Funded by a $1 million federal grant from the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI), the Alameda County Sheriff's Office again played host to the third annual multi-faceted test known as Urban Shield. Its theme: "Train, Adapt and Overcome."
This year, 27 teams participated in what can best be described as SWAT Olympics. Over the course of 48 consecutive hours, each team competed in 25 tactical scenarios covering all areas of tactical operations.
As the event began, Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern addressed a huge crowd in the Sheriff s Command Center. An emotional tribute to the four Oakland Officers killed in the line of duty in March was shown, and the fallen officers widows in attendance were recognized. Sheriff Ahern dedicated the event to their memories.
Teams were provided a dedicated van and driver to shuttle them to the scenarios, which were spread over a 40-mile radius, including three different counties. Many scenarios involved hostage rescue as a main objective. Teams were evaluated on such factors as team movement (approach, noise/sound discipline, rapid deployment), communication, building clearing, etc.
The diverse range of scenarios included maritime operations; aircraft, bus and train assaults; covert entry and movement to contact; and dynamic warrant service and hostage rescue. The infamous North Hollywood Bank Robbery was reenacted. An extremely physically challenging obstacle/agility course included a 3.1-mile hill run, vehicle push and pull and telephone pole carry, followed by a scored laser gun shoot.
With the external focus on the resolution of critical incidents by the participating teams, a lot more was going on behind the scenes. Using components of the National Response Plan (NRP), Incident Command System (ICS) and National Incident Management System (NIMS), satellite command posts were strategically placed throughout Alameda, Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. Tactical dispatchers, fire/EMS crews, command staff personnel and other appropriate resources were tasked with monitoring and documenting the progress of each incident as it unfolded. With 25 scenarios all occurring simultaneously and repeatedly over the course of 48 hours, all involved personnel were kept busy consistent with a real-life natural or human-created critical incident. Needless to say, the resources and logistics involved in such a massive undertaking were quite impressive.
Throughout Monday, a number of 1/2 hour seminars were conducted. LAPD Capt. Richard Weimer (ret.) debriefed the North Hollywood Bank Robbery Shoot-out and provided a summary of lessons learned. Lt. Colonel Dave Grossman provided a condensed version of his highly acclaimed Bulletproof Mind seminar. NYFD Chief Charles Blaich (ret.) provided an incident debrief of 9/11. His perspective as the Incident Commander was quite revealing. The final two-hour seminar was provided by Tom Ditomasso of Viking Tactics.
Based on the ongoing and progressive success of this event, BAE Systems (formerly Armor Holdings) is working to expand this across the United States. Denver and Orlando have been named as potential future sites. For more information about Urban Shield, visit www.urbanshield.org.