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Officers hoping for spot on SWAT team undergo rigorous training in Salt Lake City

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Posted at 6:48 PM, Apr 26, 2015
and last updated 2015-04-26 20:48:10-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- The Salt Lake City Police Department hosted the start of its annual SWAT school Sunday morning in the pouring rain, and candidates from law enforcement agencies all across the Salt Lake Valley came to test their abilities,

The group of 16 hopefuls had to report for duty at 3 a.m. They had no idea what to expect of the week ahead--and that's probably a good thing.

“My body is freezing, it’s sore, its aching,” said Officer George Uyema, one of the candidates for the SWAT team. “We have to wake up early, so if your mind can tell yourself you are worthy and try to overcome the obstacles I think you’ll be good.”

It was 38 degrees and pouring rain when FOX 13 News’ Carly Figueroa arrived around 6 a.m. Sunday for the first day of SWAT training. The prospects from Salt Lake City police, Davis County, Bountiful and Air Force had already been there for three hours.

“Just waiting for the next test,” said Officer Cody Wilkes, who is a SWAT team candidate.

Related story: FOX 13’s Carly Figueroa takes on SWAT obstacles with hilarious results

Over the next six days, the men will be tested and judged on four major areas, including physical ability and intelligence. In addition to the men being pushed to the limit with a number of physical obstacles, they'll be tested in the classroom with an intense curriculum.

"But they have to be able to retain knowledge and be able to apply what they've learned in real life situations,” said Lt. Josh Scharman, who is a tactical commander for SLC PD.

Consistency is the third quality tested, as the men have to demonstrate perseverance.

“Attitude: Their determination whether they can stick with something and how far they can actually push themselves and many of them are going to find that out this week just how far,” Scharman said.

The fourth and most important is the candidate's ability to make decisions in high stress situations, which is vital when the SWAT team is deployed to a dangerous situation.

“You can have all the physical tools in the world, you can be very intelligent--but if you don't make very good decisions then you aren't going to make a very good SWAT officer,” Scharman said.

Each year there are officers that can't handle the pressure and quit early. Wilkes said he hopes the camaraderie and will help him power through.

“We get along pretty well, and I’ve got a lot of guys from my squad so it’s good to be out here with them,” he said.

The SWAT school goes Sunday through Friday and includes about 96 hours of training. Making it through the school does not guarantee a place on the team, and the tactical commander said there are only a few vacant spaces for the best of the best.