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Law enforcement undergoes counterdrug training at Camp Murray

"Team six has the eye," squawked a voice through an iPhone set on loud speaker.  "Thirty-five miles per hour, zero for cover, continuing northbound on College Avenue."

A non-descript Dodge Caravan was following a black Nissan Sentra through the streets of Lacey, Wash. as it pulls into the parking lot of a city park. Two individuals get out of the Nissan and make their way to a park bench. After about 15 minutes, they are joined by another person with a backpack slung over one shoulder. He sets down the bag and begins to chat for a few minutes. After another few minutes, he leaves his bag on the ground and makes his way back to his car.

Back in the Dodge, six National Guard students were intently watching the events unfold through binoculars; noting every detail and taking photographs. They are all going through the Ground Reconnaissance Specialist course administered by the Washington National Guard's Western Regional Counterdrug Training Center (WRCTC) based at Camp Murray, Wash..

WRCTC's mission is to provide counterdrug support to law enforcement agencies in an effort to help rid the Western United States of illicit drugs and the transnational criminal organizations that are responsible for the majority of drugs entering into the United States. The Ground Reconnaissance Specialist course is one of many classes they offer at the school including, Intelligence Driven Operations, Cell Phone Forensics and “Attack the Network” investigation methodologies. These classes teach many of the key elements that comprise a well-rounded law enforcement officer.

One of the many uses of the Counterdrug Program is assisting state and federal law enforcement with analyzing intelligence as well as doing surveillance on suspected drug traffickers. The Ground Reconnaissance Specialist course is a comprehensive two-week class that teaches students the many aspects of undercover surveillance.

The training scenario is the brainchild of Staff Sgt. Joe Dillon who is an instructor with WRCTC.  The story is an intricate yarn acted out by instructors at the school over a period of several days of training.  The students, formed into six teams, communicate via a push-to-talk app on smart phones as they follow "persons of interest" and document every movement the suspect does in the simulated case that they are presented with.

Surveillance experts operating in the field need to make extra efforts to remain anonymous and low-key in order to avoid being detected by the people they are following.   

"I could be at a park jogging and doing surveillance with ear buds in and I got full comms with my team," Dillon said.

By using inexpensive navigation and push-to-talk smart phone applications, the students are able to move and communicate with devices already in their pockets.

"I have all the military grade navigation and comms equipment that we could possibly need and make it look like an iPod," Dillon said.  "It's like Star Trek times, and not to mention everybody and their cousin has one so you can totally blend in."

The unique experiences and training of the National Guard members are vital to the law enforcement agencies that they will work hand-in-hand with when they return to their respective states. 

All of the training offered at the WRCTC is tuition-free for law enforcement and military personnel.