Tap-Rack-Tactical Basic SWAT Course
Instructor: Bill Blowers
17-21 September 2015
Introductory course for newly assigned officers to their respective SWAT teams. 40hr course is a basic/introductory class designed to give students the basic principles and fundamentals of SWAT operations/function. Class covered both urban and rural SWAT operations (we are in the PNW… rural ops are fairly common amongst teams in this region).
The class was x11 bodies deep: x9 Active & Reserve Officers/Sheriff’s Deputies a Fish and Wildlife cop, x1 TEMS Medic and x1 retired AF Cop.
Spokane County Sheriff’s Department Training Center, Spokane Washington
Facilities provided by SCSO were fantastic as always. The training division moved to a “new” facility this past year and is currently housed in a former Middle School. This makes for a great location as classroom are already in place but there are many rooms as a whole which can be utilized for training and dry-drills.
SCSO had also coordinated the DOT for the use of x4 off site houses which were under DOT ownership and set for destruction. Although Bill had deemed only x2 of them as useful for our purposes, this allowed students to utilize new structures for planning and operational use that they had not built a training memory of, like the SCSO training building. One house was used to teach/practice breaching skills as well as Port&Cover techniques while the other house was left as a blank slate till it was practical application time. At the second house we were able to P&C screened windows and all but destroy the backdoor (Not as kinky as 80s East German porn, but you know what I’m sayin!).
Temps ranged from low 60s to low 90s thought out the week with partly cloudy to mostly sunny skies and ZERO precipitation. The only WX clusterfuck was the smoke saturation which knocked the local air quality down to Hazardous for most of the week based on multiple wildfires and forest fires burning in the surrounding area.
***My notes were a bit all over the place so some of the DOTs and the training conducted on them may be out of order but by and large I believe I hit all the key points that were discussed and application points which students performed.***
Class started promptly at 0800 with an introduction by Bill Blowers of the course objectives and a personal background by Bill. Students then gave snapshots of their LE/Mil careers and experience on the respective SWAT teams. By 0830 we had jumped in to the course material starting with an overview of SWAT history, carrying over into principles of SWAT operations in both urban and rural environments. (Having attended multiple classes/trainings with SWAT units across the country over the last 20yrs, this was the first time I had a non Mil based instructor cover rural Ops. Rather than focusing strictly on SWAT in built up areas (Urban Ops), discussions of rural Ops shed light on the pros/cons as well as the difficulties involved in such taskings. Bill discussed the common structure of SWAT teams and repeatedly emphasized that all positions on a team are equally important as they all work together to effect a result/resolution..
Prior to lunch we grabbed our kit and after dressing in our turn out gear, Bill conducted individual assessments of each person’s body armor, load bearing equipment and helmet systems. Particular attention was placed on the functional placement and use of pistols and the wear of the holster. The holster issue was probably the single most critiqued point when it came to each officer. Placement, drop height and design being the roots of most issues, and generally speaking this being the one bit of gear that each officer can personally control the selection/wear of. The second hot topic was the fit/wear of armor packages and the proper sizing to ensure hard plates adequately covered vital areas. More than one Rambo joke was made regarding the combat knives and pig stickers some students were carrying on their kit.
From there we broke out for chow. After lunch we jumped back into the LP and PowerPoint only to wrap up out on the old football field doing low crawl, elbow crawl, high crawl, rush & roll drills and some team building exercises. (As a side note this was a great test for me to show that I have been retired and lazy for a bit longer than I thought and let myself go a bit further than I intended… Kind of a slap in the face, one that I am thankful for!)
Day 2 started with lesson plans and PPT, with a lot of class discussions pertaining to movements and basic terminology with the SWAT environment. We also covered Intel gathering (Intel unit, CI, UC, Dets and Patrol sources), Scouting (how and what it’s used for) buildings and how to break them down from the outside to paint a picture of the inside (3-drawings Overview/Property/Interior Layout). Terms like SLO, COCOA, SMEAC were covered and explained then put into our tool boxes.
We then broke out into teams and put our new Intel gathering tools to use on houses near the school that Bill had already pre-selected. Not only did we conduct covert drive by of the houses but we then utilized the web (Google Earth, MLS Listings) to begin writing a pre ops plan (5-Point Order). Each team of students then wrote an Ops Plan and briefed it to the class. Once these plans were briefed and critiqued, we began breaking down common Immediate Action Drills and why they were crucial as well as lessons learned from various teams around the country when their IADs failed.
After the IAD classroom portion was completed we went outside and ran them as drills for the remainder of the day.
Day 3 covered team formations and deployments (mounted and dismounted) as well as types of entries (5-speeds of SWAT: Covert, Slow & Methodical, Dynamic, Hostage Rescue, Tactical Retreat). A good amount of time was spent discussing the virtues and downfalls to the first 3 which are the primaries in SWAT Ops. In this time we also discussed a number of various TTPs within the represented agencies and the virtues/downfalls of them as well as some of the TTPs Bill has used/seen over the course of his career.
After lunch we took to the parking lot and began working through cone drills. Bill made it a point to let students know that even if they were thinking these types of things are silly or seem immature, they were not. That the biggest and the best down to small time teams do cone drills at each practice to ensure the basics and fundamentals never get lost. Cone/Tape drills continue to be a valuable training tool for a myriad of tactical evolutions and SWAT Basic was no different. From the first runs to the last, students were quickly able to pick up on what Bill was instructing and the footwork fuckups were knocked down to a minimal working number. The rest of the day was spent conducting cone and building approach drills.
The day was a wrap after we conducted vehicle assault training and repeatedly walked through the proper techniques and procedures for conducting vehicle take downs as a SWAT team. Approach, apprehension, glass mitigation and even bullet-to-glass deflection was covered during this time.
Majority of the AM was spent reviewing pre-missions plans and breaking down how the class would have conducted Operations that Bill’s teams had previously done. I think this was an invaluable tool because as the minds of the class whirled and wondered on how to defeat various complications and threats that were brought up. Bill was able to add his real world $.02 based on what had actually occurred during that specific mission. He gave us bits and pieces slowly in order to make the class think and stretch their imaginations. In the end this proved a great training aid as more than one student had a “light bulb” moment.
We then geared up and moved to an otherwise unused portion of the facility to conduct training with mirrors (Covert and Slow & Methodical entries). Once the basics of mirror work were understood we stacked on the building and practiced making entries and clearing through the maze of old classrooms. Students took turns as the TL and assigning the positions of their team members. For the last five or so runs of the day I RP’d a perp the give the team a visual reference/suspect which they were able to target upon entry. The school being a cluster fuck of old furniture and materials presented realistic hazards/obstacles which SWAT teams face when entering buildings. Students were given a multitude of opportunities to utilize the various mirrors in their searches to learn/test the various extents of their capabilities. **One extremely valuable learning tool on DOT 4 was the need/necessity to have solid and strong light sources on your rifles. Dumping candle light from my SF X200 was embarrassing in comparison to the Streamlight TLR/HL and SF Fury that Bill had. Lightbulbs literally went on in people’s heads once they realized that, THEY WANTED ALL THE LUMENS they could get on the weapons.
Day 5 was designed to be the Sweaty/Muddy/Bloody day of training at the off campus DOT houses set for demolition. Class met at House-1 where we learned proper breaching and entry techniques with tools like the Shield, Breaching Ram, Halligan, Thors Hammer (Sledge), Pike Pole and variants of them all. Once all the applicable windows and doors were “remodeled to SWAT standards” the class moved on to House-2 for a series of practical application exercises to test the skills and knowledge of the students. The team conducted external Intel gathering of this location and the assigned TL set his team up for the first breach of the day. (Thanks to the SCSO SCOPE program we had x4 Civ RPs to play perps and witnesses for us… RPs are always a great training aid and this was no exception to that theory.) Each breach and clearing of the house ended in a debrief/critique with Bill and a reset of the house/perps prior to our next assignment. Throughout the remainder of the day each class member was afforded the chance to play TL, Breacher, Point, ATL, etc. After many hits on House-2, enough learning had occurred that Bill called the course complete. Class wrapped up with a written test and the handing out of completion certificates.
One of the things I appreciated most about Bill as an instructor in this class was his use of reflection and incident recollection regarding events he had studied but more importantly experienced himself. There was a very humble undertone when he discussed the various successes and failures that his team(s) had experienced as well those which he had individually experienced over the course of his extensive LEO career, particularly in SWAT. Having an instructor break down the mistakes and fuck-ups (at the team and individual level) put a very personal spin on the learning curve which made it easier for students to grasp the information they were trying to absorb. His teaching plan was based around a lot of how and why not around “because I said so”. I like this because it gave the young SWAT troops some actual “real estate” to buy in on, because they have a better understanding of the missions and actions they will be committing to. Bill harped on how the mission dictates not just the tactics but also the equipment but not the mindset. He also pushed that time is on our side so long as the situation is contained, don’t rush to put troops in harm’s way if you have more viable options available like gassing a house for a few hours straight to soften the target package. Bill also continuously hammered into students brain pans that Preparation, Planning and Training are all important factors in SWAT Operations but it is the warrior mindset and a will to “win” that seals the fate of both perp and SWAT… If you go into a house expecting a gunfight you’re not likely to fall short once one actually kicks off!
Bill also made it a point on more than one occasion to tell students to go out and seek more knowledge, to find training where they can and to keep filling their knowledge boxes with as much valuable info as they can. Not even mentioning his other courses but rather other reputable instructors and schools where students could garner quality information and training… I really like that he pushed the idea of continuously feeding the mind through more and more training and thus gaining experience because too often this is lost on folks once they make their particular SWAT teams.
Bill has put together an excellent Basic SWAT course and brings both a heavy dose of his own experience and training to the classroom but also his personality. I can say that for me learning certainly occurred and if I were still running a team I would ensure each of my guys/gals took this class upon assignment. Without hesitation I can say that I would recommend a class with Tap-Rack Tactical and Bill Blowers and I personally am looking forward to the next time we break bread and bend minds together.
Retired USAF Security Forces (Military Police). Over the years I have attended x5 Sheriffs/Police SWAT schools, 3x attendee at the US Army Special Reaction Teams course (SRT-1 x2, SRT-2 x1), multiple NTOA courses, have worked on x3 USAF Emergency Services Teams including time as Field Supervisor (SWAT Commander) and Team Leader. Over the course of my Mil career I also had the privilege of a provisional commission with x2 LEAs in an observer/limited support role with their tactics teams and time as an Adjunct Instructor at a State Patrol Academy. In addition to the above, I also have time training with local and regional SWAT teams across the country, USM, JTTF and DOE entities as well as teams from a variety of Military units.
I’m a jackass of many schools of thought/training/application but master of absolutely None of them!