ASHBURN -- Residents in Ashburn were probably wondering what all the Georgia State Patrol cars were doing at an abandoned school on Highway 112 on Wednesday. It wasn't a traffic stop or a drug bust; it was members of the GSP's SWAT Team practicing live drills, complete with shooting the bad guys and all.
No, they weren't real bad guys, just pictures hung in rooms in the school, portraying the bad guys. The troopers have to determine if the "bad guy" is in fact a real bad guy or if they are just an innocent bystander who happens to be in the midst of a critical situation.
The SWAT Team spent the two days this week training: Tuesday in Cordele at the firing range at the Fish Hatchery, and Wednesday at the school in Turner County.
According to the SWAT Team Commander, Lt. Bill Bryant, who is based in the Atlanta-area, the team is comprised of about 20 troopers from all over the state of Georgia who train once a month at various locations throughout the state.
"We are called in by local law enforcement agencies when there is a critical incident," said Bryant. "These range anywhere from hostage situations, to high risk arrest warrants and VIP security. The president visits Atlanta and we usually are called in to help the Secret Service to protect him."
To become a member of the SWAT Team, troopers must pass a physical fitness test and have basic firearm skills. They also must be on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week and successfully undergo SWAT Team training.
Wednesday's training consisted of the team converging on the old classrooms, determining who was a bad guy and who wasn't and making sure that when all the bad guys were taken down, that the school was secure.
They wore full fatigues, complete with helmets, gloves, protective glasses and earplugs to avoid damaging their hearing from the gunfire. They also wore their bullet-proof vests and carried several types of weapons.
Bryant said the team responds to about 15 to 20 critical incidents a year, and most team members serve as a collateral duty since most of their time is spent patrolling Georgia's highways and roads.
One particular incident that the SWAT Team participated in that many in the area may remember happened in July of this year.
"There was a hostage situation in Americus that started as a domestic dispute," said Bryant. "There were shots fired and a teenager was shot, but all in all, the situation was peacefully resolved."
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