Team members from several agencies shared their SWAT Round-Up International experiences, including training tips, equipment selection and competition strategies.
Hostage Rescue Event
This event required running, sniper and shoot-house work, and rescuing hostages in the form of two 150-pound dummies.
According to Sergeant Jeffrey Tambasco with the Kissimmee, FL Police, the agency has 150 officers. Of these, 25 are SWAT. Kissimmee has 75,000 residents with several hundred thousand working within or traveling through the area daily. His team placed eighth in the hostage rescue event.
The team’s basic SWAT school lasts for two weeks. It is held at either the Orange County Sheriff’s Office school or conducted by the Florida SWAT Association. Each SWAT officer takes at least one advanced SWAT course each year. The team members trained at the Orange County site (Lawson Lamar Firearms and Tactical Training Center), the same one used during the round-up.
Their SWAT competition team has attended the round-up for about 15 years. They began training for the 2006 Round-Up in July, concentrating on physical fitness, running and shooting. SWAT has its own physical training test that is similar to the Cooper Physical Fitness Test: 55 push-ups in one minute, 45 sit-ups in one minute, hanging pull-ups, a run of 300 yards within 55 seconds and other physical training events.
Equipment used during the round-up included: Glock Model 22 handguns; Speer frangible ammunition; Safariland Level III Raptor holsters with the same retention level as duty holsters; Bushmaster M4 rifle with EOTech Hologram weapon sights; BlackHawk Swift Sling; Sig Blaser, caliber .308 sniper rifle; and Leupold Mark 4 illuminated scope.
Polizeiobermeister (Senior Sergeant) Jakob Weidl with the Munich SEK, Bavarian State Police reports that the there are about 30,000 police officers on his agency, with 60 SEK operators serving out of two facilities: Munich and Nuremberg. At the round-up, they borrowed guns from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office’s guns and weapons packages because transporting such items into the U.S. is prohibited. The Munich SEK placed 47th in the hostage rescue event.
In Germany, the members of SEK (SWAT) carry Glock Model 17 pistols with laser mounts. At the round-up they borrowed Glock 17s and wore Safariland Level II retention holsters. By preference, some team members used belt holsters for vehicle assaults, but when wearing full tactical ballistic armor, they wore drop leg-style holsters.
In Germany, they use .223 caliber Steyr AUG subguns, in modified versions with either an EOTech sight or scope, and every team member has two laser mounts, one for the handgun and the other for the subgun. The sniper rifle is the Blaser LRS2 in caliber .308 Win. The scope used is Nightforce NSX, with a rail to adapt a NSV 80 night vision attachment. The team has one .338 Lapua caliber Accuracy International sniper rifle for more power and penetration at long distances.
The team did not do any special training for the round-up due to the fitness level already required to pass their annual state police test. Instead, they concentrated on tactics and practicing events correctly such as remembering the laser rule while doing live entries. The team has also trained with German Army Special Forces and GSG-9, using both shoot-house and airplane intervention tactics. GSG-9 mainly operates in antiterrorism situations, while SEK operates against organized crime and illegal drugs. The shoot house they use for training is an advanced one with rubber sheets on the movable walls.
Individually, the team members began training for the round-up two months out, but they had only one week to train together as a team. At home, they do not use training dummies, but rather have a team member lie down for practicing carries and rescues.
For the hostage rescue event, the team concentrated on safety procedures and information obtained at the team leaders’ meeting. They watched details. The sniper made his shots with a borrowed Remington 700 rifle and relied on what the deputies who loaned the rifle told him. In the shoot house, target identification was easier than expected. Hunting the four entry rooms also worked out better than expected; they picked up the mannequins and left with speed.
Pritcher Scramble Event
During this agility, marksmanship, and tactics event, team members negotiate obstacles and engage moving targets.
According to Sergeant Kevin McGinley with the Osceola County (FL) Sheriff’s Office, who was also the first-place winner in the Super SWAT Cop competition for the past two years, there are 398 deputies on his department, with 24 of them on the part-time SWAT team. His team came in 17th in the Pritcher Scramble Event.
As a team, they began training two and a half weeks before the round-up. Even though the team did not have moving targets with which to train, they only missed three out of 16 rounds in 30 seconds. Every member of the team trained with less lethal because, at the start line of the event, a random drawing determined which team member would be the less-lethal gunner.
They trained for three days at the Orange County facility and spent one hour practicing on the event’s fence obstacle; however, most of the practice time was spent training on the obstacle course and the rappel tower for other events. They felt the fence was an area that might create problems; the team needed to work as a group so that they did not bog down. Getting the ram up and over the fence was another problem.
Equipment that they used included Glock Model 21 handguns with Speer 230 grains ammunition; Heckler and Koch UMP, .45 caliber subguns; slings issued by H&K; Remington 870 shotgun with 18-inch barrel; 40mm Def-Tec gas gun; and Safariland, Level III holsters. Regular ammunition rather than frangible was used for this event because the targets were paper.
Officer Rescue Event
Set in a simulated chemical environment, the team had to use waterborne methods to rescue a downed officer and engage targets; snipers were included in the team.
According to Captain Sae-Woong Hwang of the National Police Agency Republic of Korea and Commander Wang-Min Lee of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency, they heard about the round-up from an LAPD officer. A search on the Internet provided more information. The team requested a rule book and trained for one month in Korea.
SWAT in Korea is made up of members from both agencies. Korean SWAT rappels a lot but does not normally do waterborne training. For the round-up, they trained on a lake. The Korean National Police came in 15th in the officer rescue event.
Because every male serves two years or longer in the military, all police officers have military backgrounds. SWAT members are trained in Judo, Aikido, and Taekwondo. Team members do not attend a basic SWAT course; instead they are placed for a six-month period with their team. Afterward, the team member receives a one-month specialty training, such as entry team or sniper.
The Korean team’s shoot houses are a structure made of old tires; they use both frangible and regular ammunition. To the team, SWAT isn’t about muscle or size, but about speed, agility, and good judgment. They do dynamic shooting at moving targets, with the shooters being both stationary and on the move.
Equipment used included Glock 17 pistols borrowed from the Orlando PD. In Korea, the SWAT team uses H&K P7 or Glock 17 pistols. Ballistic vests worn in the competition were Korean-made and threat level III. In Korea and at the round-up, they used H&K MP5 subguns with holographic weapon sights. Shotguns are not often used by police.
The gas masks were Samgong—the same gas masks used by the Korean military—with two eye lenses. This presented a bit of a problem obtaining a cheek weld for shoulder-weapon shooting. The filters used at the round-up were the same as the ones they use with teargas when training or in the field. Different filters are available for protection against such agents as nerve gas. Helmets at the round-up were the common American military design.
While the Korean National Police represented the largest agency at the round-up, the Waynesville, NC Police Department special response team (SRT) represented the smallest agency, with 35 officers (including part-timers) and 12 SRT members. Their greatest crime concerns at home are drug abuse and property crimes such as burglaries.
According to Lieutenant Brian Beck, SRT members attend three SWAT schools: 80-hour basic SWAT, 40- to 50-hour intermediate SWAT, and 40- to 50-hour advanced SWAT.
Team members began training for the round-up in July, increasing the intensity during September. The Waynesville SRT came in 37th in the officer rescue event.
As many SRT team members as possible participated on the training days, but because of the small size of the agency, just one or two officers were often able to train on any given day. And the training budget is not large…when practicing for the officer rescue event, team members did not have a 150-pound dummy to train with, so they improvised using sections of telephone poles.
This was the team’s first time at the round-up. The members learned about it from their chief, a former member of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, the host agency. Last year, members of their SRT monitored the round-up and attended morning classes. Their physical fitness training is based on North Carolina’s Police Officer Physical Abilities Test, POPAT: 20 strict push-ups, 20 strict sit-ups, run 400 yards, drag a 150-pound person 50 feet to a cruiser.
Equipment used included Glock Model 22 handguns; Winchester frangible ammunition; MSA gas masks (they had no problem shooting shoulder weapons with these); BlackHawk CQC, Level II retention holsters; and Point Blank, Level IIIA ballistic vests. For this event the team borrowed one AR-15 with a 5X scope and used its own AR-15.
One of the problems they encountered involved the team’s sniper shooting from the basin-floating Zodiac, something he did not have a chance to practice. However, hitting a different target from the elevated position was no problem.
Tower Scramble Event
A rappelling tower and targets challenged the five-officer team of both snipers and an assault element. Rappelling, marksmanship and endurance were required.
According to Polizeihauptkommissar (Captains) Ralph Lenger and Polizeioberkommissar Björn Zimnik with the SEK Schleswig-Holstein in Germany, the population of their federal German state Schleswig-Holstein is about 2.4 million, with 6,800 police officers and 45 SpezialEinsatzKommando (SEK). In Germany, SEK (SWAT) units are full time. This SEK team placed 29th in the tower scramble event.
The length of basic SEK school is 22 weeks. Every SEK officer also has specialty training such as rappelling, sniper, entry team, team leader, defensive tactics, shooting, explosive entry, and K-9. The SEK K-9 is a Belgian Malinois trained as an assault dog rather than as a drug or bomb dog.
The team members began training for the round-up six weeks out, but not daily. This event included a rappel tower element, so they did their rappelling practice in Germany using a fire department tower with stairs, similar to the one used at the round-up. In Germany, their rappelling gear is made by Mammut, a Swiss company. For the round-up they practiced with borrowed rappelling gear such as the figure eights and the rope. This is because static rope is used at the round-up, while they use dynamic rope in Germany.
In their federal state, the SEK team does 150 to 200 tactical operations a year. Compare this to Cleveland, whose 20 SWAT officers do about 650 operations a year. SEK is used to conducting assault operations. One of their vehicles is an armored VIP car. If they need a better armored vehicle, they borrow one from the state’s readiness police, often referred to as the riot police, i.e., Bereitschaftspolizei.
In Germany, they use Accuracy International sniper rifles. The rifle they borrowed for the round-up did not have the metric scope, but they didn’t find that this was a real problem. Ballistic vests used at the round-up as well as for undercover work at home were Second Chance. In Germany, they also use Safariland (German Class IV+) tactical vests with arm covers. The team borrowed SIG Sauer 226 handguns from the SIGArms vendor to match the ones they use at home. They also borrowed Uncle Mike’s and Safariland Level II holsters.
Obstacle Course Event
Each of the five-team members was required to overcome 17 obstacles through teamwork and physical fitness.
According to Lieutenant Jim Nagy, there are 350 deputies at the Pasco County, FL Sheriff’s Office. While it has an authorized strength of 20, SWAT is down to 12 members; tryouts for the part-time team will be held soon. The Pasco County team came in 50th place in the obstacle course event.
Other than the normal two training days a month and three for snipers, the team did no special training for the round-up. Pasco County does not have its own obstacle course; the team used Clearwater Police Department’s. The agency gym facilities are used by team members on an individual basis.
The obstacles on this course that concerned the team the most were the rope traverse, over/under, and the newly-placed Xs of the high stepper. Getting the team through the over/under smoothly was probably the most difficult, the team said.
As for the rope climb, it takes a lot out of strength and speed, so the team put its two quickest members up front to help the slower members up the rope. They did this by having one team member get low so that the climber can use his knee and shoulder and then climb to the next deputy’s shoulder. This gave the climbers a five-foot advantage so they could climb the rest of the way by themselves. Obviously, the last member had to climb it on his own. The Xs were at the end of the course when the team members were winded, so there was some difficulty with this obstacle.
According to Lakeland, FL Police Department Captain Thomas Day, competing at the round-up is a rich tradition in his agency, first competing in 1992. Out of 235 officers, 25 are SWAT. The department competed with two teams. Team Blue came in first place overall and won the pritcher scramble, officer rescue and tower scramble individual events.
The team has a duplicated obstacle course for training, but not a shoot house. The team trained a few times at the Orange County Sheriff’s Office facility before the round-up. Equipment used by Lakeland PD included Kimber and Para-Ordnance handguns, Winchester frangible pistol ammunition, H&K MP5K PDW and modified Rock River Arms CAR A4; and .308 caliber McMillan sniper rifle with a Leupold, Mark 4 4.5x14x40 non-illuminated scope. Ballistic vests for street duty were Safariland; for SWAT entry team work, PROTECH, Level IIIA. Holsters were Safariland, Level II, and the gas launcher was H&K with rifled barrel.
The team felt that there were many benefits to competing in SWAT Round-Up. Among them were the testing of team members under stress, application of teamwork, enhanced professionalism on the street, expanded learning from the training classes, and recognition within the community.
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 writer and author. They can be reached at JWEISS2109@aol.com and MDavisFLA@aol.com.