The simulated hostage rescue is over.
The scenario was one of 12 events that tested police explorer teams from across California at the second Central Valley Explorer Challenge on July 13 to 16 at West High School and the empty sugar mill in rural Tracy.
After the bus evacuation, Tracy Explorer Travis Alexander, 17, said he wanted to do it again, flying paint-pellet rounds and all.
“I was worried if I was going to get shot or not,” he said. “I heard the gunshots and I thought, ‘Oh man, this is real.’”
Tracy Police Department explorer adviser Wesley Bancroft, who was one of the organizers, said 27 teams from as far away as the Mexican and Oregon borders competed in the event designed to put young law enforcement hopefuls through their paces.
“It’s all about letting people between the ages of 14 and 21 see what law enforcement is all about and if it is a career they want to pursue,” Bancroft said Saturday, July 14, standing outside a West High music room transformed into a burglary-in-progress scenario.
“Last year we had 16 teams, and those came back (this year) and told surrounding agencies about it,” he said.
The goal of each team was to win as many scenarios as possible during the three days. Winning teams were presented with plaques and medals. To expand this year’s competition, Bancroft said, organizers added three optional events: drill, obstacle course and tug of war.
“This was a huge success this year,” Bancroft said. “Got all reviews, written critiques, and everything was excellent. Out of 27 (teams), every one said they would be coming back next year.”
As the event is organized by police departments in Tracy, Manteca, Ripon and Modesto, a different community becomes the host each year. Plans are under way to visit Ripon next year, Bancroft said.
Tracy’s trio of firsts
Taking top honors during the weekend was the team from South Lake Tahoe Police Department, which received the Chief’s Award for winning the most scenarios with six first-place finishes, Bancroft said. He said every team achieved at least one first-, second- or third-place finish during the competition.
The Tracy explorer team placed first in the scenarios for burglary in progress, crime scene and domestic disturbance.
“It’s a good learning experience,” said 20-year-old Andrew Glover, who is a lieutenant on the Tracy squad. “We train in the classroom and go over the steps — big difference doing it (here) than in the classroom setting.”
Tracy Explorer Sgt. Trysta Rasmussen, 19, said members were each given the opportunity to decide in which scenario they wanted to compete.
The adviser for the U.S. Border Patrol group, Noe Paraza, said several of the scenarios his 26-member team competed in were not typical for their training, but they provided a good learning experience.
“This is my first year here,” Paraza said. “I’ve never been up this far north, and I’m having fun. The kids are having a lot of fun. We’d definitely come again. They’re already looking forward to next year.”
Several scenarios that involved the “bad guys” shooting back with paint-pellet rounds proved the most realistic and most popular among the explorers.
Observing the explorers during the bus assault, Modesto Police Department Sgt. Kelly Scott said the goal was to see how they worked as a team, pinpointed the threat and handled it as quickly as possible.
“They (Tracy) did really well,” he said. “We’re putting them in a scenario that our SWAT team trains in. They’re doing a good job with the limited training they have.”
At the conclusion of the burglary scenario, members of the Roseville police team said they thought the layout, with four concealed burglars, was quite realistic.
“We heard two voices and there was four hiding — good twist,” said Roseville Explorer Kaitlin Arens, 17. “Realistic sense of what real officers do.”
Elk Grove Explorer Lt. Mauricio Sandoval, 20, said he enjoyed his team’s first time at the Central Valley challenge.
“It’s fun. I like the bus assault, just a bunch of stuff,” he said. “We’ve been training to do our best.”
Sandoval’s teammate Explorer Sgt. Mary Salazar, 18, said it whetted her appetite to enter law enforcement.
“I want to be a police officer in the future, and they are providing pointers in what I want to do,” she said. “It’s a learning experience.”
• Contact Denise Ellen Rizzo at 830-4225 or email@example.com.