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Cover Story

Responding to School Sieges

September 01, 2006  |  by John Giduck

For most Americans, the September 2004 school siege and subsequent massacre in Beslan, Russia, was something distant, far away, and unreal. We tend to view most things that happen to others around the world with disinterest.

When 9/11 occurred, thousands of Russians placed flowers outside of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow and wept for our loss, for what that atrocity meant for all humanity. When 330 Russian civilians-172 of them children-were murdered by Islamic terrorists at Beslan, most Americans noticed it only because it periodically interrupted coverage of the Kobe Bryant sex assault trial. Most of us did not grieve for the Russians, and most of us did not think about what the Beslan school massacre portended for the children of America.

Someday in the near future, an American community—probably far from an urban center—will find that one of its schools has been taken over by Muslim terrorists who are holding the students hostage. The time for American law enforcement officers to think about this possibility and train how to respond to it is now, before it has happened.

Know The Targets

Gather drawings, blueprints, schematics, floor plans, and walk-through videotapes of all schools in your community. Do this now, before you need it. Not only is this information critical for planning a response to a terror attack, it will be invaluable should you experience a-these days-all-too-common school shooting incident.

For smaller or more rural areas, this is not too difficult a task. For larger cities such as New York this effort must be broken down into the various boroughs and precincts, with each subdivision responsible for further dividing this need down to the patrol sectors.

Once you have this information on your local schools, start using them or buildings with similar floor plans to practice assaults. Whether you are a rural county sheriff's deputy, or belong to a SWAT, SERT, SRT, or SORT team-or any of the other permutations of tactical units-you have to practice regularly. This is particularly critical for agencies that pool their resources into multijurisdictional tactical teams. Not only do tactics have to be developed and used, but the team must also regularly operate together if it is ever to have a chance of doing so successfully in combat.

Train to Kill and to Rescue

Assaulting a school full of heavily armed terrorists who are holding hundreds of terrified hostages is beyond the pale of most officers' experience. If you're going to train to do this, you have to treat it as what it is: war. It's war in very cramped quarters with a lot of innocents in the way.

During the fight at Beslan, terrorists held children in front of them with knives to their throats and guns to their heads when Russian special forces teams entered the school. A number of these hostages were killed by having their throats cut or were shot in the battle. Casualties are a foregone conclusion when Muslim terrorists take hundreds of hostages. However, as one Russian special forces officer told me, "You must do everything possible to save the hostages, to save the children." Sadly, this may include shooting through the hostage to kill the terrorist before he can kill even more hostages.

Train to use maximum force and violence. In an assault of this type, there can be no going back, no withdrawal. Whatever the outcome of an effort by police to storm a building, it will pale in comparison to what the fallout will be if the assault team(s) withdraws and the terrorists are permitted to reassert control over the hostages.

Get Mean

The Muslim terrorist is on familiar territory in close up combat. You must be as well; indeed, you must be his superior. As the British SAS is fond of saying: "Your worst has got to be better than their best."

All this means that you have got to improve your close-quarter combat skills and techniques. In the 1960s and 1970s America's tunnel rats-men who were forced to go down into the Vietcong's fearsome tunnel network armed with merely a knife, a handgun, and a flashlight-developed a shooting system for close work in which the pistol was held in a combat-ready position, close in to the chest to prevent disarming. In the confines of many buildings it would likewise be impossible to "present" the firearm at arm's length, out away from the body as is taught by the Isosceles, Chapman, and Weaver shooting stances of old.

And do not think for a second your SWAT team will simply "roll right over the bad guys," as I have heard numerous tactical commanders say when rationalizing their refusal to train in realistic hand-to-hand combat skills and/or integrating those skills with close-quarter handgun techniques and transition drills.

Accepting the necessity of developing this next generation of combat techniques is not enough. You must train to execute. You must be able to shoot with extreme accuracy and speed. These are the skills that will make you capable of killing the person holding a child up as a shield and not hit that child, and they are the skills that will give you the confidence to move to the sound of the gunfire.

Through years of travels and training others I have seen an increasing reliance on the spray and pray approach to combat. This is what technology, money (to buy bullets), and fear of close-quarter combat do to a warrior. Don't let them do it to you.

Tags: Counter-Terrorism Initiatives, Building Raids, Hostage Situations, SWAT Tactics, Tactical Gear, Campus Safety, Books for Cops

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Comments (8)

Displaying 1 - 8 of 8

Tom @ 1/19/2012 11:30 AM

John Giduck is a fraud and a liar. He is not a Green Beret and he is not a US Army Ranger. He's a poser and a liar.

Editor @ 1/22/2012 7:10 PM

Police Magazine has never reported that John Giduck is anything other than a student of Russian martial arts, author of "Terror at Beslan," and President of the consultancy firm Archangel. Any other claims that Mr. Giduck has made or hasn't made about his background are between him and the Special Forces community. I have immense respect for the Special Forces community, but since Police Magazine has never been part of this discussion, I would ask that you leave us out of it. For the record, I have not during any interview or presentation by Mr. Giduck, heard him claim that he had any affiliation with any U.S. military unit. If he has misrepresented himself as such, he has not done so in Police. Thank you for your service. David

Agent Orange @ 2/2/2012 7:23 PM

It may be of particular interest to the Law Enforcement community that John Giduck vacationed with Donna Yaklich, the killer of a Pueblo narcotics detective (her husband), while she was being investigated for the murder, and was his client.

GirlCop @ 2/10/2012 6:12 AM

As an officer, I'm wondering why Police magazine has to resort to authors with no apparent real-world experience. Even in 2006, there were PLENTY of people around with actual time on the ground, both in LE and the military, with actual experience--why resort to hosting articles by someone without any?

Editor @ 2/12/2012 7:50 AM

Girlcop: I first saw John Giduck's book "Terror at Beslan" in the hands of a high-ranking DHS official. It was widely read and widely praised by DHS officers, federal agents, and others on the front lines of the anti-terror war of the last decade. He was also the nation's leading consultant on school terrorism at the time, speaking to agencies at the federal, state, and local level. No one in the U.S. law enforcement or the U.S. military (to my knowledge) has "time on the ground" experience with an incident like Beslan. Giduck, regardless of whatever else he may or may not have done, is a compelling writer and speaker on the subject of school terrorism. I see nothing to change the basic truth of his message that an America school may well be the target of another Beslan-type massacre conducted by Islamist terrorists. Other leading terrorism writers and consultants agree with him that America is ill-equipped for a Beslan type attack, very vulnerable to one, and that Islamist terrorists love to target children. Note: The most devastating recent terror attack on Israel was a wire-guided missile attack on a school bus. The children on that bus were deliberately targeted. Fortunately, the driver had just stopped and let off some kids so only a few were killed. But the truth remains that our enemy loves to kill children and Giduck's concerns in this area and his analysis of Beslan and possible future school attacks is sound, regardless of what he may or may not have done since.

Crackie @ 2/25/2012 3:23 PM

Is there some reason that you erased the comments about the counterintelligence concerns of cleared Homeland Security officials sharing information with Mr. Giduck (given that he openly boasts of his high level Russian Intelligence contacts)?

Or that there is well founded concerns in the police about Mr. Giduck's tactical analysis of both Beslan and Virgina Tech ( Google David S. Cariens "More Shooter Down" article)

or is it that I questioned PoliceMag.com's complete softball approach to accepting what is essentially PR materials from Mr. Giduck without any sort of critical thinking thereby putting police officers at risk on the street?

R. Chapurina @ 4/22/2012 1:04 PM

Look at all the factual errors that John Giduck made in only one of his chapters of Terror at Beslan:

http://thetruthaboutsocnetlies.wordpress.com/2012/04/16/russian-experts-claim-terror-in-beslan-inaccuracies-part-1/

Why is this researcher of school attacks making so many errors?!?

Not to mention that he is now listed at the POW Network as a poser.

J. D. @ 8/5/2012 11:07 AM

Some highlights of John Giducks tactical recommendations to Law Enforcement:

Shoot downed suspects in the head. Twice. Because murdering suspects is OK, as long as they're suspected of being terrorists.

Exempt LEOs from the Constitution in the event of a terrorist attack. Because committing terrorist acts calls for more terrorist acts.

Use fire hoses to counter-attack fortified positions, IEDs, and belt-fed machine guns. Because water causes terrorists and their tools to melt, you know.

Equip every school with a three-man tactical team composed of former SOF personnel, armed with automatic weapons and full battle-rattle. Do the math.

Install poison gas systems in every school in order to render everyone unconscious in the event of a terrorist attack. This will only kill some of the children.

Shoot through hostage children in order to save them. It's for their own good.

Yea, this is the guy I want teaching tactics to my officers. What I'd like to know is how this guy Giduck got away with this sham for so long.

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