Local News

World SWAT Challenge Offers Teams Education, Competition

Posted May 21, 2004 8:59 a.m. EDT

— More than a dozen SWAT teams descended on a coastal Carolina town in Camden County Friday.

They were not participating in a major raid -- just friendly competition in which precision was the key.

Through all the gunfire in the inaugural

World SWAT Challenge,

it was easy to forget the teams were just playing games.

Only 16 of the world's top teams were invited to the

Blackwater training center

in Moyock. Among them was Fayetteville's emergency response team.

The event afforded officers a chance to brush up on the skills necessary for a SWAT team.

Only one team will win the title of World SWAT Challenge Champion. The winner will be announced Sunday.

"I've got complete confidence in these guys," Fayetteville police Capt. Tom Bergamine said. "They'll do well. They will not embarrass themselves; I'll tell you that much."

The teams were pitted against each other Friday in a series of intense competitions in front of a cheering crowd and a line of cameras. ESPN covered the competition for a later date.

Teams practiced what they often face in the field. They also got the opportunity to learn from each other and their own mistakes.

"In today's world, you never know what you are going to face," said Fayetteville policeman Ronald Campbell. "We just always have to be in shape."

Fayetteville Officer Kem Braden offered living proof of why it is important to stay sharp. Braden was shot five times in 2002 while executing a search warrant.

North Carolina SWAT teams also were invited from Brunswick County and Gastonia. A team came from as far as Warsaw, Poland, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police from Ottawa also competed.

"It's not a closed world for the people in it," said Rich Boughen, of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. "It's looking at the best, the safest and the most efficient and effective ways of doing our very dangerous jobs."

Although the competition was fierce, the teams were not interested in winning as much as learning lessons that one day could save lives.