SIMSBURY — Five members of the Meriden SWAT team crawled under electrically-charged wires, climbed onto a teammate's back to get over a 6-foot barrier, then knocked down a wooden door as part of the 10th Annual CT SWAT Challenge.
During the simulated hostage rescue Wednesday, a sniper from the team aimed at a target 100 yards away, and the Meriden officer hit the "kill shot" with accuracy.
The officers then fired at targets surrounded by mannequins, meant to resemble hostages, then carried two 70-pound sand bags on a sled back to safety.
"The idea of all these mannequins — we have them by all the hostile targets — is that every single round has to be accounted for," said West Hartford Officer Chris Tyler, who helped supervise the competitive event.
"The mannequins make it so the teams have to function like there are civilians — they can't just shoot," explained West Hartford Lt. Jeremy Clark, the event director. "This is the training that every officer needs." He said the event offers essential training for officers who are called upon to respond to dangerous situations.
The annual event, which draws more than 30 military and municipal SWAT teams from around the country, has been organized by the West Hartford Police Department since 2005. The 2014 event consists of a series of seven team challenges as well as four individual challenges over the course of three days.
This year's participating teams include the U.S. Border Patrol SWAT team, three U.S. Air Force SWAT teams, and the 2013 champions — the Capitol Region Emergency Services Team (CREST), which represents the towns of Glastonbury, Wethersfield, Enfield, Rocky Hill, Manchester, Vernon, Coventry, South Windsor, Cromwell, and the University of Connecticut.
CREST Lt. Mark Poisson said the team's goal was to make sure they hit all their targets. Although the team trains twice a month year-round, Poisson said the event helps the group to become familiar with other SWAT teams.
"We get to know [other teams], their tactics, which is very important when we run into scenarios like the Hartford Distributors shooting [in Manchester] several years ago."
In addition to the challenges, members of the Navy Seals, Delta Force and Green Berets were brought in for tactical training and emergency room physicians and military physician assistants provided medical training.
During the sunny, 84-degree day, the Border Patrol SWAT team completed the hostage rescue course with a time of 6:44. Besides their speed, the teams are evaluated on their marksmanship and teamwork.
Another challenge called "The Captain Phillips Operation," was a combined arms and officer rescue challenge where snipers had to shoot at targets 200 yards away on top of a moving board and were exposed to pepper spray.
Eagle 1, a Police UH-1H Emergency Service Search and Rescue helicopter that operates out of the Stratford Police Department, was brought to the event for training purposes.
"We want all the municipalities to get familiar with the aircraft," said Aircraft Commander Tom O'Halloran, who explained that the helicopter is available to all municipalities. "The SWAT teams will be on board simulating an insertion into a tactical area."
Clark said the helicopter is vital for search and rescue when weather, traffic or other elements can slow down a ground response.
The CT SWAT Challenge continues Thursday with challenges taking place at the Metacon Gun Club from 8 a.m. until noon, including a challenge at MDC Reservoir No. 6 in West Hartford.
The venue will be open to the public age 18 and over from 8 a.m. to noon for an entrance fee of $5, which benefits the Fraternal Order of Police. For more information, go to ctswatchallenge.com.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun