103rd SFS meets the 'challenge'

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Jessica Roy
  • 103rd Security Forces
Competition was stiff at this year's SWAT Challenge, which hosted 37 teams from all over New England Aug. 25-27. The 103rd Security Forces team placed 9th overall, basically the equivalent to last year's 4th place finish with less competitors. 

Their best event was the hostage rescue, taking 2nd place, then an 8th place finish in the handgun challenge and the 10th position in the arduous PT challenge. Master Sgt. Dan Judd, a past competitor, helped coach this year. The team only trained the two weeks leading up to the competition. 

As always, the Air Guard team had a substantial amount of supporters on hand, with five additional people running the 6.2 mile PT course with the team. There were fans cheering for them at every obstacle they faced. 

"For the last four years, I have been amazed at the performance that the 103rd Security Forces Squadron Emergency Services Team has put forth while competing in the Connecticut SWAT Challenge," said Capt. Steven Falusi, commander of the 103rd Security Forces Squadron. 

In the following several paragraphs, Master Sgt. James Reynolds, 103rd SFS Squad Leader, details the entire event in his own words. 

"This year's SWAT competition was by far above and beyond all past competitions in every aspect. The level of intensity, team unity, marksmanship and physical endurance was pushed to the outer limit in every event. Each event this year was built around the concept of TEAMWORK!!! You had to have total faith in your fellow teammates that, not only will they push through each obstacle and shoot accurately but, most importantly, stay mentally strong. The guys of the West Hartford SWAT team (who host and put the entire challenge together) slid the mental game into every event this year, something that was not included in the past. Problem solving proved to be a big part of completing each event. Our guys did very well at this as most of us have been together now for the past four years. We make it a point to include problem solving and team unity into our training. Our team has embedded the fact that no one is left behind in everything we do and we stress this mindset into our PT sessions. The competition this year included seven events: handgun challenge, rifle challenge, sniper challenge, hostage rescue, vehicle assault, mystery challenge and the dreaded PT course.
Our first event was the handgun, not an easy one to start off with as you still have the pre-competition jitters going through each team member. The first event is always the toughest each year. We did extremely well, placing 8th in this tough event. The handgun challenge was a dynamic movement event geared towards an active shooter/downed officer response. Teams were required to move quickly and shoot accurately while properly identifying enemy versus friendly targets. The course was designed to demonstrate a team's technical and tactical proficiency as they neutralize multiple enemy targets with their duty handgun using proper cover and concealment. The event kicked off with two members of the team fast roping onto the course and meeting up with the rest of the five man team. Then, as a team, they had to breach a window and negotiate fixed obstacles, extract a wounded officer from the course and engage targets with their gas masks properly fitted. Each team had to communicate and move together throughout the entire course to be successful.
Next was the hostage rescue in which we placed a team-high 2nd. With the jitters gone, the team's performance was outstanding. Teams were required to neutralize enemy targets utilizing multiple weapons systems from various firing positions and movements. Teams engaged various targets from an elevated shooting platform as well as neutralizing targets while moving. This was a five-operator event which was initiated with the delivery of two, 40mm gas rounds at a man-sized target. Teams were required to ascend to, and descend from an elevated shooting platform, negotiate challenging land obstacles and also extricate a wounded fellow team member from the course.
The rifle challenge was our third event in which we placed 10th. This was initiated with a sniper jumping over a six-foot high wall and climbing up the Patriot three's ramp to take two accurate shots downrange, all in 40 seconds. Once the 40-second time elapsed, the five-operator team in full entry gear cut a chain securing a gate to enter the firing range. Moving tactically as a team, we encountered several obstacles such as a low crawl, a climb over a chain link fence, ramming a door and throwing a flash bang. Once all the obstacles were completed, the operators engaged various targets at varying distances with their rifles, all from different shooting positions (one prone, one sitting, one kneeling, one standing and one from behind the shield). Once the course of fire was complete, the team had to carry a downed operator to the finish line.
Next was the sniper challenge in which we placed 24th. The two-man team had to engage targets of various types including: steel plates, sporting clays, paper targets, balloons and human likeness targets all in a four-minute time limit. This event was designed to challenge a sniper's target location and acquisition skills with engagement of targets in a multiple target environment under time, pressure, and physical and mental stress. They were made to shoot kneeling supported using their partners rifle system, kneeling supported using their own rifle and prone all at targets of varying distances.
Day two of the competition started with the vehicle assault. This was a six-operator event (one sniper and a five- man entry team). The event was initiated with two precision sniper shots. Teams engaged targets in and around vehicles from a BEARCAT with their duty rifles, then proceeded down range and breeched a window, engaging targets with their duty handgun. Once the team successfully made it through the window, they continued downrange negotiating a low crawl obstacle and down to the next firing point. Here there were two rifle shooters in different firing positions (one prone and one kneeling) engaging targets in and around a second vehicle, while the remaining two pistol shooters engaged their own set of targets consisting of hostile and friendly's from different shooting positions. Once the team completed its course of fire, they had to extricate a wounded officer (the fifth team member) from the course and medically treat a victim at the finish of the event to include applying a tourniquet, quick clot and bandages to the gunshot wound. We finished 11th in this event.
The Eotech Mystery challenge was up next for us. The course of fire was not made known until right before the event kicked off, presenting the teams with minimal time to create a solid plan of attack. The event started off with two precision sniper shots. The five-man entry team then had to negotiate a barrier and place SCOTT gas masks on before continuing. One member had to shoot two 40mm gas rounds from an unstable bridge, then the team had to go over a six-foot wall and cross a balance beam obstacle to a door they had to ram and throw a flash bang before continuing to the shooting line. Once at the firing line, the operators had to use both rifle and handguns to engage a variety of targets making sure not to hit any friendly's. Upon completion of the firing, the team had to carry a litter through a rope obstacle up to a doorway secured with a combination lock. Once the lock was opened, the team proceeded to the finish line. This event demonstrated tactics, breeching skills, long range and precision shooting along with physical fitness and arrest and control. We placed 14th in this event.
Finally, the competition's last event. The PT challenge! This is by far the hardest event both physically and mentally. It is a 6.2 mile course with an unheard of 27 body draining obstacles. This year's course was by far the most challenging course ever put on in this competition and probably around the world. It had everything from fast roping , tire flips, tire drags, rope climbing, log splitting, hot dog eating, sewer grate carry, bucket carry, person carries, memory puzzles, log flips and, of course, the ten-foot wall to end the challenge. I cannot put into words what it takes as a team to complete this event. All I can say is that I am proud to be a member on this EST team, to see the dedication, the NEVER QUIT spirit, the devotion to go above and beyond our normal duties and last, but not least, the teamwork these operators possess is enough to make me and hopefully the rest of the wing proud of these few outstanding performers." 

Master Sgt. Reynolds is looking forward to participating again next year. 

Capt. Falusi echoed Master Sgt. Reynolds' sentiments. "Most teams that participate in this are full-time civilian or federal law enforcement agencies that train together year round for this type of event. Our team met only a little over a week prior to the event to start training. With over forty teams competing in the event, our Security Forces Warrior finished 9th overall and as high as 2nd in one of the events. This is truly an amazing accomplishment and testament to the tactical skills, physical ability and downright mental toughness that all members possess. I am proud to have such amazing performers as members of our squadron and I know that in any times of crisis, these performers (and all of their other Security Forces brethren) will answer the call and protect vital personnel and resources to ensure that the mighty Air Force can continue to execute its mission," he said. 

Details on past and future events can be found at http://www.ctswatchallenge.com