UNION COUNTY — In a grueling two-day contest between tactical police units from across the Northeast, members of the Union County Emergency Response Team (UCERT) proved themselves worthy competitors.
In late August, the 8th annual Connecticut SWAT Challenge (CSC) brought together 27 teams from every level of law enforcement to test all aspects of a SWAT team’s abilities.
UCERT, which is comprised of officers from police agencies throughout Union County, placed fourth overall, behind the only fulltime SWAT teams in the contest. It was the fifth straight year UCERT placed in the top 10 during the competition in West Hartford, Conn.
“The team performed tremendously and should be incredibly proud of their achievement,” said Union County Sheriff Ralph Froehlich. “It is also an excellent complement to their regular training which makes them an outstanding professional unit.”
Organizers created events to challenge overall physical fitness, shooting skills, proficiency with multiple weapons system including sniper rifles, expertise with various tactical tools such as breaching equipment and decision making skills under duress.
Tactical events included a hostage rescue challenge and a sniper challenge plus mystery challenges to keep teams off balance. Team members were required to perform varied skills such as scaling obstacles like a 9-foot wall in tactical gear and rescuing a wounded officer (a realistic mannequin) by treating a bleeding gunshot wound with available field medicine and carrying the officer to safety while engaging combatants.
“These challenges push these officers to do their best,” Froehlich added. “It builds upon their training should we need them in such situations.”
Physical stressors designed to tax the cardiovascular and the muscular systems and motor skills added to the difficulty of the events.
The final challenge was a 5.5 mile team physical training event on a mountain ridge in Simsbury, Conn. The course had 33 testing stations along the way that included pressing and carrying a 1000 lb. telephone pole, low crawling under barbed wire, solving puzzles while physically taxed and carrying 800 lb. tractor tires. A 400-meter swim in a reservoir followed after completing 5 miles and 31 testing stations.
To make challenge more difficult, each team was required to carrying a 20-lb. watermelon throughout the course without breaking it. This was to simulate having to keep “precious cargo” safe during a mission.
Unlike other teams, one UCERT member carried the watermelon through the entire course. Detective Mark Stallone of the Berkeley Heights Police Department delivered the fruit intact.
In the five years UCERT has participated in the event, only two other teams have averaged a higher finish during that time period. The team has continually strived to keep its focus on the CSC as one part of an overall training and operational development plan as opposed to having a “competition” team. Since their first Connecticut SWAT Challenge 22 different UCERT members have participated in the contest.
The UCERT members who participated in this year’s challenge are: Lt. John DiPasquale, Sgt. Ernie Schmidt and Det. Mark Stallone of the Berkeley Heights Police Department; Det. George Marmarou of the Clark Police Department; Lt. Jeff Plum of the Plainfield Police Department; Cpl. Sean Dougherty of the Union County Police Department; Det. Dan Fay and Det. Brendan Sullivan of the Union County Prosecutors Office; and Lt. Dennis Burke and Sheriff’s Officer James Guerrant of the Union County Sheriff’s Office.
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