ORISKANY, NY (WUTR/WFXV/WPNY) — Members of law enforcement from across the nation converged on the State Preparedness Training Center in Oriskany to participate in the seventh-annual Excelsior Challenge on Wednesday, October 4.

According to New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner Jackie Bray, 150 members of law enforcement from across the state will participate in the four-day exercise. The exercise is aimed at training for response to current and emerging threats.

“As New York’s diverse threat landscape continues to evolve, we must ensure our first responders have access to the modern training that prepares them to deal with a vast range of public safety challenges,” Bray said in a statement. “The Excelsior Challenge gives bomb squads, explosive detection canine teams, and tactical teams from New York and around the nation a unique opportunity to hone their communication and coordination skills through a battery of state-of-the-art scenarios.”

Participants include 43 bomb technicians from all 13 FBI-accredited bomb squads across the state, 42 explosion-detection dog handlers, and 67 tactical team operators. Participating agencies –either as participants or as teachers — included the State Police of New York, New Jersey, Vermont and Massachusetts, as well as Oneida County Sheriffs and sheriff’s departments from 11 different counties in New York.

” We actually had a waiting list of several — I dont know the exact number, but quite a few officers that wanted to get in part of this,” Bob Stallman, assistant director of the State Preparedness Training Center, said. “We just dont have the bandwidth to have such a large event so unfortunately we did have to turn a few people away and say, we’ll get you next year.”

The Excelsior Challenge helps increase coordination and communication between tactical teams and reinforces skills practiced at events held at the State Preparedness Training Center. Over the course of the event, participants are split into seven task forces to ensure that different agencies are able to work with each other.

The Challenge also utilized the support of instructors from 26 agencies. It also included more than 70 role players, 40 of whom came from SUNY Albany’s College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity to make the scenarios as realistic as possible.

This year, participants were given four different scenarios to work their way through:

  • A hostage situation in a house of worship, which was based on the 2022 Colleyville (TX) synagogue hostage crisis,
  • Woodland operations, based on the search for escaped convict Danelo Cavalcante in September,
  • Protection of an Open-Air Mass Gathering, and
  • Protection of Communities Targeted by Hate Crimes, based on the Colorado Springs nightclub shooting in November 2022.

“One of the greatest things about coming to these events is you meet so many knowledgable people,” Utica Police Patrolman Chris Vomer — a former participant in the Excelsior Challenge and one of this year’s instructors — said. “You get to see what other people from different parts of the state are doing, and you get to take home what you like. Thats how we stay up to date and that’s how we keep getting better.”