ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - For the past several years, members of the Directorate of Emergency Services' Special Reaction Team have taken part in an annual competition hosted by the National Capital Region SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) Association. They join 27 other elite police units from Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia, in the test of skills for the right to be called the best at what they do.

This year, for the first time, the APG SRT came away with a trophy after winning third place in the Sniper-Initiated Pursuit event of the competition. The team of six officers was led by Lt. Joel Holdford, SRT commander.

Holdford said the win is a big deal for the SRT as they competed against some of the best teams in the nation.
"They are easily some of the best SWAT teams on the East Coast," he said.

The one-day competition was held Nov. 2 at the Montgomery County Police Outdoor Firing Range. Along with county SWAT units from Maryland, Virginia and D.C. participants included federal police organizations such as the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS); the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the U.S. Department of State; the U.S. Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; the National Security Agency; U.S. Capitol Police and the Pentagon Force Protection Police Department. APG is the only member agency from a military installation, Holdford said.

"We competed well and our accuracy was as good as anyone there," he said.

Competitions like the NCRSA allows commanders to assess their team's abilities compared to other tactical teams in the region and ensures that their training is effective, he added.

"I was able to observe each event and I could see that their accuracy was as good as any," he said. "There were some faster but no one outshined them."

The four other events in the five-event competition included the Obstacle Course, Ballistic Shield Operations, Handgun Challenge and Bearcat APC Bailout. Team members fired sniper rifles, shotguns, handguns and M4-style carbine weapons.

Holdford said training throughout the year is the key to excelling in such a competition.

"We have to ensure that the training we do keeps our skills sharp. If you're not training all year, you're not going to do well."

Current APG Police Officer of the Year Jason Schaffer was one of the six team members who competed. Schaffer, who has competed in the event "four or five times," said the competition was "very intense" and said that team members were confident in their skills despite the pressure.

"What I like about it is that other teams root for you as well," he said. "It's not just a competition. It's a time to get out and have a good time with people you don't get to see very often. Everybody has a good, competitive spirit and wants you to succeed."

"We're a big family," he said of his fellow SRT members. "We all know each other's families; we all spend time together and care about each other. And, we train hard to make sure we stay prepared so everybody makes it home safe. This [the SRT] reminds me of the military and that's what drew me to this field."

He credited team captain Timothy Patton's organization skills with aiding the team's success.

"Everybody put in 110 percent to make it happen," he said. Preparation and training brought it all together."

Holdford said the SRT was honored to be invited to participate and that overall he was "very pleased" with their performance.

"I appreciated the way our guys approached each event -- as a mission. Some teams were faster but if you have accuracy as baseline, speed will follow. Speed is good but accuracy is final."


The NCRSA was created in 2005 to promote and encourage communication and mutual support among the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams in the National Capital Region by providing highly realistic and affordable training resources and disseminating tactically significant knowledge and information to member law enforcement, military agencies and individuals.