Elite police bodyguard force sees first female Counter Assault Unit operator

SINGAPORE – A car screeched to a halt right in the middle of a “terrorist attack”, and four heavily armoured police officers hopped out of the vehicle and directly into the line of fire.

The four officers then deftly stormed through doors to clear a safe path for their VIP charge, firing rounds to take down the “attackers”, while protecting their charge with their bodies.

Among these four Counter Assault Unit (CAU) operators in this exercise scenario last Friday (Aug 28) is a woman, Sergeant Anna (not her real name), who is the first female to graduate from the Police Security Command’s (SecCom) CAU course.

The identities of CAU operators cannot be made public due to operational sensitivities. They are primarily personal security officers with SecCom, an elite unit assigned to protect the President, ministers and other very important dignitaries.

The three-month course is physically demanding, and the passing rate of this latest batch – the eight – was slightly over 60 per cent with five of eight trainees, including Sgt Anna.

The specialised CAU is tasked to protect local and foreign VIPs during major events and was commissioned in May 2006, following high-profile terrorist events like the September 11 terror attacks on the United States in 2001, and the 2002 and 2005  Bali bombings which targeted tourist spots. 

Officers like Sgt Anna perform their role as CAU operators during major events such as the 2018 Trump-Kim summit in Singapore, at National Day Parades and, most recently, during the Parliament opening last week.

In major incidents, CAU operators are the “first line of defence” in protecting their charges, and their training has to be challenging to prepare them for this role, CAU’s Commanding Officer, Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Bros Leong told the media during the training demonstration last Friday (Aug 28).

Operators are selected based on their physical abilities and mental readiness, and they go through a rigorous training programme that prepares them for close quarter battles and attack scenarios, among others.

“They are trained and prepared to take a bullet for the VIPs,” said ASP Leong, adding that instructors even shoot simulation rounds at their trainees to train them to shield their VIP charges instead of dodging the rounds.

Operators must also bear an average of 20kg worth of gear while going through their training, as they are decked out in heavy armour and carry extra gear like extra ammunition, gas masks and a shield.

SecCom’s Counter Assault Unit, which is a specialised unit under SecCom to protect VVIPs during major events doing a demonstration. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

All trainees were held to the same standard during the training regardless of their gender, without exception, he said, adding that he was proud of Sgt Anna for holding her own.

Sgt Anna said it felt surreal to have completed the gruelling course, which ended on August 20.

SecCom’s Counter Assault Unit, which is a specialised unit under SecCom to protect VVIPs during major events doing a demonstration. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

The 28-year-old officer, who joined SecCom two years ago, is an avid gamer who played a lot of first-person shooting games. She said she joined the CAU as she was interested in tactical movements and the tactical shooting involved in operations.

She was extra motivated to complete the course knowing that she would be the first female to do so, and said her fellow course mates also gave her a lot of encouragement.

“(We) always cheered each other on, and whenever one of us was feeling low… we’d always help each other out. There was never a ‘give-up’ moment,” said Sgt Anna.

“I hope to motivate other aspiring female officers that they too are able to join the unit, as long as they believe in themselves.”

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