FLORENCE COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - The Florence County Sheriff's Office recently revealed a new Special Response Team (SRT) as a component to its Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team, along with other improvements.
The SWAT and SRT teams now train once a week instead of twice a month.
FCSO Lt. Mark Fuleihan, with the special operations division, said officers start the day at 6 a.m. with intense physical, tactical and firearm training.
"We have raised our PT standards, our firearms qualifications," Fuleihan said.
Finishing the day with firearm practice, Fuleihan said a team member's primary weapon is an AR-15.
In one exercise, officers practiced shooting with the AR-15s, then quickly switched to a handgun. It's an exercise that prepares officers should their AR-15 malfunction.
"We have to be able to equally have firepower against violent perpetrators within our community," Fuleihan said.
The SRT has nine team members and responds faster than members of SWAT. Fuleihan said the team was formed at the beginning of this year because of an increase in gun violence, especially mass shootings.
"We have stepped up our active shooting training in regards to SRT, so anytime that there is a credible threat within any of our Florence County schools and industries, SRT is automatically put on standby and/or are deployed." Fuleihan said.
Cpl. Sheldon Spann, an SRT member, said being on the team requires more specialized training than deputies typically receive.
"We have to come together and it's fast, so of course the trainings got a little more difficult, but it's gotten faster so you want speed along with accuracy with that," Spann said.
Spann said while they can never be fully prepared for threatening situations, the enhanced training allows the team to be as prepared as they can be.
"If we see something out here, which the training division and the SWAT commander tries to incorporate, we may see that out there so they try and throw anything at us," Spann said.