For many years in the tactical community in the Northeast, SWAT Operators have spoken of the importance of having joint SWAT training and SWAT competitions. The intrinsic value of SWAT Challenges can be measured on a variety of levels. Tactics, movement techniques, equipment trends, professional contacts, inter-agency familiarization, fitness levels and shooting proficiency are just a few of the areas that can be positively impacted by a SWAT Challenge. But in spite of the overwhelming need for SWAT challenges, as well as the immeasurable benefit of them, there are only a small number across the United States.
But the fact remained that in New England, and more specifically, Connecticut, there was no organized SWAT Challenge. In 2005, The West Hartford Police Department SWAT team decided to change that fact. Over many months of tireless effort, long meetings, extensive planning and detailed discussions with many SWAT operators, the first ever Connecticut SWAT Challenge was officially created. Thanks to the support of the West Hartford Police Department, particularly WHPD Chief James Strillacci, we got the go-ahead to host the event. Thus, the 2005 Connecticut SWAT Challenge was set for October 6th and 7th 2005, and the response was overwhelming. Despite limiting the number of teams in the field, 16 teams representing 27 towns and cities, as well as the United States Army and Connecticut State Police, were officially entered into the 2005 C.S.C.. These teams represented some of the best that the Connecticut Tactical Community had to offer. The 2005 C.S.C. was fully sponsored and supported by the West Hartford Police Department. Also stepping forward to make the Connecticut SWAT Challenge a reality was the West Hartford Police Officers Association and West Hartford Lodge #27 of the Fraternal Order of the Police. With great fanfare and unbelievable support from fellow Connecticut SWAT teams, the 2005 Connecticut SWAT Challenge kicked off under clear skies on October 6th, 2005.
Over the next 2 days (long days!), these SWAT teams put on a remarkable display of skill, spirit, enthusiasm, teamwork and intensity. The CT SWAT Challenge consisted of 5 unique events designed to test the talent and fortitude of these teams. The Officer Rescue Challenge, The Handgun/Patrol Rifle Challenge, the Sniper Challenge, The Shoot House Scenario Challenge and the Physical Fitness Challenge course were a gut check for even the most accomplished teams. But every team finished successfully and without injury or incident. The response from the participants, the media, the law enforcement community and most of all, the public, was outstanding. Bonds were formed, trade secrets were exchanged, tips and techniques were assimilated into SWAT training programs and we all learned from each other. But most of all, the event pushed each and every team to its’ limits and let all of us know in the SWAT community what we were good at and what areas we needed to improve.
In 2006, we implemented a variety of new changes to improve the event and to make it more rewarding and challenging for everyone involved. We brought in sponsors and vendors who represented the best in tactical SWAT and Police equipment. Additionally, they donated a bevy of prizes to the participating teams. From handguns, to rifles, to holsters, to gloves, to targets, to hydration systems, to entry vests, these companies helped support the teams that attended to CSC. They also donated their products for in-event competition as well as demos. We thank all of the sponsors and vendors for their support and look forward to working with them in the future.
Another large change was that in 2006 we added another event and made 5 out of the 6 events head to head. Thus, each event was staged so 2 teams would run against each other at the same time. Not only was this visually stimulating, but more importantly it added stress to the SWAT Operators. Hearing the other teams shots and watching them move made the other team try to pick up their own pace and give that much more effort. Racing the clock is not the most enjoyable or challenging approach. Going head up certainly is! In 2005, none of the events were head to head other than the PT Challenge so we were very happy and excited with the head to head format in 2006. It is here to stay and we know all the teams in our event were thrilled to see this change.
In 2007, we grew to 26 teams and brought on the best companies that any SWAT Challenge in America could boast. Our sponsors and vendors responded by giving away $50,000 in prizes and give aways. As has always been our way, the courses and event were all run by active SWAT Operators on the West Hartford SWAT team. We introduced the best and most realistic event to date: The First Choice Armor/Z-Medica School Bus Assault Challenge (which was subsequently “copied” by another privately run SWAT Challenge, albeit not nearly as good or realistic!). We also raised the bar and unveiled the diabolical but team building 5.2 mile Under Armour Physical Fitness Challenge. Along the hilly and winding course were 20 SWAT testing stations that had everything from zip lines, to a handcuff run, to land nav to water crossings to a sked pull, this course gut checked every SWAT Operator. 2007 ended with a bang and with a great outlook for 2008.
2008 was a watershed year for those of us here at the Connecticut SWAT Challenge. While other Challenges were struggling to survive and change, we increased to 33 teams and nearly 85 vendors and sponsors. Our events were unique once again, introducing events like the Scott SCBA Mystery Challenge (clearing a meth house and using live fire) and the US Armor Officer Rescue Challenge which utilized floating platforms where Officers had to fire from. And as all SWAT Operators found out, the 5.7 mile PT course had the toughest 25 stations they had ever seen at a SWAT event. Our Lenco Meet and Greet and Stag Arms Championship Award Dinner were attended by over 650 SWAT Officers and LE personnel. Thanks to these great companies, it was all FREE of charge for the attendees. We moved to a great new HQ area, thanks to our friends at the Metacon Gun Club. Located directly between the two firing ranges (only 200 yards from each!), our new venue was a hit with competitors, visitors and vendors alike. As has become our core mission, we provide a first rate training exercise and SWAT competition while linking these teams up with the BEST law enforcement support companies in the world.
In 2009, we had 37 teams from 7 states and some 120 vendors/sponsors. The courses were incredibly realistic with a new set of skills that were tested. Officers came from all over the country to compete and we were honored to have Connecticut Governor Jodi M. Rell give a keynote speech to our competitors. This year, EVERY event started on time and ended either on time or ahead of schedule. I have never heard of an event of this size and magnitude being able to run so smoothly and it surely is due to all the volunteers and helpers, and surely the WHPD SWAT Team, that this occurred. We also saw the longest and hardest SWAT Comp PT Challenge ANYWHERE in 2009 at our event, the 6.2 mile killer that had 30 testing stations along the way. Winning time, just over 2 hours!!! Over and over, we heard from our companies, our competitors and our visitors that this event is the best SWAT Comp and best Vendor Show in the country.
2010, 2011 and 2012 brought on even more changes. Our teams came more prepared, and our sponsors and vendors became even more generous if that is possible. Our TCCC course trained hundreds of tactical medics and SWAT and Police Officers and we implemented even more challenging courses of fire and problem solving events. We had a night shoot using IR illuminators and we incorporated robots into the training. Teams from Canada and California came aboard and we saw a great response from the public at large coming to watch this free event open to all. The staff running the event grew to roughly 100 Officers, civilians and retired officers who realized that the training we as first responders need to get better and better every year. And the CSC is the place to get that.
2013 and 2014 were vital in preparing for the future of the CSC for the next decade. In 2014 we celebrated our 10th anniversary and welcomed in a host of new teams and top notch companies. We incorporated Tasers, less lethal deployment, events with sniper initiated movements, school bus entries and a host of other cutting edge courses. We even utilized a helicopter in one event and it became one of the most realistic yet exciting add-ins ever to hit the CSC. Our schedule of training expanded and in addition to the TCCC, we brought in an active Delta Operator to teach an advanced carbine class. This was done prior to the start of the actual CSC so it’s a great change that we will add to as each year goes by. Never in the history of modern day law enforcement have our needs for cutting edge training been more vital. Combine that with the incredible advancements in the technology world, and we are the most fortunate L/E entity in the land because we can call upon the greatest collection of vendors and sponsors to equip all of us!
From 2015-2019 we continued to create new challenges, new events, put forth relevant training and top notch classes and instruction. We brought the best companies who dedicate their time and energy and money to all of us. Guest speakers like Special Operations legend Dr. Carl Savory, Navy SEAL and 2x Silver Star recipient Mark Donald, Oak Creek WI PD hero Lt. Brian Murphy, Troy NY PD Off. Josh Comitale and former Delta members John McPhee and Jamie Caldwell have all come to speak and train our attendees since 2014. We brought in new teams like the 3/75th Army Rangers, DOE (Dept. Of Energy) Special Op teams, BORTAC, teams from VA, TX, TN, NM and NY. We did helicopter based events, incredible Top Cop comps and rolled out the best Tactcal Rescue Challenge in the country. We switched to a Non Profit status under an amazing 501C3 we created called Our Heroes Fund. We run the Connecticut SWAT Challenge under this umbrella with a focus on helping veterans, firefighters and police officers and their families, when that service member is injured, medically compromised or killed in the line of duty. We postponed the 2020 CSC due to COVID but came back stronger than ever in 2021. From 2021-2023 we ushered in some of the best tactical minds in the business to come help the competitors of the CSC. Seal Team 6 Justin Sheehan and Delta Sergeant Major Brian Abernathy attended and gave our attendees so much to learn from and absorb. Teams came from all over the USA, Florida, Georgia, New Mexico, Texas, Virginia, New York, Indiana just to name a few. Army Rangers from the 3/75th come as do many other military teams. We emphasize all shooting events in full call out gear, head to head, all events announced day of so no gaming and all open to the public to watch. As we move to 2023, and then-2024 which is our 20th anniversary, we promise to keep raising the bar and do real world event like our helicopter shoot and insertion, school bus linear assault and entry course, explosive breach entry challenge to name a few. If you want real world training, under stress and against the best in the world, bring your team to the Connecticut SWAT Challenge and will make sure you get more out of it than you ever imagined!
Train Hard and stay safe!