Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Harpers Ferry - Week 2

Another exciting and eventful week has passed here at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. During the past week, ProRanger Mark Clarke and I have experienced many different aspects of life in a National Park. On Tuesday and Wednesday we attended Operational Leadership training, facilitated by Ranger Melissa Boyce and Physical Security Specialist Scott Pike. This was ProRanger Clarke’s first week of work at the Park, so he missed out on the events that occurred last week. Operational Leadership is a new National Park Service initiative designed to improve safety and performance. The program originated in the military where it has been proven to reduce on duty accidents. Before reporting to training, ProRanger Clarke and I were responsible for opening the gates to the Murphy Farm, Jackson’s Right Flank, and Schoolhouse Ridge North areas on the park. This duty must be completed early each morning to allow access to the restrooms and parking lots for visitors and hikers. On Wednesday, following Operational Leadership, Ranger Mark Howard led a brief tour of the area and introduced ProRanger Clarke to the staff here at Harpers Ferry. During this time, we also received our gym memberships and received a tour of the workout facilities. Physical fitness is an extremely important element of the ProRanger program and is a vital tool for a Park Ranger. Access to exercise facilities will allow us to improve our fitness level and improve our performance on the Physical Efficiency Battery. On Thursday, we reported to the Archeology Division for an opportunity to experience digging for historic artifacts. After a quick training session, we were allowed to help excavate the Lower Armory area. Currently, there are two digs in progress at the Armory site. At area number 13, the first layer of soil had been removed while at area 12, four layers had been excavated. Our first job for the day was to scrape away the soil at the two areas while being careful to watch for artifacts or changes in soil color. A change in color means that you have entered a new stratum, therefore a new time period. The archeologists work in these strata and do not continue until the entire area is at the same level. Depending on the time period, the soil may require screening before being discarded. For example, at area 12 we screened the soil for artifacts before mixing it with soil from other areas. This process helps to find artifacts and insures that nothing is accidently missed. After reaching a new layer of soil, we returned to the office where ProRanger Clarke washed the items and I, ProRanger Copper, “quick bagged” the washed artifacts into separate categories. During our time at the site, we did uncover some small items that may help piece together life at the Armory. The highlight of the day was working around a brick pattern that was found at area 12 in previous digs. The pattern is near the once visible street and could provide details into the appearance of the Armory site. Throughout our day with Archeology, the entire staff was welcoming and informative. We really enjoyed the opportunity to search for artifacts and look forward to seeing future progress at the site. On Friday we returned to the Law Enforcement Division where we helped lead a hike with the students of Wildwood Middle School. The students were eager to explore Harpers Ferry and kept a remarkable pace throughout the entire trip. During the students lunch break, the ProRangers took the opportunity to explain the ProRanger program and encouraged the students to strive for success. Hopefully through school programs and activities, the National Park Service will continue to educate students and maybe even interest students in becoming Park Rangers. After the hike with the students, we returned to Grandview Station and were taught by Ranger Howard how to create Park identification cards for the employees. This coming week at Harpers Ferry we will be participating in park orientation as well as traveling to Prince William Forest where we will join other ProRangers in completing our S-130 and S-190 fire training field day. On Friday, fellow ProRangers will be traveling here to Harpers Ferry for driver training presented by Ranger Howard. Have a great week!

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