Collier SWAT team practices on Marco

Steve Stefanides

For members of the Collier County SWAT team (Special Weapons and Tactics), the focus of their mission is to provide safety for the citizens of the county in a worst-case scenario and minimize the violence surrounding their actions. The reality of what they do is sometimes in direct conflict with how they are portrayed on the big screen and in some media outlets.

To accomplish those goals, members of this elite group train incessantly to ensure when they are called upon they complete their mission and everyone goes home safely.

Recently, members of the Collier County Sheriff's Office squad utilized a residence on the island to carry out a day of training before the home was to be demolished to make way for a newer and larger residence on the water.

"We really are fortunate to have such a well-trained and professional asset available to us should the need arise," said Marco Island Police Chief Al Schettino. "We're not as large a department as the city of Naples or the sheriff's office, but we are well served by these men and women when the need arises and they are deployed to assist us. Unfortunately it isn't a question of if."

"We want the general public to understand that our people are here to save lives and minimize the force that has to be used," said Lt. John Rego of the Collier team. "We train for all types of situations; hostage rescue, the man with a gun scenario, barricaded and violent individuals and how to apprehend violent offenders who may come into our jurisdiction. In all these cases our first priority is to keep the public safe, even if it means putting our lives in danger.

"Our people are also trained in the most adverse of conditions, they do so to insure they are prepared for the worst and can respond in the most focused and professional manner," continued Rego.

Team members may be wearing 50 to 60 pounds of gear when fully equipped with Level 3 ballistic vests which protect an officer from some of the larger caliber rounds that may be a threat to them. Last week they worked in temperatures approaching the 90 degree mark and in a residence with no air conditioning.

The majority of the team works a regular shift in patrol or investigations and when activated for a special event will respond as needed.