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GPD Special Response Team hosts eighth annual Steel Challenge

Poarch CreEk Police Department officer Steven Bradley takes aim during the 8th annual GPD-hosted Steel Challenge Friday.

Poarch CreEk Police Department officer Steven Bradley takes aim during the 8th annual GPD-hosted Steel Challenge Friday.

Echoing gunfire punctuated the Friday morning ambience at the Greenville Police Department’s firing range as law enforcement officers took part in the 8th annual Steel Challenge.

Officers from local, state and federal agencies came out to shoot the breeze and the occasional target for the sake of raising money for the Greenville Special Response Team.

But for Greenville Police Department Chief Justin Lovvorn, the fundraising is only half of the Steel Challenge’s appeal.

“We mainly do it as a chance to get the community involved,” Lovvorn said. “They’re always welcome to come watch, even if they don’t want to shoot, and also to see what goes on, what we do out here.

“The main thing we get is the fellowship with other officers and the community that comes out and wants to be involved.  A little over half of the shooters we have are the ones we see every year.  It’s kind of like seeing your family members who live in another state that you don’t get to see until this one time of year.  We all come together and have a good time while we’re here, so it’s something that we cherish.  It’s a really good event, and I’m going to try to keep it going as long as we can.”

The Steel Challenge is named for the steel targets that participants take aim at, which include falling targets and hostage targets that swing in response to being shot.

A challenge features a variety of challenges of varying degrees of difficulty.

The top three candidates among the first three events qualify to compete in the Top Gun course, which encompasses the entire range and requires more physical fitness and skill than the first three events.

The winner of the Top Gun course takes home the most coveted prize and the largest plaque of the day.

Just before a lunch that is held for all participants is a competition among the sponsors of the event.

In addition to the main competition, an extra event is held called the One Shot challenge in which sharpshooters aim for a target 50 yards away with both a pistol and a rifle.  Competitors get just one shot with each, and the closest shot to the target walks away with $100.

The nature of the One Shot challenge is indicative of the fun, competitive spirit of the Steel Challenge overall, according to Lovvorn, but the added funds raised are also helpful in keeping the Special Response Team outfitted for the coming year.

“The goal is to raise money for what we need on the SWAT team every year,” Lovvorn said. “We’re available to this whole area, and not just Greenville, so we’re a resource.  We try not to be a huge burden on the city’s budget because it takes a lot of extra money to keep us up with what we need on equipment, training and things like that. 

“Anyone can donate at any point throughout the year.  If they’re interested in the event itself and want to do the sponsor shoot, they can request that their donation go toward that.  The next time we do it, we’ll have that on file, no matter when they donated. We just appreciate the public support that we get.  We’re very lucky to have the community that we have and the relationship that we have with them, and we don’t take that for granted.”