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+33

Selections vs. Qualifications Training

Selections vs. Qualifications Training

During a scouting mission, students get physical conditioning and some practical hands on training.

Michael E. Witzgall / SWAT Digest

Back in 1985, when I was a not-so-young U.S. Army 2nd Lieutenant, I found myself attending a grueling two week school called the “Army Air Loader” course. As I originally understood it, this course would teach me all about loading my battalion’s equipment on to an airplane for deployment somewhere overseas. To this day, I am still trying to figure out what running several hard miles a day in full combat gear, climbing an obstacle course at 2 a.m., and suffering through numerous impromptu inspections had to do with loading an airplane with beans, bullets and band-aids. When I finally decided to ask the instructors why we were doing all that extra work, the only reply I was given was that, “only the best can be army air loaders!”

One thing I should mention before I go on is that by the time I was sent to that goofy air loader course, I had already done a six-year hitch with the elite U.S.M.C. Recon Teams. To earn a position in that type of unit, I had successfully completed an ungodly long list of schools (i.e. Reconnaissance Indoctrination, Jump school, SCUBA – the list goes on). Each school was an intense test of my inner strength. The daily question was – How bad did I want it?

Though it was difficult – even humiliating at times – I knew that the training was for a reason related to combat. Conversely, at the air loader course, other than allowing instructors with obvious latent drill instructor tendencies to treat soldiers like dog meat, I saw no purpose to what was being done to us. I still don’t.

(Fast-forward 22 years) Last year, I was contacted by a representative from a local police department and asked if I would consider teaching a Basic SWAT school in the north Texas region. My initial response was to decline on the premise that I only teach the more advanced tactical subjects. Left unsaid, but in the back of my mind, was that I really did not feel like writing yet another curriculum, then organizing the logistics for a school. Besides, I was still recovering from a near fatal illness that had taken my left leg above the knee.

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Taking the caller’s number, I told him that I would do some networking and find him (and his team) a Basic SWAT course. Little did I know that by the end of the day I would receive a dozen other phone calls asking me for the same type of training. Evidently, these officers had recently attended (and failed) the same Basic SWAT School. In their collective opinions (much like my experience with the air loader course) they had been treated like military recruits attending boot camp rather than the professional police officers that they are. I wish I could say that this was an isolated incident. Unfortunately, that appears not to be the case. Over the last 12 months I have spoken with numerous officers looking for not only Basic SWAT, but also intermediate and advanced levels of tactical training.

During these conversations the officers complained about previous SWAT schools that they failed to pass. Or worse, completed, but felt that they had learned nothing. Based on these conversations, it seems that some tactical trainers are using the military style “Selections Course” concept instead of assuring that their SWAT students are well qualified for their jobs when they graduate.

The military uses the selections phase (or process) of training to weed out those individuals that do not, for whatever reason, meet the criteria to be in Special Operations. Military wide, there are thousands of such applicants every year. Conversely, a qualifications course is just that – it is designed to assure that the graduate has the necessary qualifications (training & skills) to fulfill a job or an assignment. In the Special Operations world of the military, qualifications training generally follows some type of grueling selections process.

This methodology yields about a 75 – 80% washout rate. I emphasize three points here (i) the military has the numbers to tolerate this failure rate; (ii) the selections phase is not run congruently with qualifications training; and (iii) most military schools of this nature are several months long.

In law enforcement, individual SWAT teams are responsible for selecting an officer for SWAT duty. The appointment is based on departmental policies and team standards. Once selected, officers are sent to basic, intermediate and advanced tactical schools to be trained up (and therefore be qualified) for an assignment in SWAT.

By virtue of the fact that an officer is attending a tactical school, the instructors should understand that the officer has already been selected for tactical duty by his department. At that point, an instructors’ job is to train the officer in all things SWAT. Our goal should be to turn out (graduate) the best-trained tactical novice we possibly can.

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    Recondo99

    over 3 years ago

    2562 Comments

    Excellant article. As an OSS field agent, my father trained members of the French Resistance in France during WW2. They didn't have time for childish, macho, "proving yourself" games. Except for marksmanship and demo, your "tactical training" was a real raid or ambush against the Nazis. If you had a trigger finger, a pulsebeat and the will to fight you were in. No elitist snobery, just guts and dedication. Author makes good sense about washing out people who are obviously motivated by merely volunteering to join SWAT and showing up for the training. Great article. Very thoughtful. LTC Thomas FX Nugent

  • 687-45b_5270

    JCastelot

    almost 4 years ago

    228 Comments

    Great article. I am very interested in SWAT and I am going to be working towards becoming a SWAT team member.

  • My_lapd_badge_max50

    LAPDLEO

    almost 4 years ago

    1776 Comments

    Schwarzenegger would have NEVER passed the LAPD SWAT school, or y worthy swat school for that matter! He didn't have the wind, and big muscles do not equate to being "combat fit". And no one is saying that your fitness is the barometer of a good tactician, but it's an obligatory fundamental, and the foundation of all good operational tacticians. Anyone who says otherwise, is completely void of even the most basic understanding of a true swat team, and the missions they are called to complete. Great fitness is the starting point for any good swat team member, period.

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    Pliskin16

    almost 4 years ago

    32 Comments

    Being fit isn't the same thing as being Tactical. Arnold schwarzenegger in his prime would have been in perfect shape to be in SWAT but that doesn't mean he would have made a good SWAT operator.

  • Img_1155_max50

    Ashurbanipal

    almost 4 years ago

    74 Comments

    very good article, i hope people who run the schools will read this and take it to heart.

  • My_lapd_badge_max50

    LAPDLEO

    almost 4 years ago

    1776 Comments

    First off, even here with LAPD we now have have mediocrity in SWAT! LAPD eased their SWAT entry so a female could pass it easier. The same female probably would have passed it anyway, but hurt herself the last time she tried. So her second attempt theyeased the process. And what a slap in the face to this officer, that they had to ease the entry qual for her to get in. REDICULOUS & PATHETIC! However this same female, who's seriously a great cop, had a negligent discharge of her H&K MP-5 on the range during SWAT school. That same negligent discharge would have sent any and all male officers back to a line platoon. We had an Iraq and Apfg Veteran, who made the fatal error of pulling the pin on a flashbang, changing hands (due to the door position) then tossing it in. They booted him for that! The squint that made that call is WEAK SAUCE! This kid didn't complain, he pulled up his boot straps and marched on. Anyone who cannot pass the qual, should suck it up and try again later. Anyone who has a problem with the tough "special forces like training" should get fit and make it happen. If you want it bad enough, stop eating donuts and start working out.

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    sargeNcharge

    almost 4 years ago

    596 Comments

    pete...that is true, just remember that if every five minutes a instructor whats to tell you to drop down and give me 50 or wants to do a 10 mile march. that precious time could have been better spent teaching..instructing,guiding... as opposed to seeing who they think can't "hack it". when i went for my training we only had a week to have a lot more material covered than you could imagine of course. so save that type of stuff for the selection process done back at each guys home unit. wei did get up early every morning and start the day off with some good ole' PT. but when it was done, it was all about getting down to business. then you DO have time to listen and learn from the guys coming back from deployments rather than seeing who can do the most push-ups like we are back at the academy or bootcamp again. those guys can feed their egos somewhere else(and i know you know the types i'm talking about)Lol.

  • Jpd_new_max50

    PETE114

    almost 4 years ago

    1396 Comments

    Hey PSD....Some of those military concepts come in handy in the LE world. Some military training can be used in civilian SWAT work (and are). It nice to have the blend of a military mindset and the knowledge of LE work. We always take a little from each great instructor (Paul Howe, Mike Albanese, Steve Clagett, Jeff Chudwin, Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, and so on) and mold it into our own team's style. Plus the current military people deployed overseas are a wealth of knowledge on what equipment worked and what didn't.

  • American_first_responder2_max50

    trooperman911

    almost 4 years ago

    2544 Comments

    @PSD_TEAM_LEADER...BUMP on both of your last two post on this issue; Definitely!

  • Sfa_iv_max50

    revCCBeasley

    almost 4 years ago

    2944 Comments

    I agree fully with this training mode...TRAIN.

  • Img_0164small_max50

    TopRad

    almost 4 years ago

    68 Comments

    Its the agency's job to select the right candidate for the position based on their selection criteria. It's the school's responsibility to teach the candidate the skills they will need to fulfill the requirements of the position. This is the same for any school or specialty that an officer applies for. We did all that paramilitary drill instructor stuff in the academy, and if you graduated and received a badge, you made the cut. There's no reason at this level (LE) to do the same sort of stuff the military does at their courses. Been there, done that too. Two different worlds.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Anonymous

    almost 4 years ago

    Exactly...there is this tactical LE precocupation and fascination with Special Forces, Rangers, Delta, SEALs, Recon Marines....a strange sort of hero worship and often by guys who never served in the military. All those military SOF units I just named.....SWAT, SRT, ESU, SORT, Narcotics, Warrants, Street Crimes units are not military SOF units...dont have the missions that military SOF units have....are not tasked with direct action, long range recon, unconventional warfare...and in turn..when was the last time an ODA team was tasked with executing a narcotics warrant? A felony arrest? A barricaded suspect? A high risk mental or felony warrant?

  • Swat_logo_max50

    kbabcock

    almost 4 years ago

    258 Comments

    RIGHT ON!!!
    I have seen instances where good officers were selected through a highly competitive and rigorous process at their agencies. Then equipped and sent out for Basic, only to flunk out Monday morning at 0800hrs for failing to complete a 5 mile run wearing gear they just got issued prior to showing up for the class. A criminal waste of time and resources. It is not that agencies job to decide whether or not this guy "is cut out for SWAT" or not. He's not on their team!! His/Her agency has decided they want this person on their team, your being paid to provide them training, provide it. If they are unable to learn the material, document and report back to their agency and let it be handled there, jointly. That said, I do think the agency needs to know what they are getting before sending people outside for training. If for some stupid reason you believe sanctioned hazing is the way to go, at least make your candiates aware during the application process that it's coming and that they must pass to make the team. This will give them a chance to PT up and get where they need to be before they even apply (hopefully) if not, at least you had full disclosure and failure to prepare rests with the individual. In the instance above, it was a surprise "welcome to Basic SWAT, fall in and off we go. BTW, if anyone falls out, you just flunked the course, good luck." SWAT missions in policing are not SEAL missions in war. Different ideas, goals and acceptable methods of getting it done. So, if SWAT operators are not working like commandos, why are they training that way??

  • Swat_logo_max50

    kbabcock

    almost 4 years ago

    258 Comments

    RIGHT ON!!!
    I have seen instances where good officers were selected through a highly competitive and rigorous process at their agencies. Then equipped and sent out for Basic, only to flunk out Monday morning at 0800hrs for failing to complete a 5 mile run wearing gear they just got issued prior to showing up for the class. A criminal waste of time and resources. It is not that agencies job to decide whether or not this guy "is cut out for SWAT" or not. He's not on their team!! His/Her agency has decided they want this person on their team, your being paid to provide them training, provide it. If they are unable to learn the material, document and report back to their agency and let it be handled there, jointly. That said, I do think the agency needs to know what they are getting before sending people outside for training. If for some stupid reason you believe sanctioned hazing is the way to go, at least make your candiates aware during the application process that it's coming and that they must pass to make the team. This will give them a chance to PT up and get where they need to be before they even apply (hopefully) if not, at least you had full disclosure and failure to prepare rests with the individual. In the instance above, it was a surprise "welcome to Basic SWAT, fall in and off we go. BTW, if anyone falls out, you just flunked the course, good luck." SWAT missions in policing are not SEAL missions in war. Different ideas, goals and acceptable methods of getting it done. So, if SWAT operators are not working like commandos, why are they training that way??

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Anonymous

    almost 4 years ago

    Right on about the Type A personality...that is why I dont hang out with alot of cops in my personal life...there seems to be two types of Type As...the types that have to have it always about them, they have to be the best even if it takes creating a "persona" and not actual facts.....that is the type with severe self esteem issues...that stereotypical "I was bullied and now I have power" cops. And then there are the guys who simply WANT to be the best but realize that its a road, not a destination...and strive to move up and up and also understand that they like being around others of the same ilk.
    SWAT, and law enforcement in general, needs more of the 2nd type...not the 1st.

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