Many law enforcement professionals consider the annual SWAT Round-Up International
in Orlando, FL, to be the premier special operations competition. It brings experts together for instruction and lessons from actual case studies, reveals new and innovative tactics that other teams have employed, and motivates the maintenance of peak physical conditioning.
The SWAT Round-Up also introduces vendors and manufacturers of the newest technology and equipment, sharpens firearms and tactical skills, evaluates performance under stress, encourages team spirit, promotes team problem solving and innovation, and acquaints attendees with special operations members from around the world.
SWAT Round-Up International is attended by foreign teams as well as teams from all over the United States, especially Florida. In addition to many different seminars, the competition consists of five team events (usually one daily) and several elective, individual events. In 2009, 52 teams competed, including teams from Hungary, Canada, Sweden, Dubai and Germany. There were also non-competing individuals from various police departments and sheriff’s offices.
Each competing team consisted of eight members. Five competitors were required for all events. All eight members of a team were considered competitive team members and could alternate on any given event. An agency with only five registered members was vulnerable to disqualification if one team member was injured, called to court or called for an emergency.
Each competitive team member was required to be a sworn law enforcement, military or correctional officer as well as a member of the registered agency’s response team—SWAT, ERT, SRT, etc. Ammunition for all of the events was frangible for handguns and subguns. Foreign teams borrowed weapons and other equipment.
All team members in an event were required to wear mission-ready uniforms that included law enforcement-type tactical footwear with over-the-ankle protection. However, on Event # 5, the obstacle course, participants could wear athletic clothing, running shoes, etc. Weapon sight-in opportunities were available.
Major safety violations included breaking the 180-degree plane, violation of the laser safety rule, weapon control loss, early draw and any inappropriate weapon handling. Other time penalties included a missed target and procedural violations. Event #1 – Hostage Rescue
Differing from past years, Events #1 and #2 were both held on Tuesday. Monday was set aside for training and educational classes at the range. For the third year running, this was a “blind event” in which no advance information was provided to any team. In addition, spectators could not attend, and teams were expected not to share event information with others. Those agencies with more than one team participating in this event competed back-to-back.
During the team leader meeting held on Monday evening, basic information about the event was provided in a sealed envelope along with information on the order in which the different teams would compete. The day of the event, all five team members reported to the on-deck area and were safety inspected. (Similar safety protocols existed at all events.) Inside each packet were instructions for the event. Each team was given sufficient time to read the briefing packet prior to the event and develop their plan to handle the scenario.
Team members were required to be mission ready with the department-issued equipment necessary to complete a High Risk Warrant, Hostage Rescue or Barricaded Gunman scenario. According to the rules, each assault team member was to load the handgun and subgun magazines with frangible ammunition and could chamber a round in the handgun and retain those magazines in place. The handguns were holstered in a safe condition. The subgun was secured to the team member’s body by use of an approved manufactured sling.
Traditionally, this event has required the use of a team’s sniper and assault elements to clear a shoot house with one or two threat targets as well as don’t-shoot targets, and to rescue the hostage or hostages, which were either one or two dead-weight, 150-pound training mannequins. Some years the assault team also engaged plate targets. The top team in this event was the Lake County, FL Sheriff’s Office. Event # 2 – Pritcher Scramble
Named in honor of a member of the law enforcement community killed in the line of duty, the Pritcher Scramble first required team members to work together to traverse various obstacles. After the obstacles and upon arriving at shooting positions, each team member engaged a moving target. There was no sniper. (In the earlier years of the SWAT Round-Up, this event was conducted under low light conditions, and gas masks were worn. While other obstacles have changed, going over the 4-foot walls has been constant.)
Unaltered gas masks were secured in carriers. Two team members were each armed with subguns or assault rifles, with four rounds secured in a magazine but not actually loaded until the team member arrived at the firing box. The Grenadier was armed with a 37-40 mm gas launcher and one practice round, and the Less Lethal team member carried a less-lethal launcher and one industry-recognized, less-lethal round such as a bean bag, rubber ball, etc.
Both were also armed with a handgun with one magazine loaded with four rounds. The fifth team member was armed with a shotgun with four rounds of 00 Buckshot. The shotgun was carried through the event. The team’s acting door breaker member was equipped with a battering ram that was provided. Team member shooting positions were randomly drawn and assigned once the team arrived at the on-deck area, with time given to switch out necessary gear.
The start line for this event was inside a SWAT van. Upon “Go,” the team ran from the van, carrying their ram and all gear. They traversed over the top of a series of three 4-foot walls and over a 10- to 12-foot “fence” located after the walls. Once over the fence, team members low crawled under two barriers and then ran and took cover behind a police armored rescue vehicle where they put on gas masks.
Once the gas masks were on, the grenadier loaded and fired a practice round through a downrange window, and the less-lethal gun operator fired at a designated target; these shots could be made in any order. After the shots were fired, the team ran to two closed, freestanding doors in the Breaching Door Area.
Using the ram, the door breaching team member knocked the doors open and then dropped the ram. Subgunner and handgunner members ran to their individual firing boxes which were centered on a 24-foot wide firing lane. Each member had to remove a painted cover with either hand, draw and load his handgun or subgun, and prepare to engage the left-to-right moving paper silhouette target when it entered his lane. The target moved at jog speed, and each shooter had about two seconds to engage it with four rounds.
The team’s shotgunner positioned himself at the far end of the others. His targets were 4-inch head plate targets approximately 20 yards down range. Shotguns could be pump or semiautomatic with iron sights and a barrel length not exceeding 20 inches. Once the shotgunner finished engaging his targets, the shotgun was carried through the rest of the course. After shooting, all weapons were made safe and handguns holstered. Then the course was run in reverse, picking up the ram on the way back. The top team in this event was the Kissimmee, FL Police Department. Event #3 – Officer Rescue
Last year broke tradition, and this event required six team members. From 2005 to 2008, the Officer Rescue was a waterborne event, with each team required to negotiate a water canal in an inflatable boat, engage targets with multiple weapons on land, and rescue a downed officer—all in a simulated chemical environment in which each team member wore an unaltered gas mask.
Before 2005, a boat was not used, and a pond was traversed by all team members using a traverse rope. This year, the event went back to the traditional way of using the pre-positioned/pre-stretched traverse rope and five team members.
The event began with a lottery to determine which members of the five-officer assault element would fire two subguns and which member would become the downed officer. Team members wore unaltered gas masks along with ballistic vests and ear protection; the gas mask’s lens served as range eye protection. Each team member carried a handgun with one magazine loaded with six rounds, carried in a secure holster.
Two subguns were carried through this event but not loaded until the team members arrived at their shooting boxes. Each subgun was carried in a safe and secure manner, action back and safety on, magazine out; the subgun magazine was loaded with six rounds. All rescue equipment except the litter used had to be carried throughout the event.
From the start/stop line, the team ran through a series of man-made obstacles to a pond filled with water and pre-rigged with a traverse line. All team members, including the downed officer, traversed the pre-rigged line using devices of their own choosing, which could be anything from a hook or pulley system to some kind of secret contraption.
After traversing, all team members proceeded to the shooting line, handgunners on the left, subgun shooters on the right. Here team members donned their protective masks, loaded their weapons and engaged their head plate targets, which were required to be knocked over but did not need to fall to the ground. Handgunners engaged their targets from 10 to 15 yards, subgunners from 35 to 45 yards down range. No help was allowed to be given by other team members to any shooter who did not knock over all of his targets.
When completed, the shooters individually departed their shooting boxes and went to the downed officer litter. When the downed officer arrived, he lay down on the litter, at which point the rest of the team transported him back to the pond, abandoned the litter and harnessed him to the traverse line. He was moved across the water by any means necessary; however, the downed officer could not assist in any manner.
Once the pond was crossed, the downed officer was removed from the traverse line and carried to the finish line. The event ended when all team members crossed the finish line. The alternate team member then retrieved all weapons left at the shooting tables while judges tabulated any penalties and the total time. The top team in this event was Hydro Quebec Canada. Event #4 – Tower Scramble
Wearing body armor and carrying rappelling ropes, each five-member team consisted of two elements: a two-member sniper element and a three-member handgun assault element. The three members of the assault element randomly drew lots to see in which firing position (standing or kneeling) they would engage their targets.
From their shooting boxes, they would each need to knock down 12 falling plate targets placed downrange at five to 10 yards; a total of 36 targets had to be successfully knocked down. This year, a handgunner could not help another engage any remaining plates; each assault element member carried 18 rounds. All team members had to rappel. Any equipment and devices utilized by the team had to be carried throughout the event.
Teams had two options for this event: one where everyone first moved to the tower, and one where the assault and sniper elements went in separate directions at first. In option 1, the assault and sniper elements moved together toward the tower. The assault element entered the tower by climbing a cargo net, going through a first floor window and then running up stairs the remainder of the distance to the rappel platform. They then rappelled and ran to their handgun shooting boxes located in another area.
The two snipers moved to a position on the ground and, using optically-sighted precision rifles and five rounds of ammunition, engaged three down-range targets each. After this, both snipers climbed up the cargo net and stairs to the top of the tower, engaged tower targets and rappelled down. Upon completion of their shooting, all team members moved to the finish/start box.
In option 2, the two snipers moved to their ground firing positions where they engaged their ground targets. During this time, the three-member assault element went to their handgun shooting boxes and engaged their targets. They then moved to the tower, climbed the cargo net and stairs to the rappel deck, and rappelled. The snipers at the ground position then also climbed the tower and rappelled after engaging their targets. In either option, only the assault element members stopped their rappels to enter a bottom window and ring a bell before finishing their descent and moving to the finish line.
No one but the snipers could enter their designated shooting positions. Success was measured by knocking down their targets, which were not required to fall to the ground. The targets on the ground were located approximately 225 yards away from the Final Firing Position (FFP). Snipers could only shoot their own assigned targets and could not share ammunition or rifles. Sniper #1 had to engage and hit his target before sniper #2’s target became visible.
This year, as in the past, rappelling equipment rules mandated a maximum of two 7/16-inch or ½-inch static kern mantle ropes of sufficient length to allow for a double line which, with a safe and secure tie-off, touched the ground at the base of the tower and had sufficient free rope to allow for a belay before a load was placed on it. Dynamic ropes were not allowed.
Each team member utilized an approved harness seat, a locking/auto-locking carabiner with a minimum breaking strength of 6,000 pounds, a figure eight device and gloves. Rifles were carried slung, muzzles up or down, and bolt closed until specified. All rappelling activity took place with the team’s own belay people. The top team in this event was the Osceola County, FL Sheriff’s Office. Event #5 – Obstacle Course
Unlike most previous years, Friday’s weather was chilly and wet. Perhaps because of the rain, two obstacles were not used. Team members began the course together. They were allowed to help each other in the planned 17-obstacle event, but if someone moved backward to help a teammate, he had to repeat the course from that point on. The event wasn’t over until the entire team crossed the finish line.
The team members were to do the Rope Climb (closed this year), weave their way through the Jacob’s Ladder, alternate over and under the cross members of the Over/Under, make the Attic Entry and Exit off any side, do the Dirty Name by mounting one cross member and jumping up to and over the next highest cross member, and assist one another up and over the 12-foot Wall. (These first obstacles were subject to change, and the next was a mystery obstacle—to be announced. See the “Insights” article for more information on this and the cancelled obstacles.)
They were then to do the Hand-Over-Hand Incline, low crawl under the mesh cover of the Rock Crawl, climb up and over the bar of the Incline Wall and slide down it, and climb up one side of the Cargo Net and down the other. Then they were to step up and over the six X-shaped obstacles of the High Stepper, and climb up all platforms and slide down the pole of Pete’s Dragon (High Climb Slide).
On the south side of this obstacle, two team members were required to climb a 10-foot vertical wall using hand- and footholds, clear the last level and descend the pole to the ground. The team was then to crawl through the mud and water of the Worm Pit, propel themselves through the Pipe Slide, pull themselves along the Rope Traverse, negotiate the Long Step, and finally run it out to the finish line. The top team in this event was Neutron PAKS Hungary. Jim Weiss is a retired lieutenant from the Brook Park, OH Police Department and a frequent contributor to LAW and ORDER.
Mickey Davis is a Florida-based journalist.