How much training does your SWAT team do away from your range facility? If your answer is none, then perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate your current training.
Evaluating your training
Think about the amount of time and training you have spent at your range as you keep pushing yourself to be the best you can. You see the same facilities and invariably do the same type of training over and over. From the flat range to a shoot house or a training tower, you have mixed it up as best as you can in the past, but still find yourself doing the same thing. Does your team get any better? You pretty much get the same looks. Perhaps your shoot house doesn’t allow for much variance in room configuration and bullet trap placement. Or your flat range has only one impact area and does not allow for 180 degree shooting. Are you tired of breaching the same door and frame configurations whether it be mechanical, shotgun or explosive? Are port and covers conducted on the same window frame every time? For these reasons and many more you should do off-site training.
It is still not a common practice in the United States for SWAT teams to train away from the range. Now, don’t get me wrong - you still should train at the range, but we need to balance that with time away. Your SWAT team is very unlikely to be attacked at your range. So why do you spend all of your training time there? To grow your team for optimal operational success you need to get out into your city or county and find potential training sites and train there.
Let me first say, I understand the position most teams are in. The mere mention of training away from the range causes the less open minded persons great concern. Liability is usually the first or second word thrown around to quash any type of off-site training. You see, we just can’t do that, because the city or county “attorneys are not going to allow it.” If you are the type of person who lets the first ‘No’ stop you then you don’t fully understand the process. It may be quite the process to accomplish training away from the range. It is worth it and will pay dividends for your team down the road.
Reach out and network with other teams that conduct off-site training. Build relationships that can serve your team for years to come. Usually, the first step is to request a copy of their Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). Most major teams will have something written down that delineates how such training is conducted. With the recent advent of Reality Based Training (RBT) throughout the U.S. this type of training is primed and ready to be done. Build support within your team also. This should be no problem, but sometimes our own people are our worst enemies and may present a blockade when least expected. Educate your chain of command and, most importantly, show them how it can be done safely.
How many of us each day, while driving through the jurisdiction we serve, do not take notice of potential training sites everywhere? Motels, strip centers, apartment complexes, abandoned buildings, etc. A mere phone call or a stop and talk with the owner or person in charge and you’ll be surprised at their acceptance to let you train. Why would they not let their local SWAT team train there? Most will if you just ask and what will this cost you? A SWAT t-shirt, coffee mug or challenge coin is nothing compared to the benefits of training away from the range. Don’t expect someone else on the team do it; you make first contact. If every team member is working to find such sites, how long will it be before you have several to choose from? That really allows you to mix your training up even more.
Off-site training should ideally be conducted every quarter of the year for full time teams. Part time teams can also accomplish this, if they are aggressive in seeking training sites and getting approval. With that being said, this type of training is not just for full times. You only have yourself to blame if you never try, regardless what size team you are on. Strive for excellence - not mediocrity.
Live Fire Off-Site training
For those teams that are established in off-site training but have not conducted live fire training off-site, consider investing in a good set of rifle rated bullet traps. Live fire is most commonly conducted using the sniper/observer teams but also may include assaulters too. Sniper Initiated Assaults are the most common for this type of training but the list is growing. Today’s Police Sniper may also be suppressed thus limiting the amount of sound into the neighborhood. Assaulters firing into traps inside apartments may also have reduced report due to being inside and or being suppressed with their carbines. Whatever the case, evolve your off-site training to include live fire at some point.
We probably will not be attacked at our range. The fight for our family, friends and citizens we serve everyday will occur out in our city or county. We must train in the environment that we operate in. That training should consist of force on paper, force on force, or live fire. Whatever your level, push your training. Push to get off the flat range and into your service jurisdiction. As long as the training can be conducted in a safe manner, you deserve to have the ability to do so. You owe it to yourself, your team and those you serve.