Rexburg SWAT team trains in empty houses
Area law enforcement agencies underwent training in Rexburg last week to practice special tactics and skills. Officers from the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office, Madison County Sheriff’s Office, and Rexburg Police Department utilized a vacant home on College Avenue owned by the LDS Church for their training.
“What we’re doing is just a basic SWAT class,” said Sgt. Vince Kaaiakamanu, of the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office. “Usually we’ll send our new SWAT guys to do it so they can get updated on new tactics and get training on entering a house, clearing rooms and stuff like that.”
According to Kaaiakamanu, one of two captains of the SWAT team, new SWAT officers usually go to a class organized by an outside entity, but in this instance, the local agencies were able to hold the class locally and bring in an instructor from the National Tactical Officers Association. “They’re known nationwide. They’re big in the SWAT world,” Kaaiakamanu said.
Five officers from Fremont County, three from Madison County, and one from the City of Rexburg were present for the class. The SWAT teams of Madison and Fremont counties combined almost four years ago; Rexburg has its own team but can call for more assistance if needed.
The SWAT training has been of interest to those who live nearby. Jillian Jensen, a senior studying communication who lives on College Avenue, had witnessed some of the training on Monday, April 16. “I heard some banging and some shouting and I wasn’t sure what was going on because the street is normally really quiet,” she said.
Jensen said she saw several police vehicles crowded in front of a house on the street. The next day, she noticed the training again, this time with officers standing outside the house wearing helmets and body shields and holding guns. This time, it was apparent that it was a training exercise.
“Somebody was saying, ‘In this situation you would come over here and use this tactic,'” Jensen said.
Jensen didn’t know about the training beforehand, so it came as a surprise to her and her neighbors.
Kaaiakamanu said that the training is vital. “In 2011 we had 8 SWAT calls within the year, and this year we’ve had two,” he said. Sheriff’s Response Teams, the specialized units in charge of SWAT calls, have training sessions at least once per month and snipers train at least once more on top of that.
The sergeant urged community members to report any suspicious activity to the authorities, and if the local officers need assistance, the SWAT teams are available. SWAT is usually reserved for extreme cases like hostage situations and school shootings, a rare but potential occurrence, even in a place as safe as Rexburg. Kaaiakamanu said, “We need to be ready for those instances where we’re needed. We take our training seriously.”