Urban Shield 2008: Plan, prepare, and train

Plan, prepare, and train. This sentence accurately captures both the underlying philosophy and the overarching goals for the recently completed Urban Shield 2008 – possibly the single largest homeland security training exercise of its kind in the United States.

Alameda County Sheriff Gregory J. Ahern said during his address to the officers and volunteers assembled on Monday night for the awards ceremony aboard the USS Hornet, “We must plan for future events, prepare to undertake our roles as first responders, and make our training as realistic as possible. We have to be ready for any natural disaster or act of domestic or foreign terrorism.”

Alameda County Assistant Sheriff Steve Roderick was the overall operations commander for this year’s event. With financial support from the Bay Area Super Urban Area Security Initiative (SUASI), and a generous contribution from BAE Corporation, Assistant Sheriff Roderick brought in 25 Tactical Teams from around the San Francisco Bay Area, the state of California, and from as far away as Boston, Massachusetts. Assistant Sheriff Roderick and his team put together two dozen realistic scenarios in simulated real-world conditions – including dignitary protection, hostage rescue, industrial sabotage, prison riot, maritime interdiction, aircraft interdiction, school takeover, active shooter response, and many others – that every team had to complete within an allotted period of time.

Three medical checkpoints were spaced evenly over the 48+ hour training schedule, where the physical condition of every participant was verified good-to-go. Safety was emphasized at every venue and challenge – and with only a handful of exceptions, the teams returned home exhausted but uninjured.

One of the officers from the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Office suffered a cut to the scalp requiring nine staples to close the wound. Sheriff Ahern joked from the podium on Monday, “I’m sure that scar will be gone in about 50 or 60 years from now.” The Sergeant in question did not quit the drill however, telling the medical staff when it was suggested that he sit out a couple of scenarios: “I’m sticking with my team.”

Good thing too, because with his help, LACSO took first place in this year’s competition. Coming in second was the 2007 winning team, Fremont Police Department SWAT. Third place team in 2008 was Sacramento Police Department SWAT.

More than 75 law enforcement and government agencies took part in the exercise in some capacity. There were 25 tactical teams with more than 200 individual members that competed in the training challenge, and more than 1,700 volunteers who worked to bring the exercise off. Hundreds of civilians and actors played the parts of victims and hostages, getting a rare opportunity to see firsthand their first line of defense against terrorism on our shores. Countless thousands of rounds of Simunition were expended. Outstanding new gear from Blackwater Worldwide, TASER, U.S. Armor, and others was on display and in the hands of the tactical teams. All in, it was a truly impressive operation.

Matt Bettenhausen, Director of the Office of Homeland Security for California, remarked during his keynote address at the Monday evening banquet: “I’ve been involved in a lot of homeland security exercises…and there is no doubt in my mind that this is the greatest, most extensive law enforcement exercise anywhere in the nation.”

No one present during this weekend’s exercises would dispute that opinion. From start to finish, the professionalism of the participants was unsurpassed and the logistical/organizational execution of the training scenarios was exemplary.

Sheriff Ahern indicated that there will be measures taken in the 2009 Urban Shield – planning for which has already begun – that build on the successes and correct the shortcomings of this weekend’s event. A 600-page after-action report is due out sometime soon and from it Police1 will examine some of the practical and tactical takeaways that law enforcement officers can use every day in the vigilant protection of our communities.

California Director of OHS Bettenhausen said, “This is how we can prevent the potential next terrorist attack, and if it does happen, we know that we’re ready to respond to it and whether that comes from domestic terrorism or it comes from international terrorism. The work that you have done makes this state and this nation safer and better prepared.”

Sheriff Ahern summarized it thusly: “There is a reason that we must plan, prepare and train. We have to practice our skills and test our equipment because there are things that occur in this world that we in law enforcement just cannot prevent. We also know that there is nothing that we won’t respond to once we’re called.”

If Urban Shield is any indication, the citizens of the communities in which these teams operate should feel supremely confident in their police.


Freemont Police Department SWAT Breaches the Shoot House
Members of the Fremont PD, winners of last year's Urban Shield competition, breach the door, deploy the flash-bang, and make entry into the Alameda Co. Sheriff Dept. shoot-house.    (PoliceOne Photo/Doug Wyllie)


 Speed, Surprise, and Violence of Action
The shoot-house on the grounds of the Santa Rita jail is a multi-room complex divided into two main sections.  Site commanders, scenario evaluators and selected media watch the drill from a catwalk overhead. (PolceOne Photo/Doug Wyllie)


 Clearing the Room
Members of Fremont PD SWAT encounter a number of Tangos including robots like this guy in the red shirt.                   (PoliceOne Photo/Doug Wyllie)


 Approaching the Amtrak Hostage Rescue
Team members from the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Office approach a hostage-on-a-train situation on a Rook by the Spiller Group. The Rook is a SCBA compatible and fitted with NIJ Level III armor, which means it's an ideal vehicle to have around for armed barricaded subjects/hostage situations — the entire unit, including all four attachments are transported to incident sites on a trailer which is included in the package. (PoliceOne Photo/Rachel Fretz)


 Assaulting the Target
The Stanislaus team begins entry into an AMTRAK car.          (PoliceOne Photo/Rachel Fretz)


 Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Office Debrief at Amtrak Exercise
The Stanislaus team debriefs the scenario with the site commander. (PoliceOne Photo/Rachel Fretz)


 Armored Vehicle Approach to Aircraft Interdiction
The assault on this aircraft, which had been overtaken by suspected terrorists while it was being loaded by employees, was aided by this protoype vehicle provided by Blackwater Worldwide. (PoliceOne Photo/Doug Wyllie)


 This Tango Had a Very Bad Day
This Tango had a very, very bad day.                            (PoliceOne Photo/Doug Wyllie)


 Mission Accomplished – Unass the AO
With the mission accomplished, the team moves out to debrief the exercise in a nearby hangar at Oakland International Airport. (PoliceOne Photo/Doug Wyllie)


 CDCR Team Plans to Take Back the Gibson
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation discuss thier options to retake the USS Gibson, where an unknown number of subjects are downloading sensitive information from a computer in the ship's communications room. (PoliceOne Photo/Doug Wyllie)


 California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation Storm the Ship
CDCR begin thier tactical assault on the Gibson.               (PoliceOne Photo/Doug Wyllie)


 CDCR Debrief the Maritime Interdiction
The CDCR team debriefs the op. (PoliceOne Photo/Doug Wyllie)


 At the USS Hornet, Past, Present, and Future Come Together
At the closing ceremonies aboard the USS Hornet on Monday night, the past, present, and future of law enforcement come together as one. (PoliceOne Photo/Doug Wyllie)


 ACSO Maritime Patrol Vehicle
The Hornet is a museum and a memorial; this ACSO watercraft is at the ready for any eventuality. (PoliceOne Photo/Doug Wyllie)


 Assistant Sheriff Stephen J. Roderick Opens the Ceremony
Assistant Sheriff Steve Roderick opens the Final Exercise aboard the USS Hornet. (PoliceOne Photo/Doug Wyllie)

Participating Teams for 2008:
Alameda County Sheriff’s Office
Alameda Police Department
Berkeley Police Department
Boston Police Department
California Department of Corrections
California Highway Patrol
City of San Francisco
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Fremont Police Department
Hayward Police Department
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Police Department
Livermore Police Department
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s -Department
Mountain View Police Department
New York Police Department
Newark Police Department
Oakland Police Department
Palo Alto Police Department
Richmond Police Department
Sacramento Police Department
San Francisco County Sheriff’s Office
San Francisco Police Department
San Leandro Police Department
San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office
Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Office
Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office

Supporting Agencies for Urban Shield 2008:
Alameda County Sheriff’s Office Communications Alameda County Sheriff’s Office Search and -Rescue Unit
Alameda County Fire Department
Alameda County Sheriff's Office
Alameda Police Department
Alameda Reuse and Redevelopment Authority
Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District
Albany Police Department
American Medical Response (AMR)
Amtrak Police Department
Bay Area Rapid Transit Police Department
Bay Area Super Urban Area Security Initiative
Berkeley Police Department
Boston Police Department
California Army National Guard, 95th Civil Support Team (WMD)
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
California Highway Patrol
Cal State University – East Bay
CalTrans – CA Dept. of Transportation
California State Sheriff's Association (CSSA)
City of Alameda
City of Berkeley
City of Richmond
City of San Francisco
Commission on Peace Officer Standards and -Training (P.O.S.T.)
Community Improvement Commission
Consulate General of Israel – San Francisco
Denevi Video
Deputy Sheriff's Association (DSA)
Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT)
Dolphin Graphics
East Bay Municipal Utilities District EBMUD
East Bay Regional Parks Police Department
Foster City Fire Department
Fremont Police Department
Federal Air Marshal Service
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy Americas
Hayward Police Department
Jet Blue Airways
Livermore Police Department
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office
Marin County Sheriff's Office
Menlo Park Fire Department
Mountain View Police Department
National Guard, 95th Civil Support Team (WMD)
New York Police Department
Newark Police Department
Oakland International Airport
Oakland Police Department
Palo Alto Police Department
Pleasanton Police Department
Port Board of Commissioners
Port of Oakland
Regional Terrorism Threat Assessment Center (RTTAC)
Retired Captain Eilers and the Air Squadron
Richmond Police Department
Sacramento Police Department
San Francisco County Sheriff’s Office
San Francisco Police Department
San Francisco State University Police Department
San Francisco Watershed District
San Jose Police Department
Transportation Safety Administration
U.C. Berkeley Police Department
U.S. Maritime Administration Division of
-Pacific Operators
Union City Police Department
United States Air Force
United States Army - Camp Parks
United States Coast Guard
United States Marine Corps
United States Marshals Service
United States Navy
USS Hornet

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