We train how to move forward and have the advantage of surprise and maximum operational pressure towards the suspects.

About the author

Ricardo McClain is active 0perator and TCCC instructor of the Guardia Civil SWAT unit in Cádiz, Spain. Founder of IFR Ibero First Responders, Spain.

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Every detail is of importance. Training saves lives.

The Article

The Operator: Ricardo, could you briefly introduce yourself and your work in Spain’s Guardia Civil?

Ricardo McClain: I am operator and instructor of the Guardia Civil’s special operations unit in Cádiz, at the southern coast of Spain and close to Gibraltar.

Our unit’s tasks are securing public safety, patrolling the urban centers of the region, patrolling the smuggling routes of the Spanish coast, and operations against human trafficking, the drug trade, and counter- terrorism operations.

Cádiz is geographically unique: it lays close to the Strait of Gibraltar, it has access to the Atlantic, but it is also close to the coast of Northern Africa.

This unique location attracts all kinds of organized crime activities: common smugglers, illegal immigration, drug trafficking by foreign and local cartels.

The Operator: Can you describe a typical operational scenario?

Ricardo McClain: Cádiz is a crucial entry point for the international drug trade into Europe.

Therefore, we have to control constantly our highways and the local streets to keep pressure on the narcos.

But the main task of my unit is to conduct high-risk search warrants when we have enough evidence of organized drug trafficking located in a house or building in the area of Cádiz.

Once we have the warrant and solid intelligence about the suspects, the location, and the building, we take the initiative.

Then, mostly at night and with a high operational speed, we gain entrance, take over the building, arrest suspects and make sure all evidence save.

Fast, highly coordinated, and with overwhelming power

The Operator: Can you tell me more about the operations at the coast and beaches around Cádiz?

Ricardo McClain: That is another critical and often dangerous aspect of our work.

Because Cádiz is so close to Africa, the drug cartels use high-speed boats from Marocco to reach the coast of Spain.

Once they reach the beach, we await them.

But we never know precisely how many criminals are in the boats.

Or if they are armed. And what kind of arms they carry.

Or if they have reinforcements somewhere hidden in the area around the operation.

We don’t know how far they are willing to go to save the cargo of drugs in the boat or to escape.

Many of them are professional criminals.

Some are from Africa’s war- torn countries.

They are used to violence, and often they have nothing to lose.

That’s why we have to plan and prepare ourselves for these operations very well.

A mission against the drug trade at a beach needs to be fast, highly coordinated, and with overwhelming power.

We use drones, night vision, IR sensors to avoid surprises.

The operational terrain of these missions isn’t a confined space – it is an open beach at night or a rocky shore at the coast, and we are up against many unknowns.

Understanding the terrain is also crucial for our operational success.

We have to work with high operational pressure to ensure that we have the initiative from the first moment and never give it away.

The quicker we get the job done, the better.

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We try to understand better how and when criminals could set up a trap

The Operator: How do you train for these scenarios?

Ricardo McClain: We have to train constantly to maintain efficiency in coordination and tactics in our missions.

Preparedness is everything.

For example, we train the coordination of a team during the minutes before we enter a house.

How to approach the terrain, the house, and the doors. We ask ourselves how to use the terrain for our tactical advantage in training scenarios.

We try to understand better how and when criminals could set up a trap or what they could use as an escape route.

For missions on open terrain or the beaches of our district’s area, we train the coordination of team members before the arrest, tactics, and how to make sure we have and keep the initiative.

We train how to move forward and have the advantage of surprise and maximum operational pressure towards the suspects.

Also, we have to prepare how to secure detained suspects at the beach.

It is not the same as in a house or building.

TCCC is important to teach and refresh regularly.

It is different from having a wounded team member at night on a beach and in the no man’s land along the Spanish coast than to have him within a few minutes in a hospital after an operation in an urban environment.

Short: we train as much as possible to learn as much as possible.

Every detail is of importance.

Training saves lives.

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Photos by Ricardo McClain