Excelsior Challenge tests law enforcement officers in Oriskany

ORISCANY — Bomb squads, K9s and police tactical teams descended on the New York State Readiness Training Center in Oriskany this week for the annual Excelsior Challenge, pitting their skills and training against a variety of scenarios practice.

Officers from the Utica Metro SWAT team and the Oneida County Sheriff’s Office joined nearly 150 law enforcement officers from across the state and across Canada — the largest training group than the Excelsior Challenge has ever hosted, officials said.

“New York faces one of the most diverse threat landscapes in the nation, making it critical that our first responders have the training necessary to deal with a wide range of public safety challenges,” said Jackie Bray, Commissioner of the Division of Homeland Security and State Emergency Services. .

“Through the Excelsior Challenge, bomb squads, explosive detection canine teams, and tactical teams across the state will complete a state-of-the-art battery of scenarios to test and improve their collective coordination, communication, and integration with each other.”

Each year, the Excelsior Challenge reinforces skills practiced at previous discipline-specific events held at the State Preparedness Training Center, such as Tactics Week, Crow’s Challenge and Dog Week. Throughout the challenge, teams will respond to complex threat situations in a variety of scenarios ranging from active shooters at indoor facilities to hostage situations and explosive threats at outdoor mass gathering events.

This year’s challenge also includes a skills track for deminers and tactical operators where they will test new technologies provided by the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST). For the first time ever in New York State, bomb technicians and tactical operators will test “exoskeleton” technologies designed to improve their response capabilities. These teams will also use their robotics technology in various ways developed by NIST and test drone technology.

In its sixth year of operation – after going on hiatus during the COVID pandemic – the 2022 Excelsior Challenge boasts the largest contingent of specialist law enforcement team members to ever compete in the exercise, including 48 FBI-accredited bomb techs from New York’s 13 states, 41 explosives detection dog handlers, and 53 tactical team operators.

This year’s Excelsior Challenge involved support from nearly 50 agency instructors, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Transportation Security Administration and New York State Police.

To help make the scenarios as real as possible, the exercises use student actors from the University of Albany College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity. The exercise also receives support from the DHSES Office of Counterterrorism, Office of Fire Prevention and Control, Office of Emergency Management, and Office of Interoperable and Emergency Communications.