Our fifth week at Prince William Forest Park is another success. We were with law enforcement this week. On Tuesday, Charles and I were split for the day. Charles went to a D.A.R.E. graduation ceremony for 5th graders in Stafford County with Chief Sirk-Fear, and I rode with Ranger Ballam.
The D.A.R.E. event was a blast and the weather was beautiful. It was much bigger than I had expected it to be. There were plenty of fire engines, rescue trucks, ambulances, and police vehicles to check out. In addition, there were several helicopters that landed in the park that morning as well, and remained for the duration of the festivities. We set up our tent next to a unit from the Stafford County Sheriff’s Department, and not too long after this the kids began running up to the tent in droves. Some of the items we handed out were park maps, Smokey the Bear pins, pencils, stickers, and pamphlets outlining how to become a junior ranger. The pins were the first thing to go, and they were certainly gone in a hurry. Many of the kids wanted our autographs so we spent a good deal of time signing programs and tee-shirts as well. It was fun to go with Chief Sirk-Fear to this event and represent Prince William Forest Park. Many of the people who we interacted with seemed very interested in visiting the park and learning about all history it has to offer, especially with the 75th anniversary approaching in July. Hopefully we helped in further discouraging kids from abusing drugs, but at the same time, sparked an interest in the National Park Service, too.
Ranger Ballam and I performed a lot of tasks throughout the day that helped out other divisions. We retrieved the 75th anniversary poster from Vidal, which was in a case that had cracked. We took it to the office to be fixed. We also put the chairs and tables that Charles and the Chief had used for the D.A.R.E. event, back into their holding unit. Although it only took me two sentences to type this, these tasks were actually quite lengthy. We were patrolling and I saw Charles out for his daily run and stopped in to say hello. The rest of the evening Ranger Ballam and I went to the LE office to clean weapons. This task was by far one of my favorite since I’ve been here. Dave is very precise and careful when cleaning is weapons. He informed me everything he was doing during this activity and ensured the safety of both of us. The weapons included were a 9mm, a 45mm, a shotgun, and an M4 assault rifle. Ranger Ballam emptied each weapon and we both visually inspected them to ensure they were empty. We also pulled the slide back 3 times to ensure there wasn’t any ammo. The weapons and ammunition were kept in separate locations throughout this event. We cleaned the 9mm, and 45mm at the same time. During this Ranger Ballam showed me the proper way to hold each of these weapons and how the sight works. After we cleaned them and reassembled them he showed me how to hold the shotgun and the assault rifle as well. I really enjoyed this, because I’ve never held a weapon before. I also enjoyed it, because I’ve always wanted to know the proper way to hold a shotgun and manage the recoil without injuring your shoulder. Now I know.
Day 2 was not a normal day for us. The first half of the day we registered for our online firefighter courses and our eppley institute course. Resource Management let us borrow their vehicle to use for the civilian/military dinner we attended later in the evening with Vidal. The dinner was located in Spotsylvania. We went in uniform and met Vidal at the Belmont studio. There were politicians, marines, and civilians there. Also in attendance was the Chief of the fire department within Quantico, the Mayor of the Village within Quantico, and the Captain of the County Police. The point of the dinner was to have the community interact with the military. The Quantico base has a huge economic impact on the surrounding counties. Vidal did a great job promoting the park at this meeting. The park is often confused as being a county park instead of a national park. We brought brochures, 75th anniversary camp-out flyers and smiles. The dinner ended and we went home for the evening.
Day 3 was another day which didn’t fit into our normal scheme. We spent the entire day driving to, and studying for the first responder examination. Charles had his exam at 12:15 and my exam was at 4:15. We spent a lot of time waiting in anticipation. After the exam we both felt unsure of our success. The exam is structured to adapt to your ability. If you get a question wrong it gives you an easier one. If you get a question right it gives you a harder one. We didn’t arrive back home until nearly 8pm due to very heavy traffic on 95. We checked our results early the next morning and we both passed! Charles and I are officially first responders!
On Friday, Ranger Ballam drove us up to the DEA lab in Maryland to drop off evidence. We were not able to see very much of what goes on inside that building, but it was still interesting to know where seized drugs go for testing. After returning to the park, we went on patrol and Dave said he would bring out the same weapons again to explain how to properly handle them since I was not with him when he went over the procedures on Tuesday. This was my first time handling a gun of any type, and I was glad to learn how to safely disarm and load them. There was plenty of information to absorb on the various weapons and how each part works, and I am eager to continue to learn even more. Now I feel much more comfortable as I now have a brief understanding of the weapons which will definitely help when we go to the range.