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SWAT Round-Up 2005: Team Insights

Written by Jim Weiss

Each of the teams competing at the SWAT Round-Up entered the competition with Herculean determination. All benefited from their experience, but probably, too many team members left thinking, "We gotta know more."

Teams from the Hamilton, OH Police, Orlando, FL Police, Lower Saxony, Germany State Police, Orange County, FL Sheriff’s Office, and Osceola County, FL Sheriff’s Office have SWAT Round-Up experiences to share.

Hamilton Police and Hostage Rescue

This event required running, sniper and shoot house work, and rescuing hostages in the form of two 150-pound dummies. In previous years, they were 80-pound bag dummies.

According to Sergeant Wade McQueen and Lieutenant Scott Scrimizzi of the Hamilton Police, their agency consists of 127 officers, including a 22-member, part-time SWAT team. They work rotating shifts and train a minimum of eight hours a month; for SWAT competition they train on their own time. Hamilton has one of the highest crime rates per capita in that state. Due to this fact, they shop around for the best equipment and outside trainers available, such as active members of LAPD.

The team had known about the SWAT Round-Up, but had not participated previously due to a lack of funding. However, when they won first place at the Northwest Ohio Corrections Competition two years ago, the city promised to send the team to the Round-Up if they won again this year. Even though they placed second in the Corrections Competition, the city still picked up the tab for attending.

To train for the competition, the Hamilton SWAT team built their own obstacle course four times larger than that used at the Round-Up. They trained for the Round-Up for one month, but in reality they were in competition training for 4-5 months because of the Corrections competition.

Their team trained with the same make of 150 pound dummies used at the Round-Up. Their handguns were H&K USP, .45 caliber, and their holsters are Level II Safariland. The sniper rifle was a bolt action Remington 700 Police Sniper rifle with a 3x10 power Leupold scope. At the Round-Up, their sniper “smoked” his three targets, hitting two targets with one round.

In the Hostage Rescue shoot house, the team made all of their shots without penalties. They trained to avoid drawing their weapons upon the detonation of the flash/bang. While other teams counter this by keeping their hands in the air, Hamilton’s tactic was to enter with their hands positioned as if they were holding imaginary MP5 subguns; otherwise they thought it would have been difficult to flow through the shoot house.

For teams new to the Round-Up competition, they suggest that the large O-course they created built stamina. Teams need to plan for physical training, and, since wearing a gas mask is like breathing through a straw, training should be done with gas masks on.

Orlando Police versus Pritcher Scramble

During this agility, marksmanship, and tactics event, team members negotiate obstacles and engage a Moving Man target.

According to Drug Task Force Agent Tim Stanley of the Orlando Police, out of the 743 officers on the force, 45 are SWAT. His agency runs two teams at the Round-Up: Team Black and Team Gold. Last year Team Black took overall first place. These competition teams dedicate two weeks to training for the SWAT Round-Up. They do physical conditioning all year, and the SWAT team, a part-time team, trains twice a month. They train at their own makeshift course and range setup on a donated, five-acre property and put together in replica of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office Round-Up events. They train a lot on moving targets.

On the Running Man part of the Scramble, they dropped one subgun shot. This year they thought the Running Man targets seemed slower and smaller than in the past.

The handguns they used were Sig Sauer P226, 9mm. Their subguns were Heckler&Koch UMP, 40 S&W, and Bushmaster M-4s. Holsters are Retention Level III Safariland and the gas launcher is the Defense Technology 40mm. Their gas masks were obtained through a Homeland Security grant.

The team’s suggestions for the event: When going through the tube, keep your head low, elbows in, and don’t have guns slung. People who sprint it often get hurt. When exiting the van at the start, their fastest team member goes first, then the less lethal man and grenadier. Have each team member train for all positions because you don’t know who would be shooting what on the course. Be competitive. Practice safety at all times. Work as a team. Have fun.

Officer Rescue, German-style

Set in a simulated chemical environment, the team must use waterborne methods to rescue a downed officer and engage targets; snipers are included in the team.

In Germany, all SEK (SWAT) are full-time teams. According to SEK Polizeioberkommissar (Captain) Oliver Jansen of the Lower Saxony, Germany, State Police, because of their international flights to the Round-Up and gun laws, they borrowed their weapons from the Coral Springs, FL Police and the SWAT Round-Up International table. They used .40-caliber Glocks, an AR-15, an Accuracy International Rifle in .308 caliber, and a Remington Model 870. In Germany, they also use Glocks, but Model 17s and Model 26s in 9mm with laser sights. They train with paper targets, not steel plate, and do physical training two hours daily.

Once here, the team trained at Coral Springs Police training facility, but because they had so many missions in Germany, they only had three days to train for the Round-Up. In Coral Springs, Hurricane Wilma knocked out electricity to the range.

They have competed in a GSG-9 hosted competition in Germany. Safety violations were uppermost in their minds because in Germany, handgun rules are not as strict as at the Round-Up. They made a conscientious effort not to touch their holstered handguns until in the marked firing areas. In Germany, they do train with Zodiac boats and they have done waterborne training with the Navy SEALS, but they utilize outboard engines instead of the oars required for this event.

For the event they muscle-powered their inflatable boat with two officers paddling and two pulling along on the rope that traveled the length of the canal. Their time prior to penalties was 3.33 minutes, after penalties 5.03 because they missed two handgun shots and one shot from the borrowed AR 15 sniper rifle.

The holsters they use in Germany are Blackhawk Level II. Team members brought their own Draeger gas masks from Germany and had no problem breathing. Footwear was Haix, Oakley and Adidas. International teams were not able to practice from the boat-motion sniper position.

The German federal state of Lower Saxony paid for their time, considering it training. The five team members picked up all other expenses including their travel costs. The team tries to help other SEK teams that have not competed in the Round-Up before, as first-time teams have difficulties with the rules.

Orange County at Tower Scramble

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 Orange County Assistant SWAT Team Commander Tom Stroup and Deputy Ron Batista, theirs is a part-time team. They began training for the Round-Up two weeks before the competition. Orange County normally runs two teams at the Round-Up: Team Stars and Team Stripes. The Team Stars came in 1st place two years ago.

Their subguns are H&K UMP, .45 caliber. Their preferred handguns are STI Model 1911, Glock Model 21, or whatever model Glocks that team members wish. Sniper rifles are HS Precision in .308 caliber; holsters are Safariland. Rifle ammunition is Federal, 168 grain boat-tail, hollow point. The team considers Federal frangible handgun ammunition to be the most reliable.

Gas masks were from MSA. Shoulder weapons can be problematical for street use, so they use optical sights on their subguns, then they don’t have the gas mask filter nub problem of having to lock a subgun into the shooter’s cheek to obtain a sight picture. Distortion is not a real problem. At the Round-up only iron sights on subguns are permitted. Rappel gear included standard horned (eared) figure eights and quick release carabineers.

According to Batista, when doing the cargo net, it is important to maintain running momentum so you can get extra height with your jump when starting the climb. A descriptive term for this technique is the “spider jump.” There is a lot of running and pounding during the event so the placement and security of gear is important. They rely on circuit training for physical conditioning; for example, concentrating on the upper body for 20 minutes for three days and then move to cardio-training.

For handgun shooting practice, use drop plate targets. It’s all about the front sight. The mistake shooters make is a reactionary one when they take their eyes off the front sight to watch the plate fall. If you will be shooting steel plate, practice shooting steel plate.

Osceola County and Obstacle Course

Each of the five-team members was required to overcome seventeen obstacles through teamwork and physical fitness.

According to Deputy Kevin McGinley of the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office, team member and also the winner of Super SWAT Cop, the ultimate SWAT Round-Up fitness event, everyone on the team is a competitor. In return for training on their own time and for SWAT call-outs, the sheriff’s office paid for their participation. Round-Up was looked upon as a beneficial training event and team builder. McGinley does weight training and cycles in the gym daily.

For the Rope Climb, their team’s slower members went first, with the faster members lifting them and giving assistance before doing the rope themselves. Teams new to the Round-Up might want to consider doing the Rope Traverse obstacle one team member at a time so there is less bounce. In their experience, doing the traverse rope from below is faster. New teams also really need to get on the O-course and experience it to develop technique. It’s mind over matter.

But no matter where a team finished in the competitions, according to Orange County Sheriff’s Office Assistant SWAT Team Commander Tom Stroup and Deputy Ron Batista, nobody loses at the SWAT Round-Up. It is a win-win situation.

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. They may be reached at jweiss2109@aol.com and mdavisFLA@aol.com.

Published in Tactical Response, Jan/Feb 2006

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