HARRISONBURG — Sgt. Matt Carter and his fellow Augusta County SWAT team members hurdled walls, climbed a makeshift building and dove through hanging tires during the 19th annual Harrisonburg Police Department SWAT Competition.
Friday's event at the Harper-Presgraves Training Facility on Greendale Road featured 10 teams. The competition is made up of a half-dozen events, including an obstacle course and several shooting challenges, aimed at testing physical and mental endurance.
Carter said the key to success was working as a team.
“It’s about creating a plan and executing that plan as a team,” Carter said. “It’s all about depending and trusting your team.”
Capt. Tom Hoover, who oversees the HPD's SWAT team and planned the competition, said the obstacles and challenges are designed to push officers outside their comfort zones.
“This type of pressure tests their ability,” Hoover said. “How good can you shoot while you’re moving?”
As the competition approaches its 20th year, Hoover said one thing he noticed is that competition among teams has improved.
“The skill level is through the roof compared to 20 years ago,” he said.
In addition to Augusta County, there were teams from Botetourt, Campbell, Chesterfield and Stafford counties, as well as the cities of Harrisonburg, Manassas and Staunton.
Lt. Pete Ritchie said HPD enters their “rookie” team into the competition. The main team will attend its own competition in Orlando, Fla., next month.
“It gives them a good test,” Ritchie said. “Anytime you can put pressure on them, it makes them better in the real world.”
This year’s event started one day early for the first time. On Thursday, HPD hosted guest speakers to provide classroom training for the competitors.
One of the speakers was a SWAT team member that responded to the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas.
On Oct. 1, 64-year-old Stephen Craig Paddock opened fired from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay resort and casino into a 22,000-strong crowd at a country music festival.
Police say he killed 58 people before committing suicide as SWAT team members breached his hotel room door.
Hoover said the speaker provided critical information to help officers handle similar threats.
“He has first-hand knowledge of how it unfolded,” he said. “His push was to get people in early.”