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Mission 19 - Tactical Considerations
World SWAT Challenge

From an interview with Dr. Jack OíConnor, creator of the World SWAT Challenge

You and I can go do shooting targets, and thatís good for skill training. But itís hard to prepare for the mental aspect of the job, the real-world "pucker factor" that happens when you serve a felony warrant or deal with a hostage situation or a barricaded gunman. That extra element of mental stress is hard to put into the training. When youíre all hopped up, your breathing and pulse are high, and you have to make the shot or do the job. Shooting a target is one thing, but can you make the same shot if youíve got a hostage screaming his head off, the place is on fire, and youíre shooting through glass? Will you be calm enough to make the shot in one round and take the guy down? This is one of the reasons these competitions are good. Competition is a way to add stress to the training.

Now, real world stress and competition stress are different. Some of the best door-knocker forces, people with really good street skills, donít even necessarily compete. New York, for example, does not, but they do 60 missions a day, and theyíre an excellent force. But competition helps us get an edge in training. And itís important that we have head to head competition with teams actually running the courses at the same time. Because if you look behind you and see that the other guy is ahead of you, or youíre ahead, but heís gaining, then that adds a whole other level of stress. In competition, time is not your ally. The stress that we put on is not only performance stress and skill stress but also the stress that comes from seeing thereís somebody else doing it better than you. So itís as close as you can come to simulating the pressure of an actual engagement - doing the real deal where you have to fire your weapon and perform your task under the gun.

The Blackwater course was perfect for this competition because itís big enough to run multiple teams at the same time. Also, since itís a private facility, they can do what they want. If we tried to do this kind of work on a military base, weíd have to deal with a textbook full of requirements and regulations.

Iíve worked with SWAT teams before so I understood the business. They are highly motivated, and they want to be the best of the best. Theyíre all triple volunteers. They volunteered for the force, applied to become SWAT members, and then volunteered for the training. So they have an attitude thatís a lot like elite forces in the military where you volunteer for the military, sign up to go to Airborne school, and then apply for Ranger school.

This challenge was invitation only. We went around looking for teams that had a history of doing well in these competitions. The other reason this kind of event is good is that it allows SWAT teams from all over the country to get together during downtime and talk to each other and compare notes. Youíve got the best of the best interacting with the best of the best, and they all take one or two tricks back to their force at home and put them into training there.