracking activities while equipped in cumbersome air tight HAZMAT suits.  They are often responsible for defusing bombs and WMDs as well as gathering critical forensic information related to the chemical, biological or nuclear materials. Read more…

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