Tuesday | April 21, 2015
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Law enforcement officers test their skills at PTA gun range

<p>HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald</p><p>Hawaii Police Department Special Response Team Officer Christopher Ragasa competes in a target shooting event where law enforcement had 10 rounds to shoot six targets during the inaugural Big Island Law Enforcement Firearms Challenge at Pohakuloa Training Area on Saturday morning.</p><p>HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald</p><p>Bullet casings await retrieval for recycling during the inaugural Big Island Law Enforcement Firearms Challenge at Pohakuloa Training Area on Saturday morning.</p><p>HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald</p><p>Hawaii Police Department Special Response Team Officer Joseph Stender competes in a target shooting event during the inaugural Big Island Law Enforcement Firearms Challenge on Saturday morning at Pohakuloa Training Area.</p><p>HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald</p><p>U.S. Park Ranger Andrew Sanford competes while Lt. Col. Eric P. Shwedo times him.</p><p>HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald</p><p>Members of the Hawaii Police Department Special Response Team waits to compete in the inaugural Big Island Law Enforcement Firearms Challenge at Pohakuloa Training Area on Saturday morning.</p>

By COLIN M. STEWART

Tribune-Herald staff writer

Hawaii County Police Department Special Response Team member Clinton Lewe Song stood with his feet planted firmly apart, his hands out in front of his body, forming a small V at his waist.

On the word “Go!” he drew his weapon, raised it in front of him, fixed his aim on the first target, and then paused. For nearly a full second he waited. And then, one after another, he dropped each of the six metallic targets standing in a row, more than 30 feet in front of him.

“Excellent shooting! Nice job!” shouted Lt. Col. Eric P. Shwedo, commanding officer of the U.S. Army Garrison at Pohakuloa Training Area. “That was the second clean run we’ve had today.”

At 7.22 seconds, Lewe Song’s performance Saturday morning was one of the fastest rounds of the day during the inaugural Big Island Law Enforcement Firearms Challenge on the shooting range at PTA. And he was efficient, too, using only six of the 10 rounds that may be used.

“Ordinarily, we’re not supposed to do that,” he said of his decision to pause and steady his nerves before firing. “But because this is a competition, it was just like a ‘hurry up and wait’ situation. I didn’t want to do that. I guess I was just loosened up from the first (round).”

Lewe Song had begun the day under a lot of pressure, after his fellow SRT team mates identified him as the man to watch during the shooting competition.

“Thanks a lot,” he had responded. “Now you’ve jinxed me.”

The SRT team appeared to be the guys to beat Saturday, with everyone in attendance saying they had the most practice under their belts.

“Those guys get to shoot twice a month or more. It’s all about practice, about making it muscle memory,” said PTA Department of the Army Police Chief Rick Asher.

Other law enforcement participants included National Park Service Rangers, as well as the U.S. Army’s own police force stationed at PTA. Others had been invited, including the Hawaii Sheriff’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, but they had to drop out at the last minute.

“There’s always something going on,” Shwedo said of the typical law enforcement worker’s lifestyle. “They may be involved in a bust or something. It could be a lot more exciting than what’s going on here.”

The day was an opportunity for a little good-natured ribbing, some camaraderie amongst various law enforcement officers, and a chance for PTA to share its top-notch shooting range facilities with other organizations on the Big Isle, said Lt. Thomas Shopay, with the Department of the Army Police.

“You know, these guys only see each other when something bad is happening. When they’re working,” Shopay said. “This is a chance for them to get together at a fun event. There’s also some competitive juices flowing.”

Earlier this year, PTA signed an agreement to allow sheriff’s deputies, police and other public safety workers on the Big Island to use the facilities when the Army isn’t using them. Participants hailed the move as a great example of inter-agency cooperation that ends up benefiting everyone on the island.

“It’s a win-win for us and them,” Shwedo said. “We can’t use this all the time, so why not let them get the use of it? It helps to build relationships, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Email Colin M. Stewart at cstewart@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

 

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