Annual SWAT Competition -
Event Dates September 20, 2012 - September 21, 2012
Best in the West, created and hosted by the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office, is the largest invitational S.W.A.T. competition in the Western United States. Begun under the auspices of then-Sheriff Charles Gillingham, and continuing today under the leadership of Sheriff Laurie Smith, this event is now in its 19th year. Each year, members of the departments Sheriff's Emergency Response Team design, physically construct, and run an intensive two-day, 7-course competition, pitting S.W.A.T. teams from all over the West against each other, in a multi-jurisdictional learning experience unequalled in this part of the country. With numerous yearly variations and twists, designed to keep any returning teams from becoming complacent, and to keep all teams challenged to the utmost, Best in the West is comprised of the following timed events:
Physical Challenge Course:
After ten years, the grueling Hill Run has been replaced by a more varied physical challenge. While still incorporating movement of a Stokes litter and a 165# dummy, the course now blends pure endurance with a variety of physical obstacles that require a team effort to overcome.
This course emphasizes the extensive movements a sniper must undertake to get into position, as well as the pinpoint accuracy necessary to do this demanding job. A more realistic challenge than courses which merely place the shooter at a starting point, it begins with a climb over a 6 foot wooden wall. The shooter must then pick up an unloaded rifle and sprint to the first station, where a series of shots are required from both sitting and kneeling positions. The participant must then run to the next shooting station, and fire four shots from the standing, kneeling and prone positions.
The Two Person Assault Course:
This event tests the abilities of the "two-person team", the smallest basic component of all S.W.A.T. units. One officer carries a submachine gun, and the other is armed with just his/her service handgun. The event begins with a 100 yard run through an obstacle course, at the end of which the officers must engage a dozen steel "bad-guy" targets which are interspersed among "hostages". The participants then progress through two "entry-house" stations. Inside each "house", the officers encounter another mixture of "perpetrators" and "hostages", which must be correctly assessed and dealt with at ranges from five to ten yards. Oftentimes they will find some form of moving or "pop-up" targets during this phase, testing their reaction times and target-identification abilities under stress. At the final station, the two officers must "low-crawl" under a barrier made of telephone poles, and engage another rack of steel targets from beneath this cover.
The Jungle Trail:
This course is a one-mile trek through thick brush, heavily populated with both "bad-guy" and "hostage" targets. Additionally, numerous booby traps are scattered throughout the course. This event is designed to simulate a search for fugitives, with hostages, in the wild. As with all courses, it is timed, and teams must move quickly, yet remain alert for threats the entire way.
The Combined Weapons Course:
This event tests proficiency in the operation of the three basic weapons utilized by S.W.A.T. teams. Incorporating running and shooting in a timed setting, the handgun, submachine gun, and shotgun are fired at multiple targets from a wide variety of positions, and at challenging and difficult angles.
The Shotgun Course:
This tactical course combines running, rapid re-loading, and accurate shooting of the shotgun over a wide range of distances, at targets presenting "hostage" situations, from a number of awkward and challenging shooting positions, and utilizing both conventional and "less-lethal" rounds.
The Teams Assault Course:
This live-fire house scenario is the ne plus ultra of S.W.A.T. challenges, requiring a total team effort. It requires a team to physically force entry into a fortified stronghold, identify and neutralize numerous threats (often involving dynamic moving targets), and rescue a real-weight "hostage" dummy.
Members of Sheriff 's S.E.R.T. unit begin planning and working on this annual event in February of each year, the vast majority of this effort occurring on their own time. Only the two days of the actual event are considered "work-time", and even those days usually stretch far beyond the normal 8 or 10-hour day these deputies normally work. Sheriff Smith views this team with great pride, not only for their own standard of excellence on S.W.A.T. operations they have performed, but for their dedication and professionalism in managing Best in the West.
Surviving solely on corporate and private donations, and the modest fees charged to vendors of law enforcement oriented products, Best in the West charges NO fees of any kind to the participating teams. In these days of restricted training budgets, but increasing tactical situations, Sheriff Smith believes firmly that any venue which can serve as a training ground, and as a forum for exchange of ideas and tactics, deserves her utmost support. This event not only gives tactical teams a chance to challenge and learn from each other, but also brings together administrative officers from the 30-plus participating teams, which come from as far away as Texas.
Occurring entirely on the grounds of the Sheriff's Range in south San Jose, this year the event will be held on September 20 and 21, 2012. Although, for safety and liability reasons, Best in the West is closed to the public, it is widely covered by both local media representatives, and national tactical magazines.
Any law enforcement agency or product vendor interested in participating in the event can contact the Sheriff's Office Administration at 408-808-4900 for details.