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Cpl. Tyler Raffaele, an entry team breecher with the Special Reaction Team, Marine Corps Police Department, Security Emergency Services Battalion, performs a scan of his surroundings immediately following a course of fire during a quarterly SRT qualification at Range 300, Nov. 20. The scan is a tactic used to remain aware of your surroundings and break tunnel vision in combat.

Photo by Cpl. Keenan Zelazoski

Special Reaction Team

30 Nov 2014 | Cpl. Keenan Zelazoski Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – “For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.”- Rudyard Kipling
Each major Marine Corps installation has a special reaction team, a specialized team within military law enforcement units. Their job is to respond to high-risk situations that fall outside the capabilities of normal law enforcement on a military base or compound.
“We are a close-knit brotherhood within a brotherhood,” said Gunnery Sgt. Dustin Schellenger, the team commander of the SRT, Marine Corps Police Department, Security Emergency Services Battalion. “Our training is crucial in facilitating a constructive environment that builds the cohesion within our team and enables us to be able to trust each other when we operate under the pressure that comes with high risk situations.”
Due to the intensity and legalities involved when these specialized teams are called upon, constant physical conditioning and training is a must. Every three months, each member of the team must qualify again.
“This is a really important part of what we do,” said Schellenger. “This ensures my guys can’t be called into question because they are being constantly trained.”
One of the most likely places that high risk situations occur are in housing areas. These Marines specialize in conventional weapons handling tactics and close range weaponry. The two primary weapons used are the M4 Carbine rifle, and the Marine Corps’ Colt M45 Close Quarters Battle pistol. Members of an SRT must be trained and qualified in both.
“For anyone who fails, we spend a little extra time teaching them and give them one more shot a month later,” said Schellenger. “If they fail again, we have no choice other than to process them out of the team. I can’t have a guy that isn’t proficient when lives are on the line.”
In addition to being proficient with their weapons from 25 yards, they practice good habits such as a failure-to-stop drill and a scan. A failure-to-stop drill is two bullets to the chest one to the head, and during the scan, Marines observe their surroundings after firing their weapon.
According to Schellenger, The failure drill is used to stop an individual that isn’t ceasing their criminal activity. There are several reasons the first two shots may not stop them, to include adrenaline, drugs, or even body armor.
“We never know every factor in a situation,” said Cpl. Tyler Raffaele, the breacher for the SRT on Camp Pendleton. “Our training keeps us fresh and instills the muscle memory necessary to minimize risks in a real situation.”
Although the responsibilities and training of the SRT is of a serious nature, these guys tend to have fun anyways.
“Most of the people who make it to one of these unique teams thrive on competition,” said Schellenger, who has been on an SRT for seven years. “For me and my guys, we always have fun with the internal competition, and it keeps us improving so that we are always ready for any situation thrown our way.”

Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton