In February of this year, The FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) celebrated its 30th Anniversary. On May 17th HRT suffered two fatalities during a training exercise off the coast of Virginia Beach, Virginia. Agents Christopher Lorek, 41, and Stephen Shaw, 40, were part of a small, highly skilled and elite FBI tactical support team.
As a former hostage negotiator for the FBI and then during joint operations with them as chief of the Investigative Support Unit, I had the opportunity to know many of the HRT’s members on both a professional and personal level, at the FBI Academy and at various scenes of action. It is tough enough to qualify as an FBI special agent. And thousands of superior agents have applied for positions with the team since its inception, but very few meet the high standards set by this elite group. In fact, since, 1983 fewer than 300 agents have been elected to HRT.
HRT consists of some of the finest people I have ever known. They are all dedicated and brave agents who define what a real hero is, and should be, in our daily lives.
The range of skills team members have to master and perfect is almost unreal, involving superhuman patience and equally superhuman concentration. They must be able to live outdoors under primitive conditions during a siege, sometimes for weeks on end, yet remain eternally alert to be able to take the one split-second shot that will save a hostage’s life. Like other elite groups like Navy SEALs and Delta Force, they are prepared to rush into a building to rescue others, even at very real risk to themselves, without a moment’s hesitation.
Agents Lorek and Shaw died doing something they loved and believed in deeply. They lived by the HRT’s motto: Service Vitas, Latin for “To Save Lives.”
America is so blessed to have people like Special Agents Lorek and Shaw risking their lives daily to save us from harm.