SRT takes 1st in state SWAT competition

Published 12:17 pm Wednesday, November 1, 2017

For the second time in five years, the Greenville Police Department Special Response Team has walked away from the State SWAT Competition with a  first-place finish.

This year’s event was held on Oct. 19 in Columbiana, Ala., and it saw the GPD competing with teams from as far north as Madison County and as far south as Orange Beach.

The feat is made all the more impressive when one considers that many of Greenville’s competition had SWAT teams as large as the entirety of the Greenville Police Department.

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Greenville police chief Justin Lovvorn said that whereas other departments may have greater numbers or resources, Greenville had an intangible factor in their favor—dedication.

“We have consistently gone up there and beaten the competition with the small group that we have, and I truly believe that it’s because of our constant training, the ability of our guys and the time and effort that they put in,” Lovvorn said.

“Because they really have the heart for it; they train a lot of times without being reimbursed because they simply want to be good at their job.  They don’t want to have a special response team and not be able to handle whatever comes up, so they put in the extra time and effort on the shooting range, in the gym and in different training and scenarios.”

Prior to Lovvorn’s promotion to police chief, he served as the Special Response Team’s commander.  That responsibility has since been passed down to Lt. Byron Russell, who Lovvorn said is doing “an excellent job with it” by continuing the department’s tradition of excellence that began a decade ago.

This year’s event was split into a sniper event, a grueling team event and an even tougher iron man challenge.

Lovvorn called the team event in particular “one of the most strenuous team events in the past several years,” thanks in large part to this year’s shift to sustained arduous activity over a long period of time.

Whereas previous years would’ve seen teams taking on difficult tasks in short bursts—such as carrying a team member on a tree log to and fro for 100 yards—this year’s challenge was a nonstop gauntlet.

Team members were fitted with a 70-pound sandbag, in addition to up to 30 pounds of tactical gear, and tasked with running a half-mile to three different shooting ranges and engaging targets.

Lovvorn said that as far as tests of marksmanship and endurance go, this year’s challenge was tough to beat.

“This was strung out, it was hard, and you had to be as fast as you could go to get a good time,” he said. “It was almost never-ending; as soon as you’re done with one part, it’s on to the next one.”

Lovvorn added that it was the Greenville team’s accuracy and ability to remain cool even while fatigued that allowed them to prevail.  And, most importantly, those same reflexes that this competition and others hone pay dividends for the department in real-life situations.

That experience, Lovvorn said, is worth more than any accolade.

“The key to all of it is yes, it’s great to go up there and win,” he said. “But it applies to what we do down here. It motivates our guys to train, to work on their marksmanship and to be physically fit. And it has transferred over to real-life situations.

“The guys move better, they’re more fluid, you know they’re going to be more accurate, they’re used to shooting under pressure, they’re used to having to be in shape.  In a real-world situation, your heart rate is going to go up, and you’re going to get exhausted faster because of adrenaline.  And this prepares them for that. They know what it feels like to be spent, and to go 100-percent and then have to engage.  And you’re better for it.”