103rd security troops take on SWAT challenge

103rd Security Forces Airmen participated in the 2017 Connecticut SWAT Challenge August 24, 2017, at the West Hartford Reservoir in West Hartford, Conn.

Airman 1st Class Adam Roach, 103rd Security Forces Squadron Airman, gets sprayed with a fire hose while navigating through an obstacle August 24, 2017, during the Connecticut SWAT Challenge at the West Hartford Reservoir in West Hartford, Conn. This was Roach's first year participating in the SWAT challenge with the team, which has been competing for the past 11 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Sadie Hewes)

BRADLEY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Conn. (August 24, 2017) -- A team of 103rd Security Forces Squadron Airmen brought a whole new level of competition to the annual Connecticut SWAT Challenge August 22 through Aug. 24, 2017, despite the fact that many of their veteran members are currently deployed overseas.

     Some of the members, like Tech. Sgt. Dedrick Baublitz, have competed in the SWAT challenge for several consecutive years, but having newer members like Airmen 1st Class Adam Roach and Emilio Masella seemed to reinvigorate the team and push them harder than ever before.
The first two days of the challenge were held in the Weatogue section of Simsbury, Connecticut, at the Metacon Gun Club, where the team participated in several team and individual shooting competitions. According to Master Sgt. Rick Marks, 103rd Security Forces Squadron operations superintendent, the most important part of the shooting competitions is being able to accurately shoot under pressure.

     Staff Sgt. Aaron Jerolmon, a member of the 103rd SFS, said through many of the obstacles both during the shooting competitions and the obstacle course, the participants were required to wear full SWAT gear, including weighted vests, Kevlar helmets and gas masks.
“It’s a lot harder to shoot your weapon accurately if you’re under a lot of heavy gear,” said Jerolmon. “You have to work more on controlling your breathing because that affects how you shoot. If you’re breathing heavy, you’re going to miss.”

     On the final day of the challenge, no weight was lifted from the shoulders of the team. Instead, on top of their heavy vests and helmets, some of the members were also forced to carry heavy medicine balls, kettle bells and bags of extra gear through a four-mile obstacle course. The course was held at the West Hartford Reservoir in West Hartford, Connecticut, where they faced 35 obstacles both in water and on land.

     The 103rd team competed against 33 other groups, including SWAT teams from police departments from across Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and even Indiana, as well as other military teams such as the Connecticut Army National Guard and a team of Army rangers from Fort Benning.
The course began with swimming, cross fit, weight lifting, and even running in gas masks. They also had to squat and lunge carrying a telephone pole, drag more than 70 pounds across a field alone, and were sprayed with a fire hose while navigating through a tunnel.

     “It’s really meant to smoke you in the beginning,” Jerolmon said. “Once you’re tired, you have to do the rest of the obstacles.”
The competition can be extremely taxing on the team members, but their grit shows on their faces when they’re in action.
“The teams that we’re going against are full-time SWAT operators,” said Marks, who has participated in the competition for 11 years now. “They train SWAT day-in and day-out, whereas we train for roughly 10 days before we come out to compete. The fact that we can even go up against these other teams from across the country is really a testament to our guys.”

     The SWAT competition has become a tradition for the squadron, and along with the exhaustion and triumph of finishing the challenge, there is evidence that Airmen new and veteran to the test are already looking forward to next year’s competition.