ATF Agents qualify with handguns during the two-week course to become member of ATF’s Special Response Team. (Screenshot courtesy SAF Investigative Journalism Project)
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Selection, training and leadership are vital to any special operations team, regardless of their size or mission parameters. The more rigorous the selection process, the more comprehensive the training, the more professional the leadership, the better the unit will perform.

Delta Force’s Operators Training Course, for example, is six months long, and teaches advanced CQB, precision marksmanship, counterterrorism and a host of esoteric skills needed by Delta operators to meet their worldwide mission requirements. OTC is only open to candidates who survive Delta’s arduous Selection and Assessment phase.

DEVGRU’s Green Team selection and training course is also six months long, and only Navy SEALs who have completed BUDS and spent at last five years on an SDV or SEAL team can apply. MARSOC Raider candidates must complete a nine-month course, known as the Marine Special Operations Individual Course, or ITC. MARSOC Officers must also attend a four-week Team Commanders Course after they graduate ITC.

Army Special Forces candidates can spend six months to two years training before they earn an SF tab and a Green Beret, and the pipeline for Air Force special operators can take 15 months to two years. Special Agents who want to join the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team must pass the New Operator Training School, which is 10 months long and extremely easy to fail.

United States Secret Service Counter Assault Team (CAT) members undergo a two-week selection course and then a seven-week basic training program. Secret Service snipers must pass a one-week selection process and then a 10-week sniper training course. Candidates for Border Patrol’s Tactical Unit (BORTAC) undergo a three-week selection course and then a six-week training course before being assigned to a sector team. After a year, they can apply to join BORTAC’s elite national team.

By comparison, training for ATF’s Special Response Teams takes only two weeks, and ATF agents call themselves “operators” after they’ve completed the course.

Poor Leadership

ATF refers to its SRT teams as “elite tactical groups.” According to a September 2020 report from the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) titled “Federal Tactical Teams: Characteristics, Training, Deployments, and Inventory,” ATF’s Special Response Team was created in 1989 and has 114 members. From 2015 to 2019, the SRT was deployed 886 times. More than 85% of the deployments were to execute arrest and/or search warrants.

“Their work includes search and arrest warrants, high-risk criminal investigations, undercover operations, surveillance operations, and protective service operations,” ATF states on its website.

ATF claims SRT’s two-week training course is an “intensive program,” during which SRT candidates “learn specialized skills such as marksmanship, manipulation of numerous weapon systems, individual and team tactical movement, tactical medicine, chemical agent deployment, use of less-lethal weapon systems, armored vehicle operations, surveillance, helicopter operations and operational planning. SRTs also participate in rigorous activities such as defensive tactics, breaching, rappelling, fast-roping, rural patrolling and operations.”

Anyone with even a modicum of tactical knowledge must scoff at these claims. There is no way any federal law enforcement agency can sufficiently teach its agents all of these techniques and bring them to acceptable skill levels in just two weeks. Tactical movement alone takes far more time to train and master, and what ATF calls “marksmanship” is nothing much beyond their standard qualification.

ATF public relations officials posted a chilling interview on their website of Gerry Arena, an

SRT team commander. Arena touts his team’s skills and stresses the dangerous nature of the criminals they encounter, but then he says the scary part out loud.

“Because we are a fully functioning tactical unit our team stays intact. We will never ever incorporate a member from an outside agency into our stack,” Arena said.

It is clear ATF doesn’t understand how truly bad their SRT teams are. In fact, they think they’re pretty good—fully functioning tactical units. Sadly, the whole world now knows the truth—how poorly ATF’s SRT performs when called upon.

On March 19, members of ATF’s Region 3 SRT, which is headquartered in Dallas, conducted an early morning raid of Bryan Malinowski’s home in West Little Rock, Arkansas. A gunfight ensued, caused by ATF’s poor choice of raid tactics. An ATF agent who has never been identified by name shot Malinowski in the head with his carbine. Malinowski, a 53-year-old airport executive with no prior criminal history, died of his wounds two days later. His family insists Malinowski didn’t know he was trading gunfire with federal agents. Instead, they say he thought he was defending himself and his wife from armed home invaders.

Not one member of ATF’s SRT wore a body cam during the search warrant execution, which is contrary to ATF’s policy. To date, no one from ATF has made any statement about Malinowski’s killing, other than to say he fired first.=

This is the latest example of the poor leadership of ATF’s teams. Real leadership is accountable. Real leaders take the blame when mistakes are made. And to be clear, ATF made a lot of mistakes that led to Malinowski’s killing, yet the team leaders remain mum. Sara Abel, public information officer for ATF’s Dallas Field Division did not return calls seeking comment about the fatal raid.

ATF’s Tactical Management Branch has divided the United States into five regions for SRT coverage. (Screenshot courtesy SAF Investigative Journalism Project)


There is a lack of consensus even among the special operations community about who deserves the title ’Operator.” Some say only members of our Tier One units Delta and DEVGRU deserve the title, but this would leave out MARSOC Raiders, the majority of Navy SEALs, Army Special Forces, Air Force special operators and a whole bunch of Rangers.

Most special operators don’t care too much about the title. Besides, operator is a mindset, it’s not a tab or a badge, but one thing is crystal clear: ATF SRT members are not operators. Their use of the term is an insult. They’re hardly even law enforcement. They are thugs with guns—poseurs in pricey Crye MultiCam paid for by your taxpayer dollars. They are hammers who view every law-abiding gun owner as a nail.

Given their poor training and complete lack of professional leadership, it is only a matter of time before an SRT member kills another innocent American citizen in their home.

Article courtesy of the Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project. This project wouldn’t be possible without the support of gun owners. Click here to make a tax-deductible donation to support pro-gun stories like this.

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  1. They are not law enforcement. They are thugs targeting the enemies of their paymasters in the current admin.

    Paid to murder. Hitmen.

    • The man they murdered was in fact defending himself and his wife from armed thugs. I can only hope the next victim does a better job of dealing with this sanctioned murder crew.

      • “I can only hope the next victim does a better job of dealing with this sanctioned murder crew.“

        From your lips to God’s ears:

        “At least 3 law enforcement officers killed in shooting in Charlotte, North Carolina
        By Alex Sundby, Matthew Mosk, Robert Legare, Andres Triay, Pat Milton
        Updated on: April 29, 2024 / 8:45 PM EDT / CBS News“

          • Right or wrong these cowboys got played for the toy soldiers they portrayed. Their tactics got them killed as much as their hubris.

          • “False equivalence already“

            How so?

            Warrant service for firearms violation… Check.

            Warrant service on Home in residential area… Check.

            Federal agents serving federal warrant… Check.

            Subject shoots at LEO during warrant service… Check.

            Subject terminated by LEO… Check.

            Yes indeed, an armed society is a polite society…

            • Let’s see no knock performed by barely trained lowest bidder storm trooper rejects under questionable circumstances vs warrant served on actual convicted felon where the main question is whether he or his family shot the cops…….yeah false equivalence and fake minor tell whoever gave you the script to rerun the compiler. Also learn to troll if you are going to try.

        • Another fake Miner, how many does this make? This one reminds me of the neighbors dog that would roll in poop and then go home to show off his new perfume.

  2. “Operator” is a cowboy BS term that no professional would use.

    Good reserach/story but hardly surprising. There is the FBI should not be armed and the ATF’s JBT Damn sure should not be armed.

    • I think F-Troop’s SRT are a risk to their own safety as well.

      What is their casualty rate from negligent discharges?

    • I completely agree.

      But then there is the Springfield 1911 Operator.

      Personally, I think too many people put way too much stock in that term. It’s just like ‘mil-spec’.

  3. I never heard the term “operator” when I was active duty. You’d have gotten a WTF? look if you did. You were called what you were. I could never imagine my first sergeant “Operator (insert name) front and center!” It’s funny to even think about.

    • I always thought that the term “Operator” was what those of us that didn’t serve respectfully gave to those who did.

      • I always thought the term operator was for girls who plugged wires into holes.
        ” Yes, I’d like the numblees for the MooCow Militia.”

      • Seemed to creep up sometime during GWOT near the zombie gun era. Never heard anyone seriously use the term (without mallninja in the same breath) until the last 10 years or so.

        • “Seemed to creep up sometime during GWOT near the zombie gun era.”

          Bit earlier than that, I’m familiar with it from Dick Marcinko’s book ‘Rouge Warrior’.

          Marcinko founded the original ‘SEAL team 6’ in the early 1980s…

          • Not surprised, I am sure it was thrown about a bit before it caught on in popular culture (or subculture)

    • Operator is a trained shooter, etc. Two weeks is not trained, it’s an accident or murder waiting to happen.

  4. I just had a operator take out my wifes gallbladder. Them commandos was wearin masks. Mission accomplished!

  5. Speaking of operators, I understand Joe Biden’s new plan to take out Trump is to bring cannibals in through the southern border- that-isn’t-a-border and ship them to Mar-a-Lago.

    • Well at least building all those transport ships will give a bunch of people a trabajar.
      theBiden is doing a lot to for this country, people should give him some acknowledgement.

  6. They are a p0.litical police enforcing the great leader’s p0.litical directives.

    Not unlike the Gestapo, NKVD, Stasi, and other similar agencies.

  7. RE: “Sara Abel, public information officer for ATF’s Dallas Field Division did not return calls seeking comment about the fatal raid.”

    Like most guilty people perhaps they have been advised by attorneys not to answer questions.

  8. Just look at how Waco was handled. One clown shot himself in the leg going up a ladder. There is also a second floor window entry that has to be seen to be belived.

    • I remember the bureau agents on the roof calling for other officers to stop shooting as they were taking fire from their own side.

      ATF agents Billy-Ray, Billy-Joe, and Billy-Bob were upset the Fibbies were getting all the fun and the media coverage.

  9. “From 2015 to 2019, the SRT was deployed 886 times. More than 85% of the deployments were to execute.”

    There, fixed it.

    • When their academy is 12-15ish weeks the 2 week course added in they almost have enough training to be an MP in the army. Pretty sure they need a few more weeks for the marine version though………… Why are they trusted with guns again?

  10. I wonder how many BATFE agents were involved in today’s shootout in North Carolina?
    Will it be revealed that all of the deceased agents were shot with firearms consistent with what the BATFE agents were shooting, just like Waco?

    • It’s idiotic enough to incentivize the gun-grabber folks in the US, not to mention idiotic enough for politicians at all levels to gain creds with the media. “A confiscation law was enacted; case closed”.

  11. “Not one member of ATF’s SRT wore a body cam during the search warrant execution, which is contrary to ATF’s policy.”

    Not only that but the ATF lied about why they were not wearing body cam. Their lie was that they were not wearing body cam because they were not wearing ‘body armor’ (thus no place to attach the body cam) …that’s a lie because in the ring door bell video, right before they tamper with evidence by tapping over the lens, the ATF hit team can clearly be seen wearing plate carriers which is ‘body armor’ and has attachment points to which the body cam can be attached.

  12. All law enforcement are a threat to public safety. And as a person who supports cops it’s sad to say that.

    Because the cops don’t train enough. Yes the training budgets are to low. But individual officers aren’t taking the initiative to train on their own.

    They can dry fire for free. Just like I can and do.

    A long time ago most criminals didn’t have guns they were expensive. And back in the day trying to steal one, could get you killed by the owner. But nowadays lots of criminals have guns.

    If they want to be a successful officer??
    They’re going to have to spend some of their own money, to train on their own.

  13. At one indoor range, I used to shoot there once a week.
    The General Manager said I practiced more than the local PD.

    • There are a few assorted deputies, city officers, corrections, and township officers that frequent the range I go to. All are excellent shots, avid firearms enthusiasts, and on their respective crisis/swat/other response teams. I have seen most of the rest of their departments shoot………and get carried by the ones mentioned before. Somehow it’s worse than annual qual with M9s with MPs.

    • I haven’t kept track on exact numbers, but on our local range we regularly see a lot of the surrounding areas local police out there practicing a lot.

  14. Unfortunately, the “gun community” supports the A.T F. When they go around and confiscate the forced reset triggers.

  15. on day one of Trump’s first day in office 1. Free all Jan 6 prisoners. 2. Executive order to abolish the ATF.

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