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SWAT Round-Up 2004

Orlando, FL is home to the greatest law enforcement jousting tournament of the year, the SWAT Round-Up. The dragons come in the form of targets, obstacles and the clock, all while not breaking safety rules. SWAT Round-Up—a competition of the best of the best—has been around since 1983. It is held at the Orange County, FL Sheriff’s Office’s year-round training facility which features an obstacle course, classrooms, high-bermed firing ranges, and a landmark, prefab rappel tower. For six days each year, this Velcro-and-ballistic-armor-rich environment stays busy with police, special operations officers, deputies, and military personnel. Foreign teams from Hungary, Germany, Sweden, and Bosnia also return year after year. They borrow what firearms and gear they need from the American teams or from SWAT Round-Up International and compete, all in the spirit of professional camaraderie. Several mornings during SWAT Round-Up, educational training sessions are offered. In 2004, for example, Tony Blauer taught “SPEAR System: Applications for the Gun Fight;” Captain Tom Foster, of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, taught “Advanced Rappelling Techniques—Self & Buddy Rescue;” and Mike Chin and Fred Yates of Heckler & Koch Defense gave instruction in “Tactical Submachine Gun.” Out of the classroom, competitors compete in the five challenging main team events, in addition to individual events such as Super SWAT Cop and those sponsored by vendors. Sixty-five teams attended SWAT Round-Up 2004, and 99 companies showcased and sold their merchandise in the vendors’ area. Hostage Rescue Except for the sniper’s rifle shots in this event, hand gunners on each team used frangible ammunition. Frangible ammunition rules also applied to other handgun events as well as those requiring subgun usage. Each hostage rescue team consisted of one sniper and four entry team members. Entry team members wore gas masks and were armed with handguns and four rounds of ammunition. As with all of the other events except the obstacle course, eye and ear protection and body armor were mandatory. Ballistic helmets were not required for any Round-Up event. This year SWAT Round-Up International provided ballistic vests for the members of each team, which were then passed on to the next team. The sniper, in addition to his unloaded, optically sighted precision rifle, carried an unloaded, holstered handgun. He was permitted to carry as many rounds of ammunition as he thought might be necessary to successfully engage targets. At the start/finish line and on the command of “Go,” the sniper proceeded to the sniper’s platform at the top of the exterior shoot house stairs, faced his downrange target in his final firing position (prone, sitting or low kneeling), and loaded his weapon. He was permitted to use a sling, fire unsupported, or use the firing port and deck for rifle stabilization. No mechanical rest was allowed. The target then began moving at a “prescribed time” (a matter of seconds) after the team left the Start Line, whether the sniper was in place and ready or not. The sniper then engaged his two targets: one stationary and one moving. The dynamic target moved across an open door, an open window and a smaller open window before stopping. Targets were 75 yards away. While the sniper moved to his firing position, the four-member entry team ran to its position just outside the shoot house entry door. Upon the sniper’s first shot, the grenadier threw a flashbang device through a doorway and the members entered once the device exploded. Each entry team member was assigned a shoot house room. Only when members entered his/her own room could weapons be drawn. Team members engaged eight targets located in four separate rooms—two rounds per target. Handguns had to be holstered before leaving the shoot rooms. After clearing the rooms, entry team members rescued two hostage dummies (two 80-pound bags) and carried them back to the start/finish line. Meanwhile, as the entry team entered the shoot house, the sniper engaged his second and last target—whichever one was not downed with his first shot, with as many rounds as necessary. When finished or a judge-confirmed weapon malfunction, he cleared his rifle of all ammunition, dismounted the firing platform and returned to the finish line. The last team member to cross the line stopped the clock. Points were totaled, with penalties for violations. Inappropriate weapon handling was a major safety violation and could bump the team to last place plus thirty seconds for this or any event. In Germany, all SEK (SWAT) are full-time teams. According to SEK Polizeioberkommissar (Captain) Oliver Jansen of the Lower Saxony, Germany, State Police, they borrowed some weapons from the Coral Springs, FL, Police Department and other guns from the SWAT Round-Up International table. They trained at Coral Springs (FL) PD one week before the Round-Up, where there were dynamic targets and an O-course. Safety violations were uppermost in their minds because in Germany, handgun rules are not as strict as at the Round-Up. They had to make a conscious effort to not touch the holstered handguns until in the marked firing areas. At the shooting platform, the fact that his rifle scope did not have his familiar rubber eyepiece threw POK Jansen. Team members brought their own Draeger gas masks from Germany. Pritcher Scramble As in other events, this was a five-team-member challenge, but this time with no snipers. Body armor, gas masks and ear protection were mandated. Basic requirements were for the team to work together in traversing obstacles and for each team member to engage a moving target. At the on-deck area, gas masks were checked and secured in carriers. Three team members were each armed with subguns with four rounds secured in a magazine; the subguns were not actually loaded until the team member arrived at the firing box. The team’s grenadier was armed with either a 37 mm or 40 mm gas launcher; the team’s door breaker was equipped with a battering ram. Both were also armed with a handgun with one magazine loaded with four rounds. The start line for this event was inside a SWAT van. Upon “Go,” the team sprinted from the van and traversed a series of four-foot walls to take cover behind an armored personnel carrier where they put on gas masks. Once the gas masks were on, the grenadier loaded and fired a practice round through a downrange window. The rest of the team moved on his shot. The grenadier caught up with his team as it ran across the range to a closed, freestanding door. The door breaker breached the door using the ram and then dropped it. All team members ran to their individual firing boxes. Each box was centered on a 24-foot wide firing lane with an orange can inverted over a stake. Each member had to remove this can with his or her shooting hand, draw and load his handgun or subgun, and prepare to engage the moving target that was activated when four of the five shooters had removed their cans. When the running man paper silhouette target entered the member’s lane at the speed of a jog, from left to right, each shooter had two seconds to engage it with four rounds. After shooting, all weapons were made safe and handguns holstered. Then the course was run in reverse—back through the door while picking up the ram, back around the armored vehicle, over the walls, and to the Finish Line. Time, target hits, grenadier shot, and penalties were assessed for the final score. According to Orange County Sheriff’s Office Assistant SWAT Team Commander Tom Stroup, their team is not full time. They trained for the Round-Up two weeks before the competition by working it into their other training schedules. They did have a home field advantage, but other agencies were also invited to use the Orange County facility two weeks before the Round-Up. Team subgunners used H&K UMP, .45 caliber, with .45 caliber Glocks being the preferred handgun. The gas gun used was a 40mm SAGE. The team wore traditional vests and tennis shoes to make it easier to get over the 4-foot walls. They felt that transition time to gas mask and shot placement were important factors for this event. Their suggestion for the Pritcher Scramble is that the door beaker can make faster time by carrying the ram over the hurtles by himself. Officer Rescue A lottery determined which members of the five-officer assault element would fire subguns and shotguns, and which member would become the downed officer to be rescued. A team alternate at the firing range pre-positioned the subguns (bolts back and magazines removed), the shotguns (bolt back and empty), and the ammunition. Team members wore unaltered gas masks along with ballistic vests and ear protection; the gas masks’ lens served as range eye protection. All rescue equipment used had to be carried throughout the event. From the start/finish line, the team ran to a ditch filled with water. 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. The downed officer went to a designated individual shotgun table. There he engaged an eight-inch head plate target, 20 to 25 yards down range, using as many rounds as necessary to hit the target. The downed officer then returned over part of the course to the downed officer box where he lay down. The four remaining team members proceeded through a sewer—a black ribbed culvert pipe with a 90-degree turn—to the shooting tables based upon his or her predetermined weapon assignment. There they engaged eight head plate, downrange targets through a firing port, which could not be used as a rest. When their primary weapon’s ammunition was exhausted, they could transition to a handgun and complete the downing of targets. One team member was allowed to assist another in engaging any remaining targets if the first shooter stepped out of his position and the assisting shooter took up that position. They then holstered the handguns, went back through the smoke-filled culvert, and ran to rescue the downed team member. At the side of the water ditch, the shooters lifted the downed officer—who had to remain limp—and hooked him up to the traverse line. Once all team members and the downed officer were safely across the ditch, he was unhooked and carried by one or more team members to 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. According to team member Eric Hawlk of the Poughkeepsie, NY Police Department, to negotiate the traverse line, his team members used a tandem pulley made by Petzl, with wrist lanyards. They found it faster and more efficient than using caribiners and no team member fell into the water. Most team members wore tennis shoes, although one officer wore tactical boots. They began working toward the competition two months before the Round-Up, increasing workouts to two or three days a week. Shooting with gas masks takes a lot of eye/hand coordination, so they trained with emphasis on shouldering their stock-sighted H&K MP5 subguns with their Millennium gas masks on, working around any sight distortions caused by the bubble lens. The filter can be placed on either side of the mask, but there is a nub to get the weapon stock above it. The team found that running, shooting, and traversing with the mask on required excellent cardiovascular fitness. Also, the bend in the culvert was tight, and teams tended to pile up into each other. Their recommendation was to keep a smooth pace in going through it. This team had no weapons malfunctions. Tower Scramble Wearing body armor and carrying rappel ropes, each five-member team consisted of two elements: a two-member sniper element and a three-handgunner assault element. The snipers had to run to the tower and climb a cargo net to the first window, enter, exit through the side door on that level, run up the stairs to the top floor rappel platform and engage two targets 230 to 235 yards down range. Snipers were not permitted to share weapons or ammunition. They could use any ancillary support equipment for their rifles, but all such support equipment and rifles had to be carried through the whole course. They then rappelled down. At the same time, the assault element ran it out to shooting boxes and used their handguns to engage 10 falling plate targets placed downrange at five to ten yards. One handgunner could help another engage any remaining plates by following safety procedures before leaving his own shooting box to enter another’s. Once the plates were down, the assault element ran to the rappel tower, climbed the cargo net to the first window, entered through it and did the stairs to the rappel platform. Most teams moved in two different directions at the beginning of the event, with the sniper element tackling the tower and the distant targets while the assault element ran first to the shooting boxes, then ascended the tower, rappelled down, rang the bell and ran to the finish line behind the sniper element. Other teams moved together to the top of the tower where the handgun-armed assault element rappelled down first, then completed its assigned shooting, and ran to the finish line, leaving the two snipers at the top of the tower to engage their targets. By the rules, each team member in this event had to use approved harness seat/seat, locking carabiner/stubai/ snap-link, figure eight device, and gloves. All equipment carried in with the team needed to leave with the team. According to Sergeant Jim Nagy of the Pasco County, FL Sheriff’s Office, the big issue for this event is cardiovascular fitness. If the sniper was winded after doing his initial run, cargo net and stairs, he would not make his two downrange shots. Pasco County began training individually for the Round-Up two months ahead, but the whole team trained together for just a few hours. They ran the event in tennis shoes. The snipers used a bipod, and the rope bag was used as a backrest, since they had to take the rope bag up anyway. The shooting platform in the tower was above the range’s berms. Wind could have been concern, but was not, mainly because the range was lined with high earth, funnel berms. Snipers made their shooting calculations before the event. For rappelling the team used a CMI rappel seat, horned rescue figure eights, quick release carabiners. The team’s suggestion for the event was to know your gear placement so you don’t have to think about anything but performance. Obstacle Course Team members began the course together. They were allowed to help each other in the 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 wove their way through the Jacob’s Ladder; climbed the rope to touch the crossbar; alternated over and under the cross members of the Over/Under; made the Attic Entry and exited off either side; did the Dirty Name by mounting one cross member and jumping up to and over the next higher cross member; assisted one another up and over the 12-foot wall. Then they went up one side and down the other of the A Frame; did the Hand-Over-Hand Incline; low crawled under the mesh cover of the Rock Crawl; and traversed the Parallel Bars; climbed up one side of the Cargo Net and down the other; crossed the Balance Beams; climbed up all platforms and slid down the pole of the High Climb Slide; crawled through the mud and water of the Worm Pit. Then they propelled themselves through the Pipe Slide; pulled themselves along the Rope Traverse; negotiated the Tangle Foot, and finally ran it out to the Finish Line. Usually, if a team had a problem, it was at the beginning with the Rope Climb or near the end with the Rope Traverse. According to Sergeant Ruben Garcia of the Lakeland (FL) Police Department, his team trained on its own O-Course, which had somewhat the same apparatus as Orange County’s O-Course. They began training on off-duty time 60 days before Round-Up. Each team member knew the team’s standard and worked on their own throughout the year. Physical training centered on running and weight lifting: aerobic and anaerobic. They concentrated on staging the right member in the correct place in line to best complete the event, playing on the strong points of each team member to make the entire team as strong as possible. For example, when climbing the Rope, the last officers boosted the first team members up by forming a pyramid with their bodies. Their suggestion was to stay with it, since preparing for Round-Up builds upon skills that relate to field operations Results Top Scoring Teams: first—Orlando, FL Police Department (Black Team); second—Lakeland, FL Police Department; third—Hungary’s Neutron Police Team, and; fourth—Indian River, FL County Sheriff’s Office. Jens Kohler of the SEK Baden-Wurttemberg team won the Super SWAT Cop title. 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.

Published in Tactical Response, Jan/Feb 2005

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