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‘BITS’ training promotes safety with humor

By Nathan L. Hanks Jr. | | January 9, 2014

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“Blessed are they who laugh at themselves for they shall never cease to be amused,” is the philosophy of former Smith County, Texas, Sheriff J.B. Smith, Marine Corps Logistics Command’s guest speaker at “Back in the Saddle” training, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Smith, an emmy award-winning author, licensed Texas auctioneer and professional speaker, entertained Marines and civilian-Marines stationed aboard Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany during “BITS” training at Thomason Gym, here.

Smith is scheduled to visit Marines at Blount Island Command in Jacksonville, Fla., Thursday, and Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, Calif., Tuesday and Wednesday.
Col. Jeffrey Q. Hooks, commander, Marine Depot Maintenance Command, provided opening remarks.

“Safety is at the top of all the things we do,” he said. “It is important for us to get you out of the workplace, bring you here, talk about ‘Back in the Saddle’ training and get you refocused, recommitted and re-energized. Let’s be proactive in the approach to safety.”

Hooks introduced Smith, who was continuously elected as Smith County sheriff from 1976 through 2012. He managed a department of 350 personnel and supervised more than 1,000 prisoners.

The story-telling lawman and Vietnam veteran began his remarks wearing a suit and working the crowd like a stand-up comic.

He then took off his suit jacket in favor of a cowboy hat and vest adorned with his sheriff’s badge while telling jokes and tongue-twisters, mixed with a bit of “Hee-Haw” and TV cop drama.

The Texas cop humorist described participating in a drug raid where he forced his way onto the team conducting the raid. During the raid, he instructed a team member to break a window and toss a flash bang grenade inside a house.

The grenade bounced off the screen, because the window was put in backward, and landed between Smith’s legs, where it exploded.

Smith also re-enacted a patrol where he was complacent and did not follow the proper procedures when responding to a burglar alarm.

He told of squatting behind a patrol car during a shootout, only to have the rookie he warned to take cover, jump in the police car and drive away. Using the car for protection, Smith then ran to the rear of the building to make sure the robber inside did not escape.

He looked through a small opening, only to be met with tear gas, which was thrown by police officers covering the front entrance.

With eyes watering and snot running down his face, Smith, who was carrying his pistol upright, stumbled around the side of the building and hit his knee on a pipe causing him to fire his weapon into the air.

After the hail of gunfire ceased, he found out he was the only casualty because the robber, who was drunk, had passed out on the floor.

Smith’s message he wanted to stress from his two encounters was to “follow the policy because the policy is in place for a reason.” If he had not broken protocol by insisting he be a part of the drug raid team and following proper procedures when approaching an alarm, he would not have been injured.  

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Stephen Sutton, electronics maintenance officer, Communication Electronics and Support Equipment Division, Weapons System Management Center, LOGCOM, grew up in Tyler, Texas, and remembered when Smith was the Smith County sheriff there.

“He was your classic Texas sheriff,” Sutton said. “He is the kind of guy that will have you laughing one minute, but let you know really fast if you step out of line.  He is tough as nails, but deeply cares about the people who are in his county.

“I really enjoyed his presentation, it felt like home to me,” he added. “I also enjoyed getting to meet him afterward.”


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