By Brian Livingston
The Meridian Public Safety Training Facility located on Sandflat Road looked more like a Marine Corps boot camp than a statewide competition on Tuesday afternoon.
There was, of course, a great deal of camouflage, guns, bullets and nifty gear. But there was also a lot of grunting, sweating, clothes covered with the red Mississippi clay, some limping and some high fives. It was hard to tell at times if this was a struggle for one’s life or a football game with frequent cheering.
Celebrating their largest turnout for an event, instructors with the Mississippi Tactical Officer’s Association (MTOA) welcomed 19 SWAT teams and 17 sniper teams totaling 114 law enforcement officers from all over Mississippi to Meridian for their annual competition to see who would become the top guns. The competition was fierce.
The competition is designed to put the law enforcement officers, including teams from the Mississippi Highway Patrol, the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, into real-world scenarios with the time clock as their primary enemy.
But MTOA President, Mark Hicks, explained the competition was so much more.
“One of the main benefits of this competition is to give the team leader a very accurate assessment of his team’s abilities,” Hicks said. “After this is over, he will be able to look and see where his teams strengths and weaknesses are.”
In addition to the prerequisite shooting that encompasses any sort of police competition, the entrants were also put through rigorous physical tests specific to law enforcement duties.
“We have a new obstacle course that winds through a wooded area of the facility,” said MPSTF Training Officer Eric James. “Before the guys go through it they are all clean but when they are spit out the other end, they look they’ve been put through the ringer. It will make a man out of you.”
The gathering of so many officers in one location also sparks “shop talk” in which they compare notes. Hicks said the networking that goes on behind the scenes is an invaluable aspect of competitions of this sort.
“Law enforcement tactics are ever changing,” Hicks said. “These officers use this time to meet new people from different areas, exchange ideas and that helps the agency become a better unit.”
This is the first time the MPSTF has hosted this event.
“We certainly hope this competition will be coming back to Meridian in the future,” James said. “We believe we have the facilities to accommodate these kinds of events. We are growing constantly here.”