FORT HOOD, Texas - The Fort Hood Military Police, in partnership with the Harker Heights and Killeen Police Departments, invited local police forces' Special Weapons and Tactics teams to share in the woe as they endured freezing temperatures this weekend during the 3rd Annual Central Texas SWAT Challenge, Dec. 5, 2013.
The event consisted of individual shooting and agility competitions culminating in a team competition, said Col. Robert Dillon, the commander of the 89th Military Police Brigade and director of Emergency Services at Fort Hood.
All aspects of the competition were designed to stress the members’ physical strength and endurance as well as their communication skills and ability to perform under stress.
While the challenge did pit each civilian SWAT and military Special Reaction Team against each other in terms of marksmanship and physical fitness, its organizers had more than friendly competition in mind.
“What we have here is a SWAT competition where each of the state and public departments of Central Texas are bringing their best marksmen, their best teams, and they’re going to share lessons learned,” said Dillon.
By cultivating the best tactics and techniques among the Central Texas SWAT teams, the police officers participating will be able to increase their effectiveness in accomplishing their overall goal, the deterrence and prevention of crime.
“Crime and threats to public safety, they don’t respect borders, so we have to work together very closely with all the departments,” explained Dillon. “It’s great because no one department is going to have the answer, so we share information so we can all get better.”
By participating in the competition, the leadership of the Central Texas Police Departments as well as the commanders of Fort Hood’s Military Police hope to foster good relations between the teams.
“That’s a big goal, because of how law enforcement is organized in the United States, with many numerous departments, state departments and federal law enforcement, which military police to an extent represent,” said Dillon.
“We’ve got to work together,” Dillon concluded. “The more we interact with each other the more we build trust with each other and the faster we can respond when threats do pop up.”
To ensure that this goal was met, each special law enforcement team was encouraged to network as much as possible with the other teams present.
“Make sure that while you’re out here, don’t just keep among your teams,” reminded Lt. Col. David Stender, the Installation Provost Marshal and commander of the 720th Military Police Battalion at the beginning of the individual agility competition. “Talk to everyone else that’s here. There are things that you can learn from everybody, and that’s the whole intent of this.”
As they get to know each other, both the competence and the character of the officers will help to build trust, said Dillon.
By improving cohesion among the different SWAT teams of the Central Texas area, leaders intend to improve the effectiveness of the police force as a whole.
“We recognize the reality that if there is an active shooter, statistically the event is over within five minutes and it takes a little while to call out a SWAT team,” said Dillon. “Even though we’re highlighting SWAT capabilities here, those skills will then be transferred to all patrolmen so that we have a much more speedy response to protect the public.”
The intent was not lost upon 2nd Lt. Radnee Anib of the 64th Military Police Company.
“The whole point of this event is to get multiple agencies working together as one, so that if there is an incident like the Naval Yard shooting or there is an active shooter scenario and Killeen Police Department needs help, we can go out there and help. Or if we’re overwhelmed here on Fort Hood and our Special Reaction Teams can’t handle it, they’ll be able to help us,” Anib said insightfully.
This year’s competition ended on a somber note with the dedication of the overall trophy to Officer Robert “Bobby” Hornsby, a Killeen police officer and SWAT team member who was killed in the line of duty last July.
“Let’s keep this thing going,” Dillon said with purpose. “Not only for ourselves, but for the communities we serve and in honor of the Hornsbys.”
“Law enforcement is a team effort,” Dillon said, driving the message home to the police officers present. “We can’t do it alone.”
After the scores were tallied, the Temple Police SWAT team rose to claim their prize amidst rowdy applause.
The Temple Police Department will remain host to the Hornsby Cup, for now. The next competition has already been scheduled for September 2014.
As for the effectiveness of the competition in achieving its overall goal, all of the SWAT team members present were left feeling much more resolute in the eventuality of their collaboration.
“We know our capabilities and we’ll be able to resource each other better,” Anib said with confidence. “At the end of the day, we’re all police officers working together for one mission.”