POINTE COUPEE PARISH, LA — The seven parishes that reside along the Mississippi are honing their skills on the water to make sure they are ready when duty calls.
Ascension, Iberville, Pointe Coupee, East Feliciana, West Feliciana, East Baton Rouge and West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Offices have come together to make up the JTF-7 (Joint Task Force-7).
Pointe Coupee Parish Sheriff Budd Torres said that this week is a milestone for their training. The group is receiving Tactical Operator Course certification, which is at the top level for boat operators at a federal level.
"We will have the largest number of TOC-certified operators in the nation,” stated Torres, “and it's really the first online."
Paul Marionneaux from West Baton Rouge loves working on the force; he said being on the water is second nature.
“I enjoy working on the water,” stated Marionneaux. “This is fun. It’s not like work"
“We’re in south Louisiana, and all of the guys that work here come from rural parishes and have boat experience,” said Torres. “So, it’s just a matter of formally training them.”
Not only do all of these sheriff's deputies and SWAT team members know how to run and operate these state-of-the-art boats, Marionneaux says it’s all about teamwork.
"We all train to do our jobs and each other’s jobs."
Out of the entire force, which has 120 members, half of them will have the highest level of training nationwide by the end of this summer.
The JTF Task Force was called to action during the recent chemical plant explosions. They also help with water patrol and security during major events.