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103rd Security Forces troops up to the challenge

Members of the 103rd Security Forces Squadron hoist a log up during the PT portion of the Connecticut SWAT Challenge in West Harford, Conn., Aug. 23, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jennifer Pierce/Released)

Members of the 103rd Security Forces Squadron hoist a log up during the PT portion of the Connecticut SWAT Challenge in West Harford, Conn., Aug. 23, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jennifer Pierce/Released)

Staff Sgt. Christopher Sixt of the 103rd Security Forces Squadron is handcuffed as he attempts to retrieve a handcuff key with his mouth from a bucket of capsaicin, the ingredient used in police pepper spray. Sixt is participating in the PT portion of the Connecticut SWAT Challenge in West Harford, Conn., Aug. 23, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jennifer Pierce/Released)

Staff Sgt. Christopher Sixt of the 103rd Security Forces Squadron is handcuffed as he attempts to retrieve a handcuff key with his mouth from a bucket of capsaicin, the ingredient used in police pepper spray. Sixt is participating in the PT portion of the Connecticut SWAT Challenge in West Harford, Conn., Aug. 23, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jennifer Pierce/Released)

Senior Airman Joseph Rivera, assigned to the 103rd Security Forces Squadron, runs up a hill carrying a weighted bag. Rivera is participating in the PT portion of the Connecticut SWAT Challenge in West Harford, Conn., Aug. 23, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jennifer Pierce/Not Released)

Senior Airman Joseph Rivera, assigned to the 103rd Security Forces Squadron, runs up a hill carrying a weighted bag. Rivera is participating in the PT portion of the Connecticut SWAT Challenge in West Harford, Conn., Aug. 23, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jennifer Pierce/Not Released)

Staff Sgt. Aaron Jerolmon, assigned to the 103rd Security Forces Squadron, carries a weighted ball during the PT portion of the Connecticut SWAT Challenge in West Harford, Conn., Aug. 23, 2012. The Air Guard team took top military team honors for the seventh straight year, fourth in the PT portion and 12th place overall in the annual competition. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jennifer Pierce/Released)

Staff Sgt. Aaron Jerolmon, assigned to the 103rd Security Forces Squadron, carries a weighted ball during the PT portion of the Connecticut SWAT Challenge in West Harford, Conn., Aug. 23, 2012. The Air Guard team took top military team honors for the seventh straight year, fourth in the PT portion and 12th place overall in the annual competition. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jennifer Pierce/Released)

Airman 1st Class Francis Gelada and Staff Sgt. Christopher Sixt of the 103rd Security Forces Squadron assist each other carrying a weighted ball as part of the PT portion of the Connecticut SWAT Challenge in West Harford, Conn., Aug. 23, 2012. The Air Guard team took top military team honors for the seventh straight year, fourth in the PT portion and 12th place overall in the annual competition. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jennifer Pierce/Released)

Airman 1st Class Francis Gelada and Staff Sgt. Christopher Sixt of the 103rd Security Forces Squadron assist each other carrying a weighted ball as part of the PT portion of the Connecticut SWAT Challenge in West Harford, Conn., Aug. 23, 2012. The Air Guard team took top military team honors for the seventh straight year, fourth in the PT portion and 12th place overall in the annual competition. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jennifer Pierce/Released)

Senior Airman Joseph Rivera, assigned to the 103rd Secu-rity Forces Squadron, maneuvers his way through a ground crawl exercise at the Connecticut SWAT Challenge in West Harford, Conn., Aug. 23, 2012. The Air Guard team took top military team honors for the seventh straight year, fourth in the PT portion and 12th place overall in the annual competition. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jennifer Pierce/Released)

Senior Airman Joseph Rivera, assigned to the 103rd Secu-rity Forces Squadron, maneuvers his way through a ground crawl exercise at the Connecticut SWAT Challenge in West Harford, Conn., Aug. 23, 2012. The Air Guard team took top military team honors for the seventh straight year, fourth in the PT portion and 12th place overall in the annual competition. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jennifer Pierce/Released)

WEST HARTFORD, Conn. -- On Aug. 21, 2012, the Connecticut SWAT Challenge began with a bang. The sharp staccato of gun fire reverberated off the hills as gun smoke filled the air. Just two weeks prior, members of the 103rd Security Forces Squadron began preparing for the SWAT Challenge, a three-day event comprised of different sets of challenges each day.

The first day of the challenge involved an individual shooting competition, the second and third days are team challenges. On the afternoon of the third day, the SWAT Challenge culminates in a 5.2 mile team physical training (PT) course. The PT course is filled with obstacles designed to test the character and stamina of each individual and tenacity of the team as a whole. During the team challenge of the second day, the 103rd Security Forces Squadron members were briefed on the course for the challenge. As the challenge began, chaos erupted around them. Flash bangs went off and people began yelling. The team, however, progressed through the course fluidly as one, moving from one area of cover to the next, shooting designated targets and helping each other get through to the next obstacle. The team finished strong, though the toll of exertion was etched on the team members' faces.

"We receive a lot of different types of training," said Staff Sgt. Chris Sixt when asked about the benefits the team receives from participating in this event. "There's a lot of moving and shooting involved and this is the type of hands-on training that we don't normally get."

On the last day of the SWAT Challenge, members of the 103rd Security Forces met at the West Hartford Reservoir for the final event, the PT course. After drawing their start time, the team began the 5.2 mile long course, double timing in group formation. The cohesiveness of their team was evident as they tackled each obstacle, accomplishing them with enthusiastic words of encouragement and helping hands. Between each obstacle, they continued running through the course in group formation, their motivating jody calls resounding throughout the course.

"This makes us, as a team, stronger," said Airman 1st Class Francis Gelada, referring to the competitive nature of the SWAT challenge. As the team completed the final obstacle, crossing the reservoir, they exited the water, running towards the finish line just as they began--as a team.

With an intrepid spirit, the 103rd Security Forces team was able to complete the entire three-day challenge. The benefit of participating in such an event is not only a test of teamwork, it is a trial of character for the individual as well.

"I learned a lot about myself," Airman 1st Class Alecia Aldrich said. "I learned how strong, how determined, how driven of a person I am."

The team members, covered in mud and sweat, sipping water and rehashing the event were now relaxed--the hard edge of their competitive bearing replaced by smiles and easy banter. The team looks forward to competing again in next year's Connecticut SWAT challenge and finishing even stronger.

More information about the event, hosted by the West Hartford Police Department, can be found on the official website,
http://www.ctswatchallenge.com.