SWAT or not? OC deputies test their mettle in grueling tryouts

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The Orange County Sheriff's Department recently held tryouts for the SWAT team, including only the second female candidate in the last 17 years. (KABC)

Looking to fill a few spots on its most elite unit, the Orange County Sheriff's Department held grueling tryouts recently, putting candidates through physical challenges that sought to weed out all but the fittest of the fit.

The tryouts involved 23 deputies vying for six open positions on the 45-member SWAT unit.

"We're looking for deputy sheriffs that are mature, sound decision makers, critical thinkers," said Lt. Christian Hays with the sheriff's Special Enforcement Bureau, which oversees the Special Weapons and Tactics Team.

Eyewitness News was granted exclusive access to the tryouts.

Among the candidates was Lisa Dolan, a 25-year-old deputy sheriff - only the second woman since 1999 to try out for Orange County SWAT.

"I had no idea they hadn't had a female yet so that was a little bit daunting," Dolan said.

During the test, Dolan performed more than 70 push-ups in two minutes and passed pull-up and sit-up tests that forced out five other candidates.

Eighteen people moved on to the obstacle course.

There they dragged a 200-pound dummy, carried a 40-pound sandbag, climbed over walls and performed maneuvers wearing a ballistic vest and gas mask.

The candidates weren't told how fast they needed to complete the course, to ensure they were pushing themselves to the limit.

"We don't tell them their minimum or maximum because we want them to give it everything they've got," Hays said.

They do know that they'll need to be in top shape to face the daunting real-life challenges that confront SWAT officers on the streets - dealing with gangs, barricade situations and active shooters.

For example, in recent years, SWAT officers had to serve high-risk warrants to search for inmates that escaped from the Orange County Jail; respond to a sniper at a recycling plant in Baker Canyon in 2004; and get professional MMA fighter Jason "Mayhem" Miller to safely surrender after a standoff.

Dolan and two others were sent home after the obstacle course.

But she wasn't discouraged.

"If you want it bad enough you can do it," Dolan said. "I plan to come back."

Those who weren't sent home immediately will learn in about a month if they passed the tryouts. The department said eligible candidates will then spend another two years training before becoming full members of the SWAT team.

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