It is 1985 and the announcement I have been waiting for finally came out, SWAT is looking to fill just two openings. “I want to be on the SWAT team more than anything,” I told my partner. “Go for it,” he said, “I may put in for it too… looks exciting.” I handed my good friend and long time Police partner the application and said, “They only have a couple of openings so let’s get serious and do this thing.” “No problem, let’s get some” he countered.
It was going to be three days of training scenarios, grueling exercises, miles of running and obstacle courses. The idea was to wear you completely down, tire you out to the point of exhaustion to see if you had what it took to belong to such an elite squad. Current SWAT members and instructors would be evaluating and watching to see how each person would perform, adapt and react under stress. The team would run six miles and upon finishing, immediately be called to perform a grueling scenario. “Hallock… you’re the squad leader take your team and find a suspect inside that building,” barked one of the instructors. “Yes sir!” I shouted. The instructors knew no one had any formal training in leading a team, but they wanted to see how your natural leadership skills were and how you would react under pressure.
The first day was twenty-two hours long and a few guys decided to quit and go home. We ended that day in the classroom of an old vacant building we were using to train in, “You can sleep on the floor,” an instructor said. “Good night ladies,” blurted out another one as the door to the room slammed shut.
I was exhausted but felt good. There were no pillows or blankets, just a hard cold floor. In a real situation, SWAT could very well be up for long periods without any comforts of home so this was part of training for that. I found a corner to lie down in and fell asleep within seconds. I wasn’t asleep long when all of a sudden the door to the classroom was kicked open and the sound of rapid gunfire and shouting woke me and everyone else up. Several instructors had entered the room with automatic weapons, firing blanks of course, but they sure sounded loud and real. I rolled over and took cover when the shooting started and some people just laid there starring in fear and confusion while others reacted out of instincts. It was a nerve-racking exercise to see how a person would react under surprise conditions.
The second day was twenty-three hours long and when we finally ended and could lay down on the floor to rest, no one got much sleep waiting for the instructors to burst through the door any second to try to surprise us but it never happened.
The third day was another twenty-three hour day. We were all standing in front of the abandoned building, when one of the instructors yelled out, “Get to the top of that building… move out!” We all took off towards the front of the building. Some guys just stood there scratching their heads wondering how they were going to get to the top while some of the stronger men were able to jump up onto the front overhang and then onto the roof, fairly easy. Other guys were not so strong and couldn’t get up. I was able to get up onto the overhang but I knew that SWAT was a team effort, not an individual one so after I made it onto the overhang, I turned around and gave a helping hand to my fellow teammates.
SWAT tryouts were the most punishing and demanding ordeal I had ever gone through. About forty men started on day one and by the third day, over half had gone home. “Only two positions to fill” said the SWAT Sergeant, “The best of the best, that’s what we wanted… good luck guys”.
We all gathered around the list that hung on the wall that had in order where each person ranked on the list. “Congratulations,” I said to my partner, “I knew you would make it.” “Thanks bro… I knew you’d make it too” he replied.
I served on the SWAT team for three years and count that time and the experiences I went through as one of the most learning and exciting times of my career.