Article Published: May 14, 2005
SWAT teams descend on countyBy Jason Spencer
"Climb! Climb! Climb!"
"Move! Move! Move!"
"Go! Go! Go!"
Sixteen SWAT teams from across the United States are under the gun this week. But this time, they're not facing a life-threatening situation. They're facing each other.
Three days of intense competition are pitting officers young and old against the clock. The winner from the Southeastern National SWAT Challenge will be revealed tonight.
"It's the training that's crucial," said Lt. Art Littlejohn, who's led Spartanburg Public Safety's SWAT team since 1996. "It's something you've got to always do."
Littlejohn and his team were parked on the edge of the county's Emergency Services Academy in Duncan. Friday afternoon, they watched officers from two Illinois counties run through a downed-officer rescue course.
The local team had finished that same course in just over 13 minutes, though a few competitors managed to do it a bit quicker. Other teams took as long as 20 minutes.
The event started at a humongous tower that resembled a closed-in fire escape. Some officers climbed conventionally. Others got to the top and had to repel down to a window on a pre-determined floor.
A dummy was trapped inside to simulate a fallen officer.
They had to get it out of the building, run it a quarter-mile or more to an obstacle course, drop it off, go through tires, climb walls, pull themselves up a cable and make it to the top of yet another tower (this one didn't have any stairs or ladders), and slide down a rope to reach the finish line.
Spectators came and went as each team's supporters cheered.
"We were just coming out to watch," Spartanburg County Councilman David Britt said. "But I'm throwing the gauntlet down."
Looking over the tenuous course, Britt offered a friendly challenge to Sheriff Chuck Wright: county officials versus sheriff's personnel.
It started out as a joke, but evolved into "Maybe we could do this as a fund-raiser."
The Sheriff's Office, local detention officers and Rock Hill police judged this week's competition.
"You've got some teams who're probably more physically fit than
others. Other teams might be better shooters," Sheriff's Office Capt. Randy Hollifield said. "You don't always get a pat on the back when you're a good team."
Prizes that will be handed out include a range of law-enforcement goodies: weapons, night vision equipment, body armor and boots, for instance.
"What they get is an opportunity to test their skills in a non-live situation," said Steven Bronson, on the Southeast SWAT Board of Directors. "Like a hostage rescue: We have real guys firing paintballs at them.
"This allows them to engage a suspect and determine that their training will work in a real-world situation."
Jason Spencer can be reached at 562-7214, or email@example.com.