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Real world training
TAG at Operation Jump Start

Story and photo Sgt 1st Class Robert Stephenson, NJDMAVA/PA

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. - “There are two of them. One has a bald head and a grey T-shirt, and the other guy has a dark hat on.”

The man in the blue striped shirt spoke between deep intakes of breath as he crouched between two Rutgers University policemen as all three took cover behind the patrol car. Men carrying guns had invaded the idyllic scenery of this central New Jersey university campus and fired off a number of shots at students, teachers and children attending summer camp, including the man now shielded by the cops, who had managed to elude the gunmen’s grasp before they were able to take a number of hostages.

The cops were in touch with their command post which was monitoring the campus via aerial shots provided by a Oh- 58 Kiowa observation helicopter, which was hovering overhead. Minutes later, two New Jersey National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopters swooped in to deposit members of the Middlesex County Special Operations Reaction Team (SORT) right in the middle of the New Brunswick campus. The SORT immediately fanned out and advanced on one of the student buildings. Gunshots follow.

Under different circumstances this would be the beginning of a frightening situation reminiscent of what took place at the Virginia Tech campus several months ago. But this was not a real hostage situation, just an exercise that involved numerous state and local law enforcement and emergency services agencies. The goal of the exercise was to solidify the cooperation between agencies which may be called upon to work together on short notice during a real terrorist threat.

“Our specialization in Homeland Security is providing support to law enforcement,” explains Lt. Col. John Sheard of the New Jersey National Guard. “So primarily from the aircraft side of the house, [support] with the lift aircraft is to bring the Special Operations teams to a location so they can deploy more rapidly and with a show of force.”

While transporting law enforcement reaction teams is important, knowing where to transport them is just as important. “With the reconnaissance aircraft, we have the capability of taking photos from the air, day or night, video downlink technology, from the tactical side of the house, to vehicles at the site, and strategically, we can send that signal throughout the state, to the Adjutant General’s office and to the New Jersey State Police office, which is where this all centralizes from,” notes Sheard.

Helping to provide that signal is Chief Warrant Officer Jerry Steber of the 2-104th Service and Support Aviation Battalion. Steber, who manages the equipment that receives the video signal from the helicopter, has worked with law enforcement before. “Most of the law enforcement agencies that I’ve had a personal interface with really look to us for the support that they don’t have,” says Steber. “It’s a definite asset for them as far as visual and electronic information being provided to the task force commanders and the command posts when they’re doing these types of operations."

With the help of the New Jersey National Guard, this exercise ends well according to Detective Douglas Sprague, Deputy Task Force Commander of the SORT. “We had information that there were three active shooters somewhere in the building, we assembled the SORT into 20- man assault teams, and we cleared four floors of the building and took the bad guys down outside the building.” All in all, a good day for the good guys, with a little help from the New Jersey National Guard.

Table of Contents
Volume 33 Number 3 Staff / Information
(c) 2007 NJ Department of Military and Veterans Affairs