Region 5 combats terrorism in Western Europe (Part 2)

  • Published
  • By SA Christopher Scheib
  • AFOSI Detachment 540, American Embassy Berlin

Faced with the likelihood the next terror attack could be anytime and anywhere in Europe, Special Agent In Charge of Detachmnent 540, Brian Tweed, thought OSI should do more to unite and enable German police forces via the strategic engagement mission of the Seat of Government and give German police a concrete venue to share ideas, trade lessons learned and talk about how they would manage the next attack scenario.


Special Agent Tweed used his counterterrorism teaching ability, honed as a Force Training Division instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, to create the Tactical Antiterrorism Rendezvous (TATR). The name has a double meaning. In German, a “taetr” is a criminal offender, subject or perpetrator and a “tatort” is a crime scene. Loosely translated together they mean “the place of the offender.”


Having developed numerous peer-to-peer exchanges, including tactical casualty care and Explosive Ordinance Device expert-level conversations with German first-responders in Berlin, SA Tweed knew the inaugural TATR exchange would do a great deal to fuse German security forces and prove the commitment of OSI and the American Embassy to save German and American lives during a dangerous time in Europe.


The May 2016 TATR was a success, and more importantly, OSI SOG Det. Berlin at the U.S. Embassy received critical acclaim for doing something no other Embassy section, and agencies with much larger staffs, had ever done to further the German /American security alliance. Many German law enforcement personnel at the event, some unfamiliar with AFOSI until TATR, saw its inherent value to guide their strategy when faced with the next attack. ‘Together we are stronger’ became the new mantra and all participants hoped for a TATR II in 2017. SAs Tweed and Mark Ryan, drafted the blue prints for TATR II.


The real-world operations tempo for OSI Region 5, including Germany-assigned agents, never returned to the “old normal.” Attempted and successful attack scenarios raged across the 5th Field Investigations Region Area of Responsibility. However, no one was ready for what happened in 2016 and 2017: a terrorist in Nice, France, mowing down pedestrians with a truck on Bastille Day; an axe-wielding terrorist on a German train; a suicide bomber in Ansbach, Germany; a nearly successful bomb attack at Berlin’s main airport and a host of others.


The frequency of attacks became so high that when I became the new SAIC of Det. 540, I reconfigured the “Team Deutschland” information dissemination group concept developed by SA Buckley after the 2011 Frankfurt Shooting. The “Team Deutschland WhatsApp ™ Crisis Management Group” was a real-time chat group for OSI personnel in Germany, and all of Europe to send real-time, critical threat info that streamed in from other than OSI channels, like the Embassy Emergency Action Committee and host nation liaison partners, so the 671 kilometers from Ramstein to Berlin was no longer an obstacle to keeping key leaders informed.


With a temporary lull in attacks in Germany during the Spring and Summer of 2017, SA Ryan and I gave the German and U.S. Embassy agencies TATR II.  The event name was up for discussion. Some preferred “TATR Reloaded,” some preferred to keep the name TATR. I decided, since we’re bringing together police special forces from across Europe to develop common working principals and lessons learned, the event would be called “TATR United,” an event united against terrorism in Europe, regardless of country.


Support guarantees were quickly secured from the Embassy Senior Regional Security Officer, Todd Ziccarelli, FBI Legal Attaché Don Schulz, the Berlin Police Presidium and the heroes of TATR United 2017 – the French police special forces who responded to the attacks at the Charlie Hebdo Newspaper and Bataclan Theater in 2015. SOG Paris Special Agent In Charge SA Bill Messina played a key role enlisting French participation. With France on-board, TATR went international.


The Berlin Police provided a proper venue for TATR, a former British military operations on urban terrain used by the Berlin Police SWAT Team and other specialized units. With the MOUT site, TATR United participants could go “full combat speed” in demonstrating response techniques as realistically as they could under real-world terrorist response scenarios. Berlin Police provided mobile kitchens, field toilets, lighting, electric generators and wireless microphones for teams to narrate their scenarios and more at virtually no cost. Massive police water cannon trucks, deployed to the G-20 Summit of Nations against leftist, extremist protestors, stood ready to keep the event from getting too “dry.”


Vendors from various law enforcement and tactical equipment companies across Europe displayed some of the latest police and public safety weaponry, like a next-generation laser engagement system for police firearms to be used in tactical training. Armed with the system, called LACS, police tactical units could hone their skills at the event using mock up buildings for cover as they pursued a simulated active shooter or terrorist.


A police drone demonstration highlighted the side program between demonstrations by German police units. U.S. Embassy Health Unit Physician and former Army Green Beret Chris Carson instructed German units on combat casualty care and the use of an automatic defibrillator.


The events opened with Region 5 Vice Commander Lt. Col. Seth Miller, U.S. Embassy Charge de Affairs (acting U.S. Ambassador to Germany) Mr. Kent Logdson and myself addressing the crowd of more than 200 people at TATR United praising it as a show of U.S. commitment to security across Western Europe. Lt. Col. Miller and I then presented Charge de Affairs Logsden a special framed plaque commemorating the history of the AFOSI in the German capital to be displayed in the American Embassy.


By all accounts TATR United 2017 was a success. Det. 540 and Region 5 personnel accomplished their mission. They brought together numerous police special forces units from the German local, state, and federal levels and other international partners in one place to discuss and demonstrate best practices and lessons learned responding to real-world incidents. This fostered a better network environment where European and U.S. police partners could better combat future attacks.


Another important aspect of TATR United addressed the complications of major-scene evidence collection experienced by German authorities in the Christmas Market attack. The FBI Evidence Response Collection Team attended TATR United and presented German police with best practices in counter-terrorism response and the difficult topic of preserving crime scene evidence after a major attack. That forms the heart of catching those responsible if they have evaded the scene and uncovering networks of co-conspirators or “sleeper” agents that may remain.


Just days after TATR United, Charge de Affairs Logsden showcased the OSI event to the German Interior Ministry as a beacon of German /American security partnership at a critical time.  With TATR United’s success in 2017, the stage is set for another event in 2018 with more German and European police units pledging their support.