Tap-Rack Tactical Basic SWAT, Janesville WI


Company: Tap-Rack Tactical
Instructor: @Bill Blowers
Location: Janesville WI
Date: April 16-20 2018

This was a LE only course, but I don't think there is anything OPSEC in the AAR.

Last year, several members of the team were expressing a general feeling that we were not as good as we could be. Basically, we felt we had gone stale. The training available in our area was very NTOA centered and nothing differed at all from what we did. My commander was looking for something to help snap us out of it. I suggested that we needed to find somebody to come from outside the area and inject some new perspective. I had been seeing some stuff Bill Blowers was putting out and thought that he may have what we were looking for. I reached out to him to explain in general terms what we were trying to accomplish and if he thought his TL class or Basic SWAT class would be a best fit for this. In the end it snowballed into us deciding to host a Basic followed by a TL and NVG class. Bill was very easy to work with setting up the logistics end of things. Originally, my intention was to put five of our current team members in the Basic course so that we had a bunch of eyes to evaluate the curriculum against what we are currently doing and decide what we wanted to keep or discard. However, our team is in a transition period with staffing and we ended up sending two senior guys, two new guys, and me. This worked out really well as the senior guys could mentor the younger guys.

I am not going to get into detail on all the topics covered. The general flow was SWAT history, incident debriefs, team construction, Case Law, terrain analysis through COCOA acronym, Open field movement (line, file, wedge) SMEAC planning, scouting, rehearsals, Immediate action drills, breaching, Covert clear, building clearing language, Slow/Methodical clearing, dynamic clearing, vehicle assaults, table top of a callout. We ended with hits on a house using the various clearing speeds we had learned. The breaching part ended up being kind of limited as I had a house lined up where we could break stuff but I didn’t check it ahead of time and didn’t know that most of the doors were already broken or had the locks missing. Everybody brought their own lunches which I thought really improved the flow of the class as we could have working lunches and stayed together as a group.

Developing the curriculum for a basic SWAT course is an extremely difficult task because of the level of prioritization of time that needs to take place. Looking back on my first Basic SWAT course, I think they crammed too many topics into the 40 hours which prevented mastery of anything. Tap-Rack Basic SWAT does not involve any shooting. Bill’s explanation is that if a full day was devoted to shooting, students would only get 4 hours of pistol and rifle which isn’t enough to make a significant impact in skill. I strongly agree with this approach. I think the time allotment for each skill in this course was about right. For example, we covered open field movements and vehicle assaults but didn’t waste a lot of time working them. This gave the students enough to be familiar with the tasks when they go back to their teams but seemed to recognize that these are more specialized tasks that will need to be worked at the team level. Hostage Rescue was not covered at all other than to demonstrate how the skills covert movement, slow-methodical, and dynamic clearing speeds should support the HR speed of movement. Additionally, it recognized that HR is an advanced task that requires more time than what is available in a 40 hour basic course. I think that teams can absolutely expect that they will have a team member with a solid base to start working into the team after graduating this course.

As we were doing it, I thought we may have spent more time than necessary on covert clears. However, looking back I think that the speed and extreme emphasis of minimizing exposure to angles associated with covert clears allowed the less experienced students more time to really internalize the concept of covering all the angles of exposure. No matter which clearing speed we were practicing, each student got the opportunity to rotate through the TL position. This was very helpful in allowing the student to see the overall picture and be forced into thinking about how each position supports the overall mission. This is not a team leader class, however some of the students did not have any experience in fighting leadership and I think a little more “how to” instruction with regards to directing teammates up front could have reduced the steepness of the learning curve and allowed them to maximize their learning while working in the TL spot.

As a guy with a little experience, my biggest take aways from the course were the procedures for rehearsing actions on the breach point during the planning process and the communication involved during interior movement. These are a few corners that I feel have gotten rounded off on our team over time and have inhibited us from reaching maximum performance. When communicating internally, we have fallen into just saying whatever rather having a set SOP of streamlined commands as we move through the structure. This results in overly wordy conversations, misunderstandings, and a reduction in efficient movement. We did a cone drill that worked very well in hammering down the proper language being used. It was such a simple, quick to run drill that I think we should probably run it for a few reps every time we train. Brilliance in the basics.

Overall, Bill is an excellent instructor with a well thought our course structure. This class was exactly what I was hoping to bring to the team as a refresher for the senior guys and a solid base for the new guys. I definitely expect that we will bring Tap Rack back next year. It will take some game planning, but I am thinking another Basic followed by a 3 day HR and one of the 2 day courses.