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Are you thinking about signing up for a SWAT competion? If you ve been on your department s SWAT team for a few years, have some military background or specialized training that you think would translate well to a SWAT competition, it s a natural progression. But are you really ready to compete in a high-speed SWAT competition with the best SWAT operators in the tactical community?
Having helped create the Connecticut SWAT Challenge and directing the event for the past five years, I can tell you that a great SWAT competition should be the toughest training you ll ever experience. Following are four tips for the SWAT operator and team who want to compete in a SWAT competition at the highest level.
1. Pick the right competition:There are a number of SWAT Challenges across the country some good, some not so good. Just like doing pre-intel prior to a hit, check with other oper ators who have attended the event. Listen to their critiques and choose wisely. Most teams get to attend only one event a year, so it s vital you pick one that s realistic and worthwhile. Stay away from ones that reward gaming with loose run-and-gun standards. Also, avoid a competition that has operators competing in soft body armor, T-shirts or anything other than their full callout gear. Ensure the competition focuses on the core tenants of the SWAT operation: teamwork, fitness, shooting proficiency, leadership, problem solving, creativity and realistic scenarios. Stay away from those that charge outrageous fees or that are operated by businessmen, and opt for those run by fellow SWAT operators who are running the event for the right reasons.
2. Pick the right competitors:Deciding which team members compete will likely determine how rewarding the event is for your team.
Pick operators who commit to your team all year, not just when a great training event presents itself. Attitude and selflessness are every bit as important as raw skills. Too often we ve seen physical studs who shoot wonderfully but, under pressure, exhibit the me first attitude that destroys many teams in the tactical community. Don t make the process an all-star selection. Just as the MLB and NBA all-star teams often lose to less-talented teams who have played together for years, your team will also fail to maximize the training element without the right team attitude.
3. Training for the team should stay mission-oriented not competition-oriented:One of our top competing teams has a team leader who preaches that he won t allow or use his tactical training time to prepare for the event. I agree wholeheartedly. The purpose of our SWAT and any other competition worth its salt is to realistically train and prepare you for calls in your communities. Teams must be in shape 365 days a year and be ready to operate in a tactical environment 24/7. Intense regular training should always be mandatory, so there s no need to dedicate team time to prepare for a competition.
Our competition is used to train the teams for their jobs, not vice versa. Ensure the entire team participates in training to encourage unity rather than excluding those who aren t competing, thus creating a divide that will surely have a negative impact on the team dynamic.
4. Compete for the right reasons: Let s be honest. We all want to win, and we all want to demolish the opposition. As a SWAT competition organizer, my job is to ensure the individual events are realistic, challenging and universally fair. Your job as a competitor is to complete every event at 100% effort within the framework of SWAT training for real call-outs, not for some ribbon or trophy. Without exception, the teams that are the most successful are those that come and take in the full experience, including the vendor show; head-to-head competition; the exposure to new equipment and new techniques; training under increased stress brought on by the watchful eyes of the media and the public; the SWAT community camaraderie; and, finally, the dynamic mind/body changes that one inevitably experiences during high-level stress and competition. Winning is only one part of the equation of a great competition and generally the least important one.
All of us in the SWAT community should strive to find new and distinctive ways to expand our skills. A great SWAT challenge is one of those ways to break through barriers and reach new heights, both physical and mental. After watching five years of the Connecticut SWAT Challenge, I can say without hesitation that the teams in the Northeast have embraced these techniques and are now much more pro ficient at their craft than they were prior to competing. I encourage all SWAT operators from across the country to do the same.
Sgt. Jeremy Clarkis a street crimes supervisor for the West Hartford (Conn.) Police Department. Clark has 12 years experience as a police officer, with 10 years on the SWAT team. He s the assistant team co-commander and a former U.S. Army Infantryman, and he s the Connecticut SWAT Challenge coordinator and co-creator. This event, in its fifth year, is the second largest SWAT challenge in the U.S.