SWAT Training – A Promise Kept

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SWAT Training – A Promise KeptI just finished the SWAT training hosted by the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Department SWAT Team. Lt. James Anderson, head of the school, gave the students a briefing about mutual expectations.  The training consisted of various tactics, techniques, and strategies. I absorbed everything I could from those who deal with life and death.  Although the instructors discussed successful SWAT operations, they were also quick to point out their failures, as well.  They taught us to always plan for contingencies.

As I sat there with other tactical officers, I thought back to the beginning of this journey. In 2008, I learned that my younger brother was involved in a motorcycle accident and was in critical condition. My wife and I drove immediately to Dallas from Oklahoma to meet the family at the hospital.

I kept telling myself that everything would be all right.  My brother would just need bed rest after he left the hospital.  By the time I arrived, .he had taken a turn for the worst.  He was in a coma. I wept seeing my brother lying there with tubes coming out of him and a machine breathing for him.  I think almost anyone who sees a loved one in this kind of condition would have the same reaction.

I went into the “negotiate with God” mode. We all have done that at some point in our lives, haven’t we? We negotiate with our kids, bosses, and other people daily. We, as humans, do it all the time.  In law enforcement, I’ve been involved with police negotiations when a chaplain has been requested.  For me, it has usually ended successfully, without a shot being fired.  The bad guy goes to jail or to mental health treatment and everyone walks away.

Following these incidents, the tactical guys would always ask me when I would attend training. I would tell them whenever the chief decides I should go. The chief at my former agency was not a big fan of seeing his officers in black tactical gear on the campus trying to get a suspect out of the dorms or any building on the campus. He thought that he could negotiate better than any SWAT team.

I always talked about joining the SWAT team or getting one started at the campus, but it was just talk.   When I was in the hospital room with my brother, I started to negotiate with God for a trade… my life for the life of my brother. After all, he was an educator and he was involved in the lives of kids every day.

He would talk to God every morning, but not before he had his coffee –ha!   He was involved in the lives of the teachers and kids.  Surely God would keep him here on earth to be a part all that.  I am a reserve officer who cleans toilets for my regular living as a janitor.

On the third day at the hospital the doctors informed us that there was nothing more they could do for my little brother.  They advised us to consider taking him off life support. Before we took him off, I once again asked God to trade the life of my brother for mine. At the time, I figured he had more to offer.  God, however, had already made up His mind.  On August31, 2008 my brother went home to be with Him.

On the day of the funereal as I stood over his casket, I made a promise to him that no matter what happened, I would never let an opportunity to learn something new get away.  I would be my department’s best trained reserve officer. I made it a point to attend any training that was important.  The SWAT course was the most important to me.

I worked for administrators who would always deny my request to attend the course simply because they did not want their officers to get the training, probably thinking that the educated officer would want to get a SWAT team started.  After 17 years of being a reserve office and 4 years after my brother’s death, I’ve finally finished my SWAT course.

I spent two weeks attending the class while still working my regular job.  I still have to provide for my family, sometimes making it on 3 or 4 hours of sleep.  I went to work and to class.  I didn’t miss a day.  I spent my own money for gear because the department will not provide it.  Yet, I still made it!  When I received my certificate from the course, I cried.  This was not because of the paper itself but because I did something that came at a cost.

I’ve resigned from the campus police department and will begin soon with another department. I will miss my friends at the university.  I hope to see them in the near future. I begin my new journey with a sense of importance.   I now know that when I’m out on patrol, I can be more of  a servant than I was before. I can be there for those who cannot turn to anyone else .I made it through the course.  Most importantly, I’m sure my brother is up in heaven “negotiating” on my behalf. I feel him saying to me, “Good job big brother, you kept your promise.”

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