FORT HOOD — SWAT teams from area law enforcement agencies gathered this week to compete against one another at the Central Texas SWAT Challenge — an event that hasn’t been held in nearly six years.
SWAT teams from the Killeen, Harker Heights, Copperas Cove, Belton and Temple police departments as well as specialized readiness teams from Fort Hood’s military police and Directorate of Emergency Services participated in this year’s competition, which included individual and team events involving shooting and agility courses.
This year’s competition was organized by Fort Hood and the Harker Heights Police Department.
The competition began Monday, and the teams continued through the week despite plummeting temperatures and freezing rain.
For the participating officers — who train to respond to shootouts and hostage situations — the event offered a chance to show the results of their hard work in a less dangerous environment.
“It’s fun for them,” said Lt. Col. David Stender, of the 720th Military Police Battalion, 89th Military Police Brigade. “There’s a spirit of competition, and they feel a sense of accomplishment.”
Stender said the event was an opportunity for the various participating agencies to share information, tactics and ideas to promote cooperation.
“It’s more than just a competition,” said Stender, Fort Hood’s installation provost marshal. “We want to have a strong partnership with the surrounding communities.”
This year’s competition comes nearly six years after the last one. Army deployments and the Nov. 5, 2009, Fort Hood shooting, which left 13 people dead and 32 injured, caused the event to be canceled until now.
Stender said cooperation among area law enforcement agencies during the trial of Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan this year helped forge a closer relationship between the tactical response teams in Central Texas.
“Every one of the agencies (at the competition) was involved in the coordination of moving Hasan,” Stender said. “It really brought us together.”
Sgt. Jonathan Rinehart, who leads the Killeen Police Department’s SWAT team, agreed.
“I think it encouraged us to work together,” he said.
Earlier this year, Rinehart and the other Killeen SWAT members lost one of their own — officer Robert Hornsby — who was killed in the line of duty. Stender said this year’s prize was named “The Hornsby Cup” in honor of the fallen officer.
“I thought it was a good idea.” Rinehart said. “To me, it’s an honor that they chose to name (the award) after him.”
The winners of this year’s competition will be announced today, Fort Hood officials said.
Contact Chris McGuinness at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7568. Follow him on Twitter at ChrismKDH.