GRANITE CITY, Ill. - They face the most dangerous and violent situations and they need to be ready for anything including tense standoffs, hostage rescues, and the unpredictable. They are the Special Weapons and Tactics Squad, or as most people know them, the SWAT team.
When the team is activated, you may not expect to see a woman. Lizzi Varga, 31, is the only female SWAT team operator in the Metro East, and she's a Granite City police officer.
"It gives me a purpose. It gives me something to do that I feel like I am giving to people, I'm helping people. SWAT team, same thing but on a bigger scale," said Varga.
She started training with the SWAT team about five years ago.
"I would just show up on my own time just because I wanted it so bad," said Varga.
The investment paid off. She got the opportunity to try out and passed the test on her first try.
"A lot of people ridiculed me when I decided I was going to be a police officer. Same thing with the SWAT team. There were people who ridiculed me or that. There were people who told me flat out you can't do it, but I just pushed through and I did it," said Varga.
She's a single mother and says her biggest inspiration is her 5-year-old son Uriah.
"I want to be a good example for him," said Varga.
She hold her own in the annual 18-hour SWAT team training, and gets high praise from her teammates and her bosses.
"She motivates a lot of people with her work ethic. She wants to be the best and that's why she is here," said Jonathan Hadley, a SWAT team operator.
"There are no exceptions being made for her. The guys just look at her as one of the guys and that's how she performs," said Lt. Jonathan Blaylock, the SWAT team commander.
"Whatever you want to do you can achieve it and it doesn't matter if you are a male, female, it doesn't matter. I believe you can do it," said Varga.
She credits her ability to keep up with the men to her workouts. She takes Crossfit six times a week.