An exercise at El Dorado Correctional Facility (EDCF) saw Kansas Army National Guard (KSARNG) helicopters landing at the facility and corrections officers acting out a hostage situation at the facility.
After locking down the facility for the morning, EDCF staff staged a hostile takeover of a small section of the facility west yard. About 12 corrections officers, acting as offenders, simulated refusing to enter lock down, fighting with staff and taking hostages. The offenders pretended to threaten the staff.
Meanwhile, five National Guard helicopters, already staged outside the facility and carrying special security staff from the Ellsworth Correctional Facility (ECF), lifted off and landed inside the facility to provide support. The team from Ellsworth, a group built similarly to the well-known S.W.A.T. team, marched out onto the facility in organized fashion as they created a perimeter before moving in.
The drill was scripted to test the capabilities of the EDCF Special Operations Response Team (SORT) to coordinate, communicate and carry out the mission of regaining control of an offender faction and retrieval of hostages while utilizing the coalition resources of the air national guard and ECF SORT team. An emphasis was made on using the least amount of forced necessary to neutralize threats and carry out their actions.
“Any time EDCF staff have the opportunity to work with other facilities such as Ellsworth Correctional Facility, we jump at the opportunity to learn and work together,” EDCF Warden James Heimgartner said. “When we can add the operational knowledge and expertise of the Army National Guard, training just does not get much better than this.”
The twelve officers, clad in orange inmate jumpsuits, exited E Cell House and simulated attacking an officer in the yard. Quickly, a group of EDCF security officers went and surrounded and backed the faction into a corner of the fenced yard. SORT officers from both EDCF and ECF arrived to provide support, using colored smoke grenades and flash bangs as distraction devices.
Certain members of the public got to witness helicopter flights, landings and takeoffs. Officers use blanks while pretending to shoot down their targets. Flashbangs/Smoke grenades of different colors were set off on the ground at the appropriate times, as well.
After about 45 minutes, the drill concluded when the offenders were restrained and escorted to restrictive housing units. Heimgartner said KDOC’s goal in any type of conflict within a facility is to use the minimal amount of force necessary to restore security and ensure the safety of offenders and staff, while always keeping public safety first.
KDOC Secretary Joe Norwood, on hand to observe the drill, expressed his appreciation of the Kansas Army National Guard for its participation in the exercise.
“This is not an operation that was set up overnight,” Heimgartner said. “Many hours of training and preparation have gone into this operation, increasing the knowledge and skills of all involved. I am proud of all the staff involved in this training exercise, both in the KDOC and the KSARNG, as well as in the local community.”
At least the El Dorado community should feel better about the authority's ability to handle situations, should they ever unfortunately occur.