Tactical consultant John Giduck used a lot of humor in his six-hour two-day keynote presentation at TREXPO West. And that's a good thing because Giduck's presentation is about Islamist terror attacks on children, especially school children. So if his audience of veteran cops and soldiers didn't have some comic relief, they'd probably start crying.
There's probably no darker subject in this world than the sexual abuse and murder of children and Giduck has spent the last few years immersed in it. He was one of the first Westerners on the scene at the site of the horrific Beslan, Russia, school massacre. As he told the TREXPO audience, he was granted full access by his longtime contacts in Russian special forces units and the Russian government. So the Colorado lawyer, wrestler, martial arts enthusiast, and police consultant arrived in Beslan while the charred bodies of murdered children still smoldered in the rubble.
Seeing the horror of Beslan made Giduck dedicate himself to teaching Americans, especially American law enforcement officers, about the real truth of the massacre and what it means for American schools.
Like many terror analysts and intelligence officers, Giduck fervently believes that the next al-Qaeda attack on American soil will be the takeover of a school. The goal of his book "Terror at Beslan: A Russian Tragedy with Lessons for America's Schools" and his many speaking engagements is to prepare American law enforcement to fight that battle.
"Bin Laden has never lied to us," Giduck told the TREXPO crowd, explaining that al-Qaeda has told us in no uncertain terms that they are coming for America's children. To back up that statement, Giduck repeated the oft-quoted words of al-Qaeda spokesman Suleiman Abu Gheith who wrote that the terrorist group has the right to kill 4 million Americans, 2 million of them children. "No nation can withstand the murder of its children, and they know that," he said.
Giduck spent much of the first day of his keynote explaining how al-Qaeda thinks and how it chooses targets. "They need attention. They always have to outdo the existing body count record," he said. "This will be the worst hell that our country has ever seen."
Hell is exactly what Giduck described in detail as he began a narrative of what happened at Beslan in the early days of September 2005. The terrorists at Beslan killed 334 hostages, 186 of them children. Some 700 of the approximately 1,000 hostages were seriously wounded. The terrorists also raped many young women and girls and abused all of their hostages by not giving them any water or bathroom access in the stifling heat of the old school's gymnasium.
Giduck painstakingly told the story of how Russian special forces units took back the school in brutal close-quarter combat. He told of the courage of the Russian troops who engaged the terrorists in machine gun firefights in the narrow corridors of the school. And he explained the heartbreaking calculus of hostage rescue that forced one Russian soldier to shoot through a child to kill a terrorist before the terrorist could kill even more children.
"The harsh, sickening reality is that this is a numbers game," Giduck said. Then he brought a message to the TREXPO audience from a Russian special forces officer who fought at Beslan. The Russian officer told Giduck: "Americans are naïve; they think they can save everyone. So you make sure that the American officers understand that there is going to be a battle [to retake the school from the terrorists] and people are going to die."
Al-Qaeda's hellish scenario for America's children begins with intel, and Giduck says that the terrorists have already begun this stage of their attack. "They have analyzed American schools and determined which types would make the best targets," he explained.
According to Giduck about 80 percent of the intel that al-Qaeda needs to take over a school is on the Websites of American schools. During his keynote, he showed a typical school Website that revealed information on the number of students at the school, photos of the faculty and staff, and other key intel.
The next stage for intel gathering is physical recon. Giduck says the terrorists are looking for easy targets. "Terrorists are not combatants; they are predators," Giduck says. "Physical recon is like a shark bumping you in the ocean. They want to know if you are a threat or you are a meal."
The meat of Giduck's second-day presentation was about how American police would respond to a terror attack on a school and how the terrorists have studied American law enforcement tactics, including active shooter response. "To reach a high body count, they need to slow you down." He later explained, "They don't want you to go into active shooter mode. But realize this, if someone takes a school, it is not a barricade situation, it's an active shooter situation."
In a keynote that featured numerous chilling and frightening issues, one concern that clearly caught the interest of the crowd was the manpower that would be needed to cope with a Beslan-type takeover in an American school. Giduck explained that such an incident would require 150 SWAT officers, approximately eight SWAT teams.
Of course, no one agency has that many tactical officers, so response to such an incident will require multiple agencies. Giduck asked the TREXPO attendees how many of them have trained with and can communicate with multiple tactical teams in their area. Very few officers could answer "yes" to that question.
Giduck said he recognizes that the tactical teams would face limits on their ability to cope with such a hostage taking. He also acknowledged that officers would have to justify training for an incident that administrators would see as far-fetched.
The easiest way to justify training for such incidents is in terms of recent active shooter incidents, Giduck says. "Every school has a Cho. If you are ready for a Beslan, then you are ready for active shooters."
Giduck also discussed a variety of creative responses tactical units can use to insert officers into a school, foil terrorist tactics, and overcome terrorist fortifications.
In closing, he told the audience: "You are going to be the first guys on the scene. And it's going to be terrible. Every second will count. SWAT is America's domestic special forces. You are all that is coming to help these people."