By Tech. Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa
Florida National Guard
ORLANDO, Fla., (12/24/08) - A team of Soldiers from the Florida National Guard’s counterdrug program recently tested its mettle against law enforcement officers from around the globe in an intense international competition held here in Orlando.
The eight-person counterdrug team took part in the annual SWAT Round-up International Competition from Nov. 30 to Dec. 5 and competed against 59 teams of police officers from as far away as Dubai and Bosnia.
The competition included events such as marksmanship, obstacle courses, hostage rescue and fitness challenges.
The Florida National Guard counterdrug team, which has competed in the SWAT Round-up for the past three years, placed 50th in the competition this year ahead of police teams from Qatar, Broward County and Fort Carson, Colo.
Team member Sgt. 1st Class Rob Butts, an instructor with the Florida Counterdrug Training Academy (FCTA), succeeded in individual competition by placing first in rifle marksmanship for the second year in a row.
North explained that normally the counterdrug team participating in the SWAT Round-up is made up mostly of instructors from the FCTA at Camp Blanding, but this year the team also included finance and intelligence specialists.
“This is good training and a way to network the rest of the program and let law enforcement officers know that we provide intelligence and other services as well as training,” he said.
Sgt. Maj. Kenneth North said the Guard’s participation not only helped showcase the Soldiers’ talents, but provided networking opportunities between the counterdrug professionals and law enforcement officials from around the state.
“We meet people that don’t even know about us even though we’ve been around for a number of years,” North explained. “There are a lot of agencies that don’t know about us; those are the agencies we want to reach and show them that we can give them free training that is exceptional. This is a good venue to do that.”
Master Sgt. Chris Grall, the team captain, agreed the counterdrug presence was really a powerful networking experience: “Just about every law enforcement agency in the state of Florida is here. The best way for us to explain to law enforcement how the Florida National Guard counterdrug program can best effect and support these agencies is by attending these conferences. When we attend and put in a team, we generate conversation with the other team members, and that generates more support.”The mission of the Florida National Guard counterdrug program is to provide comprehensive, professional and responsive military support to anti-drug law enforcement agencies and community based organizations.