I am a Special Agent with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). I have been a federal agent for over 11 years. I have held various positions during my career in special operations, intelligence, and investigations.
The decision I regret most is leaving the Special Response Team (SRT) in 2018.
I had just left the United States Border Patrol and joined HSI the year prior and was having a blast. We worked the Southwest Border in Southern California. At about 10 months on the team I was involved in a training accident.
My Assistant Team Leader (ATL) loaded the wrong CS munition into a steal dispersal device designed to be mounted on the front of an armored vehicle. Unbeknown to the rest of the team the ATL placed a Defense Technologies Triple Chaser into the device. Those familiar with the munition may have an idea about what happened next.
Myself and another senior member of the SRT went into a shoot house to film the dispersal of CS. We did not check the munition prior to entering the building; many safety violations were made. There was a short pause after the pin was pulled on the munition. Typically, CS would begin pouring into the shoot house. Due to the ATL using the wrong munition there was an explosion. A large portion of the device flew into the shoot house and struck my teammate, who was standing next to me. His left leg was severely damaged, the right was missing a good chunk. I had to apply multiple tourniquets. It was touch and go for a while but my friend survived. His recovery is ongoing.
After the incident my first inclination was to quit. How could I trust these guys on a real operation ever again? I decided to stay while my partner was recovering in the ICU. But several weeks later I noticed another unrelated and minor safety violation. I immediately quit the team. In the weeks after the accident I had spoken with my father, a retired SWAT officer, and my wife, a medical doctor. Both had encouraged me to leave. My wife and I had a baby on the way and I needed to focus on my family.
I knew it was the wrong move because I instantly regretted it. I had that feeling of “buyer’s remorse”.
I don’t think my old man or wife led me astray. They were worried about my safety. The way I see it now I could have been the change I wanted to see on the team.
I know in reading this you may think this team was some kind of joke due to the egregious safety violation that resulted in such a terrible accident. The team is squared away and very capable. It was one mistake. A big one. But an isolated incident. The ATL is no longer on the team and there have been some other personnel changes.
At the time of the accident I was very into the SWAT thing. It was what I enjoyed most about the job. It probably isn’t too late to go back. Maybe writing this will be the catalyst for another go at the team.
Even though I made the decision a few weeks after the accident it was still too fresh. There were still too many emotions involved. With hindsight I should have taken some time away from the team but not quit outright.
Sometimes I jump into a decision too soon. I should have let time pass, maybe waited until after my daughter was born. Take a few steps away from the situation and come at it with a strictly logical perspective.
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