There is more than one way to surrender. Generally, it involves hitting your knees or waving a flag, but surrender can also be a deeply personal and internal process too.
Tuesday morning, I knew that I needed to get a good workout in. The next session for Citizen’s Police Academy was scheduled to cover the intricacies of S.W.A.T (Special Weapons and Tactics). I had a hunch that the class would be physical.
Since I pay a gym membership, and for private training on top of that, I hardly ever work out at home. It feels like I’m cheating myself and my checkbook when I do.
To get myself warmed up for the Academy class, I decided to try out a “Cardio Fix” video workout at home for the first time.
Three minutes into the workout, I was questioning why I didn’t make myself get up at 5:00 a.m. to run on the treadmill and lift weights. The warmup was easy. Slow even. A sweat had barely begun to break on my forehead. With only thirty minutes in the workout, I couldn’t imagine how I would be sore the next day.
That is, until we “surrendered”. It’s a fun little exercise demonstrated here:
The instructor yelled at me from the flat screen.
Hands up. Down on your knee. Keep your hands up. Back up again. Don’t drop those hands. Lunge back.
The yelling continued for infinity. Well, sixty seconds to be exact. After a few more rounds, we were allotted a twenty second break. It didn’t last nearly long enough and then we were back at it again.
Surrender. Lunge. Jumping Jacks. Rest. Repeat.
That night, when I arrived in a surprisingly already sore state at the Citizen’s Police Academy, we went through the tenets of S.W.A.T. These specially trained units are tasked with responding to a wide range of situations:
- High Risk Warrant Service
- Barricaded Suspects
- Hostage Rescue
- Extraordinary/Rapid Deployment
- VIP/Dignitary Protection
- High risk prisoner transport
- Court Security/High-risk trials
- Civil Disturbances
- Jail Riots
- Man tracking (Escapees)
S.W.A.T. officers are not ‘chosen’, but instead must apply and are required to submit a resume and endure several evaluations; fitness and written exams, psychological exams, as well as oral interviews. Officers must maintain 95% accuracy in firearms and serve a one-year probationary period. After that, they may serve as long as they are able. Serving on a S.W.A.T. team enables many officers to move up to detective or work for the F.B.I..
After our briefing on S.W.A.T. basics, it was time for some hands-on training. A local bank had been robbed and the suspects were holding several hostages. We had more than one possible breaching point.
We were going in.
Just like real S.W.A.T. teams, we were first briefed in a planning meeting. Profiles of the suspects were shown and criminal histories detailed. We located our routes for fire and medical. An interior map of the bank was developed and breaching options were discussed. Breaching, or what us civilians would call entering, is the most dangerous part of any mission. We spent a lot of time covering this part of the plan.
We then organized as a team; Commander, Team Leader, Breaching Team, and Entry Team. We would split up recon and scouting, the entire team of six working on containment and apprehension. Normally, S.W.A.T. teams operate with a minimum of nine officers. All of us would carry an air gun (no real bullets for training) that looks, sounds, weighs, and feels like the real deal.
With a plan in place, it was time to suite up and show up. Outside we went into the 90 degree weather to get fitted with a bullet proof vest, helmet, ammo, and weapon. Roughly 40-45 pounds was lifted over my head (it was too heavy for me to lift overhead by myself) and placed on my shoulders. Immediately, I almost fell backwards.
Now, it’s not like I don’t ever hit the gym. I can chest press 50-60 pounds, so I was surprised by the weight of the S.W.A.T. gear. The vest bored down on my shoulders, pressing me into the earth. My calf muscles instantly engaged to keep my torso upright. The compression on my chest felt like it might let the air from my lungs like a tire with a slow leak.
All of this, and I would need to crawl around on the ground, stealthily breach the bank, and then apprehend bank robbers. I thought being a teacher-writer was hard.
Finally, we got the signal to breach the bank. Where normally my heart rate flutters around 60, I could feel it skyrocket, my chest thumping against the vest. Dribbles of sweat splattered against my nervous hands.
Gun in hand, I followed in behind the breaching team having forgotten all the information we discussed during planning. Poof. It was gone from my head. In near total darkness, I could hardly distinguish between suspect, hostage, and officer. Mostly, I felt irrational and that I might make a poor decision at any moment. A deadly decision.
All I could think about was that I was about to get shot. One of our team members did.
The scenario was over almost as soon as it began. Two suspects and one officer were killed, and one taken into custody. All hostages were safe. What I had imagined would last an eternity and go down like Hollywood, was over in seconds. It was anticlimactic even.
In the end, I was grateful to still be alive and that all the hostages made it to safety. We never surrendered. None of us gave up our weapons.
Somehow though, I felt that our team had failed. With one of our officers down, we realized we should have broken up our breaching/entry teams differently. Good thing this was just a ‘scenario’. I don’t want anyone’s life depending on me.
Nonetheless, these are the situations these officers put themselves in on a regular basis. They actually volunteer for it. The willingly put themselves on the line. I left the training exercise less confident in my ability to remember details, and never more certain that I chose the right career path.
One officer put it best when he was demonstrating the “smash and grab”, a handy little tool for breaking and entering through windows;
In that moment when you are geared up and about to jump out of the van, that is when you realize it very well may be for the last time. That is when you know the risk is real. You take nothing for granted.
At the end of the night, our team was all smiles. I couldn’t help thinking that if this had been real, none of us would be grinning.
The next day, I woke up and could hardly walk. My calve muscles, tight and curled up into themselves, refuted my demands to gingerly limp to the bathroom. I hobbled to the coffee maker, cursing the S.W.A.T. vest and Cardio Fix, but grateful to be able to do so. A reality hit me as I sat down with my cozy cup of Dark Magic.
Some officers, S.W.A.T. or patrol or otherwise, will never make it home at the end of their shift. They are forever relieved of their duty. With grace, some are forced to surrender long before their time.
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Snapshot Stories.”