A San Diego police officer has accomplished a goal only two other women in the department have achieved, thus far: serving as a SWAT officer.
This past May, San Diego Police Department (SDPD) Officer Moriah Roberge, 26, was one of 30 recruits who passed the physical qualifications and interviews to gain entrance into the 4-week SWAT Academy. She was the only woman among the recruits.
"We had five women apply for this academy. We had four go through the tryouts," said SDPD SWAT Commanding Officer Robert Daun. "Moriah was the only one who passed the physical qualifications."
Roberge said the academy was tiring and "mentally wearing" on the body.
"I know it's like that for everybody, but I know being a smaller individual you're carrying around just as much as everyone else," Roberge told NBC 7.
Daun said Roberge qualified for SWAT for a number of reasons, including her hard work and dedication.
"Moriah qualified because she was a good officer," explained Daun. "She came recommended from her command. She prepared herself physically. She prepared herself with her shooting skills. And she interviewed well. With a combination of these three things, it was easy for us to select her for the SWAT Academy."
Nineteen of the 30 recruits in Roberge's bunch graduated from the academy.
Lt. Daun explained why the other 11 recruits didn't make it.
"Once they get into the SWAT Academy, from day one until graduation day, they're being evaluated," said Daun. "We teach a kind of building block approach. So if somebody is having trouble with the basics and they're not able to move on to the next level that we're teaching, we'll let them go."
The SWAT training cadre, which includes the SWAT command staff and the Special Response Team (SWAT's full-time unit), also test the recruits on their ability to lead in various stressful, tactical scenarios.
"They try to fatigue you, so when you're tired, [they can see] how you're going to handle the situation," said Roberge. "Are you going to make the correct choices when you enter a house or when you're on a perimeter?"
Roberge joined the police department four years ago, after graduating from San Diego State University on a track scholarship. She's a pole vaulter, with the speed and upper body strength to take on the substantial physical demands of the unit.
But that's only part of the challenge.
"You have to be strong in all aspects, not only physically, but mentally," she explained. "Because when times get tough, you have to know that okay, I can do this."
Unlike patrol duties, when an officer's gender or appearance can sometimes impact the public's perception, in SWAT, none of that matters.
"The day after they graduate from the SWAT Academy and they're wearing that SWAT pin, they're going to be looked at in a position of leadership," said Daun. "Supervisors and other officers look to SWAT officers to help with some of these incidents that happen out in the field. Gender doesn't matter to us."
As Roberge trained for qualifications, she sought the advice of her commanding officer at Northern Division, Capt. Tina Williams.
Williams just so happens to be the second woman at SDPD to make it on SWAT. She served in the unit between 1999 and 2013, then became part of the SWAT command staff from 2015 until January 2017.
Roberge learned from Williams that while leadership in the unit is expected, preparation and logistics are also crucial.
"Packing your lunch, having extra items in your car so if you do run out of something or something breaks when you're in training, you have that extra item to use, or for your teammates to give to," said Roberge.
The officer also has support on the homefront, in her husband. He's a fellow SDPD officer who made SWAT last year. Roberge said he played a crucial role in her advancement.
"If I didn't have him helping me, especially in the SWAT Academy -- just that support -- I don't know if I would have made it," she said.
Like any successful partnership, the success of a SWAT mission relies on a collective mindset and trust.
"When officers work patrol, they usually work with a partner," explained Daun. "If it's a bigger incident, maybe you'll have some teams set up. But when they come to SWAT, we have to teach them to now be part of the team. Everything we do on SWAT is team oriented."
SDPD's SWAT, also known as the Special Weapons And Tactics unit, was established in 1968. The first woman to become a SWAT officer was Kelly Johnson, who served in the unit from 1994 until 2005. She has since retired.