Noted SWAT Trainer and former FBI Hostage Rescue Team member Morris Moriwaki has described the three speeds a SWAT team should train to operate at as:
Stealth Speed — This is a slow methodical, often silent approach to clear a building or area. The speed allows for movements to be deliberate and orchestrated as a team.
Warrant Speed — This speed is smooth and flowing, but still methodical and done as a team.
Hostage Rescue Speed — This speed can be described as moving as fast as you can move through and area to a known threat and still:
1. Operate as a team
2. Hit what you’re shooting at
In today’s world there is a tendency to be heading toward slow and methodical and away from an orientation toward speed. Some teams prefer to set up an inner and outer perimeter on warrants and then call the suspects out. Others lean toward a breach and hold, followed by negotiations to call out the suspects.
No matter what the chosen tactics of your team, eventually a team will have to enter the target and clear it for investigators.
Train For Speed
Since SWAT teams should train for every eventuality, teams should train at all three speeds. Even for the team that has made the decision that they will perform all clearing movements at stealth speed, there will come a time when the team will find itself moving at hostage rescue speed. Conditions on the ground may play out in such a manner so as to cause a team leader to shout out, “Move! Move! Move! Do it Now!”
Developing conditions may also cause even a disciplined team to become adrenalized and literally speed up with neither orders nor even making a conscious decision to do so. In other words a team may speed up in response to an unspoken collective realization that they need to move fast to win.
When these conditions arise, and they will, it is imperative that a team have a pre-determined Hostage Rescue Speed. That is a speed that they know they can operate at and stay cohesive as well as hit what they are shooting at. This can be determined through training.
Can You Hit What You’re Shooting At?
How does a team decide on top team movement speed?
It starts with weapon control. The “Groucho Walk” allows for the legs to serve as a shock absorber throughout a move, and allow the SWAT Operator to increase speed and still keep their sights relatively smooth and in control. A team can, through training, determine top speed for any team movement.
This can be done by assessing the laser sight bounce, or light bounce on dry fire movements. Eventually this can be done via target inspection after live fire exercises constructed to insure the safety of the officers in training. When team members start missing with entry weapons at 12 feet then dial the speed down a notch.
Can You Operate as a Team?
Once you arrive at a top speed that your members can move and hit what they are shooting at, attempt to do exercises to effectively clear, moving through areas and to threats. You will know when your team begins to instantly over penetrate, and fails to check corners you need to once again dial it down a notch.
You can also determine a top speed your team can move at as a unit from the staging area to the point of the breach. If gaps develop in the column then you know you are moving too fast for at least one. In a team movement too fast for one is too fast for all.
If you are really curious you can check your pre-determined hostage rescue speed with a laser speed detector. When you are using no live weapons just set up and direct the speed detector at the shield man for best results.
How Fast Is Fast?
In a time where there is so much discussion about moving to slow and methodical you may ask, “Why concern ourselves about moving fast at all?”
The answer to that question is, “When a team is trained to operate as unit in stealth, warrant and hostage rescue speeds, your team has more options.”
A team that only trains slow and methodical will not be prepared for the moment, when conditions on the ground cry out, “Victory will be assured only if we move fast!” An untrained adrenalized movement will have a jerky, frenetic pace to it and most likely be less effective.
The need to move fast suddenly will present itself to every team. If a team trains for fast they will realize the truth to these words also spoken often by Morris Moriwaki, “Smooth is fast.”
During the planning of any team operation it is imperative that your team leader ask this question. “What speed will most likely to assure success?” That team leader will ultimately make the decision based on the task at hand, the team’s capability along with the solemn acknowledgement that what he is about to ask the team to do is, “unsafe at any speed.”