SA commandos in US to hone skills


The US Embassy in Pretoria says a group police Special Task Force commandos are currently in the United States to brush up on crisis response skills and undergo “special forces training”.

“The five-week Crisis Response Training is to provide the tactical officers with skills required to resolve high risk confrontations with criminals and possible terror situations,” says embassy spokeswoman Elizabeth Kennedy Trudeau. The officers will be equipped with skills they could use with the focus on the minimum force necessary to protect human life, she adds.

These include hands-on outdoor firearms training, raid and assault simulations, as well as other standard crisis response skills for use in an urban environment. “This training represents a continuation of the US government’s commitment to partnership with South Africa,” said deputy ambassador Helen La Lime in a media statement. “Our partnership with the SAPS [South African Police Service] is robust, and this training reflects our solid bilateral relationship. We look forward to pursuing more partnership opportunities.”

SAPS Special Task Force spokesman Brigadier Lucky Mkhwanazi added hat the “training recognises the calibre of our elite Special Task Force officers and also the solid relationship in law enforcement South Africa has with the United States.”

It is at last the third such cooperation this year. In March a group of SAPS and South African National Defense Force (SANDF) officers received “certificates of participation” in a three-week training programme designed to enhance their ability to respond to incidents involving chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive (CBRNE) materials in the run-up to the June-July World Cup.
“This course prepares the students to execute fundamental hazardous material and emergency management and response procedures that can mitigate loss of life in a Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) or hazardous material incident,” the embassy said at the time. Course topics and activities included a focus on human rights, trends in terrorism, explosive device awareness, toxic industrial chemicals and materials, CBR risk assessment and awareness, crime scene issues, chemical hazard detection and prediction, triage, search and rescue operations and equipment maintenance.

Ambassador Donald Gips at a ceremony in March said courses “such as this one are evidence of the increased cooperation between our two countries. … Over the past year, we conducted several high level meetings with the South African Government on the issue of security. As a result of these meetings, we set the stage for a partnership from which both of our governments could join forces to provide training opportunities in South Africa which would build a corps of curriculum competencies which you could also use to work with other police entities in Africa.
“A team of officers from the State Department’s Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) Programme, the ATA office, came and together with their South African counterparts and identified a series of programmes which would be of benefit not only to South Africa itself, but to police services across the continent.”

Gips noted the ATA programme was started in 1983, and since then has provided training and equipment to foreign law enforcement and security organisations to enhance their capabilities and capacity to detect, deter, counter, and investigate terrorist activities. Since its inception, ATA has trained and assisted more than 61,000 foreign law enforcement personnel from 154 countries, including South Africa and this new class of graduates.

At the ceremony, the US also provided the SAPS with a second CBRNE Rapid Response Trailer which is fully equipped for utilisation during any event where a risk of exposure to any CBRNE might exist. The first Rapid Response Trailer was donated in 2004.

The US Embassy also notes that it trained South Africans in the Tactical Management of Special Events in February and made a US$10,000 equipment grant.

In November last ear 15 police divers graduated from a specialised underwater explosives training course facilitated through the ATA Office in the United States’ Department of State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security. The three-week Underwater Explosives Incident Countermeasures Course (UWEIC) was designed to provide specialised underwater technical training to law enforcement personnel. “Using lecture, group discussion, and practical exercises, this course augments the abilities of law enforcement dive teams to plan and conduct emergency response to counter suspect underwater improvised explosive devices,” the embassy said in a media release.

US Consul General Jill Derderian said the US additionally provided the police with diving equipment worth S$120,000. “I had a chance to speak with the lead trainer, Jon DiMartino, who told me that, of all the groups that he had worked with in more than a dozen different countries around the world, this group was by far the most impressive, and the best organised,” she said at the time. “And, Jon said that he and his fellow trainers learned a great deal themselves from the participants from [the police] and observers from the South African Navy. I think that these mutual benefits speak volumes about the importance of collaboration, and working together.”