Anything boys can do, girls can do better: SCSO’s first female SWAT operator also named Top Gun

top gun rtp
Publisher’s note: This article appeared in a recent print edition of The GRIP>

SHEILA A. MATHEWS :::

From tragedy to triumph – that is the story of Jennifer Fuller, the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office’s first female SWAT operator.

Fuller earned that title with her successful completion of the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office SWAT School. However, not one to set such low goals, Fuller opted to take it up a notch by also earning the honor of Top Gun.

These accomplishments are not remarkable because Fuller is a woman. They are, however, quite incredible considering the career-threatening third degree burn wounds she sustained only two years ago.

“This is something that was a huge deal for me because after I was burned, I didn’t know if I’d ever even be able to shoot a gun again. Going through that rehab, I didn’t know if I’d be able to do what I’m doing now,” Fuller said. “What I went through with the burn, I don’t wish on anybody. I wouldn’t have been able to make it through without the support system I had, not only my husband and family, but the community. The people of Spalding County really came together to help me, and I don’t want to let any of them down. I want to make them all proud. It makes it even sweeter.”

Fuller has already set her own bar high as the first female law enforcement officer assigned to work out of the S.O.’s Special Operations Unit. A member of the C.A.G.E. Unit, she works with an otherwise all-male unit, many of whom are already SWAT certified.

“All the guys over there at Special Ops are SWAT trained. A lot of my career, I’ve pushed myself to keep up with the guys. When we got the SWAT team, I wanted to be the first female.

The opportunity to go to the weeklong SWAT school was not a given – it had to be earned.
“Even for our SWAT team tryout, there was nothing bumped down for me,” Fuller said, who added that she was the only woman in her SWAT class. “They were great. They treated me just like I was a SWAT operator. I was no different than any other guy out there. I had the same standards as the men.”

The equal standard also applied to the Top Gun competition.

“They rank their top gun not on shooting scores. They did their Top Gun out there based on a training exercise,” she explained. “They had us start at the far right of the range all the way to the end, and we ran to the dividing wall. From the dividing wall, we ran to the 25-yard line in full gear. At the 25-yard line, we did 10 push-ups. From the 10 push-ups, we ran to probably lane five or six, which is basically the span of both ranges.”

She then took her shots at what was described as a small metal silhouette with a softball-sized moving red target. The silhouette was the hostage and the moving red target was the bad guy, she said.

“We had two rounds to shoot the bad guy,” Fuller said. “I drew my weapon, collected my breathing and hut the red target on the first shot… on the second round, I hit it again and it swung around, and the competition was over. They had informed me at that time that I was Top Gun, and I couldn’t believe them. There were probably eight more people to go after me, so I thought someone else would get it, but I was the only one in the class who hit the bad guy on each shot.”

Law enforcement officer.

Survivor.

First female SCSO SWAT operator.

Top Gun.

Those accomplishments may be enough for some, but not Fuller.

“I’m looking at my next adventure, what my next goal is going to be,” she said.

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