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Taking a proactive stance on protection

by David Arny

Officers with the Bandera Police Department attended a hands-on training exercise Monday, Jan. 14, when two veteran members of San Antonio’s Special Operations Unit (SOU) team visited Bandera at the invitation of Chief Jim Eigner.

Instructors Joe Obregon and Guillermo Cantu shared their expertise in coordinating a rapid response to extraordinary situations such as the one faced by the Littleton (Colorado) Police Department at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999.

According to the SAPD website, HYPERLINK www.sanantonio .gov/sapd/ , the Special Operations Unit, under the command of Captain Cris Andersen and assisted by Lt. Mark Christian, is divided into four details. The details consist of highly trained uniformed officers who respond to all violent incidents, detect and apprehend wanted persons and augment the efforts of the Patrol Division. Details within SOU include Crisis Negotiators, Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT), K-9, and Bomb Squad.

During the period of May 18 through May 22, 2004, SAPD SWAT members participated in the 2004 World SWAT Challenge & Conference, which was held in Moyock, North Carolina. Twelve of the top teams from North America took part in the competition, which consisted of eight live fire events challenging fitness, marksmanship, team work and leadership.

The San Antonio Police SWAT Team Members, including officers Obregon and Cantu, won first place in the overall competition.

Prior to the training exercise held at Bandera Middle School with BPD officers, Obregon told the group he and Cantu came “to give an outlook on the basics,” including “how to read and assess circumstances” by practicing “situational awareness skills.”

“Tonight is an introduction to fundamentals, followed by a question and answer session,” Cantu added.

The two-hour exercise featured tips on how different numbers of officers could work together in the safest and most effective manner during a crisis. Obregon stressed the importance of moving “deliberately but quickly” through a crime scene once entry is made and how to properly secure an area following the “all clear” signal.

Each of the two veteran instructors have 16 years’ experience in police work. Cantu has instructed personnel with city, county, state and federal law enforcement agencies, in addition to training officers in countries such as Mexico and Brazil.

Cantu told the group about an embarrassing surprise that awaited him on his first working trip to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
“In my resume, one of the agencies I listed as doing instruction work for was the United States Secret Service, including several guys on the presidential security team,” said Cantu. “So, once I get down to Rio, I see my picture on the front page of the newspaper with the headline saying in Portuguese, “President Bush’s top security man visits Rio.”

Clearly pleased with work accomplished during the evening session, Eigner said, “I’ve been trying to set this up for a while.” He added, “We’re going to work on what we learned tonight and get (Obregon and Cantu) back out here for more instruction. I think it’s good for us to be proactive in this area.”