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How to Become a SWAT Team Member

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Special Weapons and Tactics teams are elite law enforcement groups called upon to battle against threats deemed too deadly or sensitive for regular police or security forces. As the cream of the crop, SWAT team members endure lengthy training and testing to ensure readiness to respond to numerous scenarios.

Basic Experience and Requirements

Before joining a SWAT team, candidates need previous experience serving in a law enforcement role as a police officer, sometimes within the same force. For example, the Fresno SWAT department demands at least four years experience as a police officer, while the Nashville SWAT team requires three years experience within the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department. SWAT team members need physical strength and stamina, superb communication skills and impeccable judgment to effectively handle dangerous and potentially deadly situations.

SWAT Training Regimen

To become a SWAT team member, candidates must endure a rigorous training process. After passing a test of basic skills, individuals undergo training and testing that includes obstacle courses, written tests, SWAT performance evaluations and the handling of weapons such as shotguns and handguns. In addition to physical training, candidates go through mental and psychological training designed to enhance team building and create an appropriate mindset for dealing with emergencies. After passing the introductory phase, candidates progress to advanced SWAT training and testing that allows prospective SWAT members to apply basic skills as part of a small team.

Advanced Weapons Training

After passing SWAT individual and team training, candidates learn how to utilize superior firepower designed to overwhelm and subdue violent criminals. The SWAT tactical rifle training school teaches how to properly handle weapons such as the Colt M-4, Sig-Sauer 552P, the Heckler and Koch MP-5N machine gun and 416 assault rifle. Training on aiming tools and equipment such as iron sights, PVS-14 night vision and Aimpoint optics complete the tactical rifle training portion required to become a SWAT team member.

Specialization Training

SWAT training and testing also involves learning skills that provide a tactical advantage to the team. This includes training in explosive and mechanical breaching, fast roping, aviation missions, water-based operations and covert ops, all of which are designed to reduce the odds of a catastrophe and increase the probability of a successful mission. SWAT teams that work under the purview of top law enforcement agencies, such as the FBI, train for the most hazardous and serious threats, including counterterrorism, airplane hijacking and hostage negotiations.


Kent Tukeli has been writing for business and media organizations since 2007, including Valnet Inc., Top Affiliate Publishing and Mirvish Productions. He honed his skills at the University of Toronto, earning a Bachelor of Arts in English literature.

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Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images News/Getty Images