Soccer SWAT team
By Peter Andrews
Through my Polish police contacts, I learned that members of various SWAT teams and the border guards would hold a special training exercise in the town of Zamosc. The exercise was conducted as part of preparations by the Polish special forces leading up to the EURO 2012 soccer tournament, to be held in Poland and Ukraine this summer. This training event was to be observed by various representatives from different countries.
As I arrived at the military training ground, I realized that some of the instructors were my old friends whom I have known for as many as eighteen years. It helped me immensely to be accepted by people who were being trained. The forces were divided into three teams of SWAT and border guards being trained on different public transport vehicles, in various techniques of approaching a hijacked bus followed by mastering the techniques of entering and rescuing hostages from inside the vehicle.
Witnessing dozens of similar exercises I’m always amazed by the speed and agility with which these men can move. It also helps me understand how much time, effort and dedication they have to invest to be able to work with such precision.
The first part of the day consisted of moving in and rescuing hostages from a stationary bus under various scenarios. The objective of the second part of the day was to rehearse a scenario where the hijacked bus was moving and had to be suddenly stopped and boarded by the rescue team. If you think that this looks great in a movie, you should see the real thing, or at least in practice. Even if it is only an exercise, it feels real for the special teams. These men know that if this were to really happen, they would risk their lives without hesitation. Each exercise was discussed ahead of time. Afterwards, everybody shared his take on the completed mission.
What makes these men special is that they can adapt to different situations and always look for the best possible way to complete the mission, changing along the way to what the mission throws at them.
On the second day, the objective of the exercise was to rescue hostages from a city bus that was hijacked by a group of unknown terrorists. The situation was as real as possible with terrorists armed with sub-machine guns holding a large number of hostages on board.
Over 250 members of various police units and emergency services took part in the scenario, treating everything as if it was happening for real.
First there were reports that a bus was hijacked in a certain part of the city, which was followed by a response from SWAT teams, fire department emergency and medical services along with a large team of negotiators and plain clothes police.
With adrenaline pumping, I arrived with my instructor friends and the members of the SWAT team at the scene. The situation was tense, on the verge of chaos. Traffic police were quickly relieved by members of the SWAT teams with snipers. The area was gradually contained as parameters were set and command established.
As negotiators began trying to secure the release of as many hostages as possible, the fire department set up tents as a command center. As the bus was located snipers began to collect visual information and the SWAT began rehearsing the best possible way to storm the vehicle. More units arrived on the scene; just as they would in real life. The exercise lasted from when the bus was hijacked at 10am and ended late in the evening when all negotiations failed and the special forces were sent in to storm the bus.
Even though it was just an exercise it felt and looked very real, with decoy explosions, windows smashed and blanks being fired from a heavy sub-machine gun into the bus’s front windshield. The final operation was conducted very quickly, with adrenaline saturating the air. Afterwards, the forces had to separate the hostages from the bad guys. In the end, I noticed that many of the people that took part in this exercise were as tired as if it had happened in real life.
Even though I, too, was very tired, I was also grateful to my friends for allowing me to see these elite teams in training. They trust me because they know I will never show their faces in my photos.