Special Operations Unit
Captain Robert Terrell Johnson
Special Operations Commander
615-741-5660 or 615-741-2060
It is the policy of the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security to employ the Tennessee Highway Patrol Special Operations Division to conduct operations in order to safeguard the lives of the general public and officers as they safely terminate unusual occurrences. This elite unit is charged with handling situations outside the normal duties performed by members within the department. The department will train and utilize these members to facilitate the needs of other enforcement personnel in the completion of specific duty-related tasks. Each member is tasked and must perfect all six specialized sections within the unit: (Aviation Section, Special Weapons and Tactics, Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Public Safety Divers, Search and Rescue and different facets of K-9 utilization). This specialized unit is based out of Nashville to allow for rapid deployment throughout the State of Tennessee.
The Aviation unit is responsible for all air support and any other aviation related responsibility that assists the Department of Safety and Homeland Security and other public safety agencies. The unit has four pilots and two mechanics. It utilizes four Bell 206B “Jet Ranger” helicopters, one Bell OH-58 “Kiowa” and one Bell UH-1H “Huey” for searches for both criminal and non-criminal searches, hoist rescue and tactical operations, stolen vehicle location, marijuana eradication and various other tasks. Helicopters are equipped with various types of equipment, including Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) cameras, search lights and LoJack receivers. Helicopters and pilots are stationed in the THP Fall Branch, Nashville and Jackson districts. Aviation Section pilots are recruited from within the ranks of the Tennessee Highway Patrol. The Department of Safety and Homeland Security is one of several agencies that make up the Governor’s Task Force on Marijuana Eradication. Marijuana eradication missions are flown across the state. Other agencies on the Task Force include the Alcoholic Beverage Commission, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Tennessee National Guard.
Special Weapons and Tactics
The Special Operation members are a team of highly motivated and specially equipped state troopers who are capable of utilizing high powered and automatic weapons to complete their mission. Their duties also consists of providing security for foreign and domestic dignitaries, serving high risk search/arrest warrants, neutralizing barricaded suspects as well as hostage takers. We also provide assistance to all federal, local city and county agencies with prison riots or escapes, felony manhunts and or any man-made or natural disaster.
Explosive Ordnance Disposal
Each member is required to be certified as a Bomb Technician and must attend and complete the Hazardous Devices School located in Huntsville, Alabama. Their duties require them to locate and render safe all suspected bomb devices and or components that could potentially harm them or the citizens of Tennessee. This duty also calls for technicians to destroy old and unstable explosives that are located across the state.
Public Safety Divers
The Special Operation members are also certified as public safety divers through the Professional Association and Diving Instructors (P.A.D.I.) course. The divers are utilized to search for drowning victims, victims of felonious crimes, murder weapons and stolen vehicles. Each member must be well versed and comfortable in water survival.
Search and Rescue
Each Special Operation member is tasked with becoming a rappel master during their course of stay within the unit. This allows for the deployment when called upon to perform search and rescue missions either by the helicopter hoisting system or rappelling from cliffs.
All members of the Special Operations Unit are required to handle a canine. There are several facets of K-9 handlers whether it’s a bloodhound for man tracks for felonious personnel, to locate missing elderly people, runaway juveniles or lost children. A member could also have an explosive detection K-9 or a patrol apprehension K-9.
All new applicants that apply for any section within the Special Operations Unit must meet the following standards:
- Be a commissioned member of the Tennessee Highway Patrol for at least three (3) years and;
- Serve at least one of those years on a strike team.
For more information or assistance, contact one of the following at (615) 741-5660 or (615) 741-2060: