Sunday, July 31, 2011

Two Weeks Left

If you had asked me two years ago what I'd be doing on my quarter-century birthday, I would have never guessed I'd be starting a career in law enforcement with the National Park Service, protecting the some of the most beautiful, ecologically/biologically valuable, and culturally significant places in the United States. I majored in anthropology because I love people - I focused in linguistic anthropology because I've always been fascinated by expression and symbolism - I knew when I went to college that I wanted to make a contribution with my life, but I don't think I really knew how. Although I'd always had my hopes to land one of those jobs where you get paid to do what you love, and come home feeling good about yourself every evening, when the economy started to decline, I resigned myself to a life of leading consumer focus groups and product survey design. And I say "resigned" not to disparage anyone who is in that particular field, but because it's just not the sort of career that really speaks to who I am as a person, or what I value.

That's why, right now, on the cusp of graduation I'm so anxious and to be finished and in awe of everything that's happened up until this point. I'm just a few short steps from the start of a really grand change in my life, and my future stretches out into the horizon and off breathtaking vistas, sites of triumph, and memorials of somber remembrance. It's really great to have a career right out of college; it's even better to have one with purpose.

Only two more weeks to go.

Week 10 Prince William Forest Park- Charles Papacostas

Most of this week Amber and I spent with park maintenance. On Tuesday, we shadowed Buildings and Utilities Foreman Scott Shea. We spent some time in the office where he explained the budget maintenance receives each year and how he has to divide it up between equipment, personnel, and projects. He stressed the importance of how he must carefully watch and track the money throughout the year so that he will not go over the budget. He further discussed PMIS or Project Management Information System, and how it is used when he initiates a large project in the park. Later we accompanied Rocky Schroeder on visits to a few projects. We drove over to Cabin Camp 3 and observed the renovation of one of the old bathrooms built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s. Some of the wood that was part of the frame of the structure was crumbling, but the building was not going to be knocked down. The sinks, toilet, and showers were the originals installed nearly 80 years ago and are going to remain there. It was great to see the work being put into fixing this structure while trying to maintain the look it had in the 1930’s when it was originally constructed. I enjoyed seeing the measures being taken to preserve this structure, as it contributes much to the park’s history and displays the hard work of the CCC.

On Wednesday, we spent the morning attending a meeting with park staff to discuss upcoming events and the paving project. In the afternoon we accompanied Rocky on an inspection of couple of the dams located in the park. We first drove over and checked the dam at Carter’s Pond. He took some pictures and determined that there were no immediate causes for concern. After leaving Carter’s Pond, we ventured over to the dam at Cabin Camp 3 where there we no problems either. Rocky explained that part of the lake that formed there was a swimming pool and had a concrete bottom, but it had now largely broken apart. He showed us an old pipe that connected to a nearby stream that many years ago supplied Cabin Camp 3 with water but had not been used in almost 30 years.

The Youth Expo at Anacostia Park in Washington DC was lots of fun. There were many high school aged kids there who were working at various parks in the National Capital Region and it was great to be able to represent the program with fellow prorangers Amber, Jay, Mark, Meaghan, Sarah, and Dan. After lunch, we all decided we would go roller skating, and I was a little excited and nervous since it was my first time skating. I had a great time though, and gradually found my balance out there, but not after falling several times. There were plenty of hilarious moments, and I definitely want to go skating again. It was great to spend time with the Regional Chief Will Reynolds as well, and he took plenty of awesome photos. I was definitely very happy that Amber and I were able to tag along with the YCC’s from our park and attend this event!!

Friday was a change of pace, and we did a ride-along with officers from District 1 of US Park Police that night from 6pm-2am. It was fascinating to see the difference from what they do when compared to rangers. One task that I was not aware of was that they are responsible for helping to close the Ellipse at certain times. The officer I rode along with had to hold a post out there for a few hours and had to redirect many tourists looking to take a picture of the White House. After that we got word that the Ellipse was open, we went back on patrol, largely in the northern part of the district. The officer made several traffic stops while up there for people running stop signs and one for a man who had a broken headlight. At around 1 am he stopped a car for driving through a yellow light, which in Washington, D.C. is illegal. After running the license with dispatch, it came back that it was suspended, so the officer called in for a cover officer and then searched the man for contraband and arrested him. We transported the prisoner back to the station, where he was searched again and told to remove the shoelaces from his sneakers. This was interesting to see because it really demonstrates the importance of officer safety and keeping a prisoner safe from him or herself. It reiterated the theme that anyone can hide anything anywhere, and it reminded me that being thorough is absolutely necessary in this line of work. Following this procedure, I observed the booking process. The officer took the man’s fingerprints on the AFIS machine, which I had heard of but never seen before. It was interesting because when an officer takes the fingerprints of a suspect, the prints go into a database which provides the officer information on any previous arrests of the suspect or active warrants. After watching the booking process it was time for me leave, but I enjoyed the time I was able to spend with the US Park Police, and gain an understanding of their agency.

BOST- Week 10

Our ninth week at Boston has been jam-packed with many law enforcement opportunities. We started our week by joining in the control tactics refresher. Our supervisor, Kris Salapek, is one of the instructors and we were able to join in with our Chief as well as another supervisor for the refresher. We began the training by warming up our arms and legs. We did so by grabbing around our partners neck with one hand while holding on to their arm with the other. We then pushed and pulled each other around the mat until we got our heart rates up. We then moved right in to the uses for the baton. Each of us had to lengthen the baton and strike a pad using the up-down motion as well as flat across the chest. We learned that it is very important when using any type of force to always be giving commands to your perpetrator; you never know when bystanders will be videotaping.

Once we finished with the batons, we moved on to the OC simulation spray. We took turns being the officer and being the suspect approaching at a slow, quick, and then fast pace. This training was to help you practice acting under pressure as someone is running to get in your face. Even though we weren’t using real OC spray, it still stung and burned quite a bit! (I took some to the eyes). It does help to know what type of force you are using and how it may affect the person you are using it on.

Next we worked on some hands-on control tactics for when someone might charge at you and try to tackle you. We learned that the most important thing about going hands-on is not to try to “win” the fight. It is to keep some separation between you and the suspect, especially at the hips and feet. Once you are able to break free from each other, that is when you use the chance to reach for another tool whether it be your baton or firearm. These types of tactics are something that practice will only make better and more efficient; if you do not take the time to review these every so often you can definitely lose the skill.

During the refresher, we practiced with handcuffing. We practiced with the suspect standing, kneeling, and also laying on the ground. This not only gave us the chance to practice actually physically handcuffing someone, but also giving the commands to them on what to do. You have to be very specific and stern with your commands so they can follow them to the T as well as give them a sense that if they mess around, there will be repercussions. It was great to be able to practice with the handcuffs to get a better sense of the correct way to put them on, and also what it feels like to be handcuffed. We were also shown how to walk with a person who is handcuffed and where to hold them so they can’t go anywhere. Salapek also gave Jeff and me the chance to shoot two practice cartridges on the tasers. We did the same course of fire that is done when you complete your taser refresher (the one we witnessed our fellow ranger complete). It helped us understand the use of the taser that we learned from watching the powerpoint, and of course it was awesome to be able to shoot it in general. Everything we learned in the refresher was a very good introduction to the types of things we will be focusing on in the LE academy, and I must say it is definitely something to look forward to.

You must express to the person that they are under arrest. They must put their hands up, spin around, and then spread their feet to give them a wide, unstable stance.

Upon approaching the suspect, you grab their left hand in a reverse handshake, put that side on and then the the other side on. You then click the handcuff until it is tight enough around the wrists.

The following day we kept right along with some LE training and practiced doing building clearings. In the Navy Yard, there is a big, old warehouse that is no longer used for anything but storage so it works as a good place to practice in. Salapek first walked through the basic tactical skills of clearing a building; some important tips to remember are to never “laser” your partner with your gun while walking through (meaning never have your gun pointed towards them, even if you are making a sweeping motion past them). It is also very important to not get too far separated so that you can still see each other as well as keep an eye on what is to the left, the right, and the rear. Communication is also key. If there is a room that needs to be cleared, you must say so to your partner so they don’t keep moving on. If you see any sudden movements or something suspicious, you should say so with the direction of the action. Building clearing is supposed to be a quick, flowing operation that is smooth and efficient to get the job done correctly. This too should be practiced frequently, especially whenever you are working with someone new so you can learn how each other moves and communicates. The two days we had with these LE training techniques were so great. We really appreciated the opportunity to learn the basics of some of the most important dealings within a law enforcement position.

It would not be a summer in BOST if we did not make a trip to the top of the Bunker Hill Monument! One morning while we were on patrol with our supervisor, we took a stroll to the top. 294 steps later, we made it to the top and were rewarded with the view overlooking Charlestown and parts of the Boston Harbor. Along with the USS Constitution, the Bunker Hill Monument could be seen as one of the more iconic parts of Boston NHP. Many people from all over come to admire it and make the trek to the top.

The view of the Charlestown Navy Yard from the top of the Bunker Hill Monument.

Later on in the week we had a special visit from North East Chief Ranger, Steve Clark and Branch Chief of Law Enforcement and Emergency Services, Kim Coast. Their visit with Jeff and I was brief, but they were in Boston to gain a better understanding of how the park runs, specifically on the law enforcement side, and also to meet a few chief rangers from some of the other National Parks close by. It was great to see them in action and to see two individuals that are so passionate about their positions within the National Park Service; talk about motivating!

We ended our great week with a trip to Cape Cod National Seashore to do a ride-along with a few of their rangers. Upon arrival, we were showed around by Ranger Eric Trudeau. Once we became a little more familiar with our surroundings we let some air out of the tires and headed for the oversand trail. At Cape Cod they have several trails for people to drive on the beach, with a permit of course. They told us that they will have to keep an eye on people possibly drinking a little too much and then trying to drive. They also use the oversand trails to check and make sure fishers are going by the regulations of size and amount with Striper and Blue fish. Cape Cod rangers also do a lot of traffic stops; there are several roads that fall within their jurisdiction. We were able to witness a few be conducted for speeding. The rangers also get opportunities to do some plain clothes operations in which they walk to beaches and are vigilant for any illegal behavior. Cape Cod is a beautiful place to work with many possibilities for law enforcement action. Jeff and I would highly recommend all of you to take the time to visit if you ever get the chance!

A view of the Race Point Light from one of the oversand trails along the shore.

This past week has been nothing but motivational and educational. Jeff and I are really enjoying our time here and are very sad when we think we only have two weeks left! We hope that everyone is taking the time to do everything they want to in these last weeks and continue to be sponges soaking up every last bit of knowledge from the great people we have been working with!

ProRangers Jeff Parente and Erin Langeheine

C&O Canal

This past week at the C&O Canal has been very cool as well as tiring. We were able to many different law enforcement tactics during this week. On Wednesday Josh Cunningham took Tia and myself to meet up with Matt Huescamp at the Training Center to learn some Defense/Control Tactics. This was a grueling workout that involved using jabs, elbows, knees, upper cuts, roundhouse kicks, and more. As we jabbed and kicked the stuffing out of Huescamp and Cunnigham they told us to yell, "Get back!" and "Stop! Police!" This combination of fighting a criminal and yelling commands was quite challenging for myself. This day was a good test of our endurance and was just so exhilarating.
The following day Cunnigham and Clawson took Tia and I to Four Locks, a shooting range. The whole day was dedicated to learning the in's and out's of a handgun. We were took the 228 apart several times, learned the basic safety information about the 228, learned about the proper bullets, and of course, how to shoot a gun. This had been my first time shooting a gun so it was quite the experience. We shot about four to five magazines from the five yard line. In the end, it was determined that Tia is a better shot than I am, but I don't mind because I have plenty of time to improve.
Friday and Saturday were dedicated to patrolling different trails located around the Great Falls area, mainly Billy Goat A. It was our job due dissuade visitors from taking a dip in the Potomac or from jumping off a cliff into the Potomac. Even though there are many signs up warning about the dangers of the Potomac, we continue to have many visitors venturing into the cool water. I also patrolled the trail for other dangers or hazards, but found nothing. I did, however, speak with many visitors and was able to answer many questions.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

week 11 Shenandoah

Week 11 --

This week we spent time with various members in our partner park Shenandoah. The beginning of the week was spent with Tyler of the Fire Effects crew. He has various duties, but on Tuesday he explained the tasks and science that goes into planning a prescribed burn for the park. This is done because the forest needs fire to be healthy. Over the years mankind has gotten so good at controlling wildfires that this has lead the forest to change ecologically. Species are now dominating forest that wouldn't be if the natural cycle of wildfires would take place. We went about making a plot in an unburnt section of the park that is scheduled for a prescribed burn. This is done so that the fire effects crew can study the effects of a smaller area of the forest with some control and multiply the affects of the study to a larger area. Tyler then showed us a section of the forest that had a prescribed burn performed on it approximately 3 years ago ...It was amazing to see how many more species of plants were growing in this section along with the health of the forest itself which seemed much more diverse and healthy.

The Next day was spent with Ann of cultural resources. We traveled around the park to many locations while she cataloged the cultural sites with photographs and basically explained what this assessment was all about and what it entailed. This was good to see and from an LE perspective knowing the resource, its location and what the resource is supposed to look like can only help with our mission of resource protection.

We then had the opportunity to spend a day with Bill and Joe , both are LE Rangers in the park, and also happen to be technical rescue instructors. It was really cool because the class was small and we had a lot of one on one time and both of the instructors who were thorough and made sure we grasped the basic concepts of ascending and descending with valuable knots and some more technical equipment. ( Grigri, pulley, Cams, Carabiners, Ascenders, Rescue 8, Rappel racks... to name a few) (knots: figure 8, water , fishermans, prusick.. again to name a few) One can easily see this is a perishable skill and i would relish the opportunity to get more solid training in this technical skill set... Bill and Joe are leading a course in Delaware Water Gap National Recreational Area this coming April!! hint hint ... I think ProRangers should go !

The last two days of the week were spent with the Rangers Activity Department, specifically the Fee division. The first day was spent with the Remit section. Without going into to much detail they basically oversee the parks collection of the entrance fee money , 80% of which goes directly back into the park. They have many fail safes and the women I worked with were very helpful and let Heather and myself perform the majority of their duties for the day. I then went out on the park boundary , specifically the White Oak Boundary, and helped Patti and Steve perform the collection of entrance fees and give advice to the various park visitors some of whom are novice to the area. I have done this duty before, but in another boundary location. I felt much better prepared to help out this time and was much more knowledgeable to the "usual questions", that the Fee Rangers get from visitors.

After this week we ahave just over 2 weeks left... This Summer has flown by !
John Eichelberger

Amber Hagan-Week 10 Prince William Forest Park

Another crazy week at Prince William forest Park has ended and only 2 remain. I’m especially excited to write about what we did this week, and for numerous reasons. We were with maintenance most of the week and the United States Park Police the last day.
The week began on Tuesday with maintenance at 6:30am. We shadowed Scott Shea throughout the morning and learned a lot about the special projects taking place in the park such as restoring historic buildings, replacing roofs, and taking on termites. The most difficult part about all of these operations is that they must follow a special code that maintains their historic demeanor, because they are historic buildings. Everything done to the exterior of the building is very specific and cannot be altered in appearance. The interior of the buildings have slightly more leniency. Scott also showed us how the financial accounts work. Maintenance has a base account and a projects account. The projects accounts are separate, because they ask for funding for them in an entirely different program. I think the acronym for that program is PIMS, but it has slipped my mind. In the program, they upload before and after pictures that are public for people to come in and look at; a really neat feature for people to see the progress of the national park service in regards to up keeping historic structures. Scott and Veena taught us a lot in the few short hours we spent with them. I enjoyed my time listening to their talks.
We had lunch and spent the remainder of the day with Rocco Shroeder. Rocky has become one of the individuals I admire the most in the National Park Service. Rocky taught our wild land firefighting class and he stands out as a person with wonderful character to me. I trust him 100% to be my crew boss when I am dispatched to a wild land fire. Rocky took us to the sites in the park that are being restored and took photos to document the progress. We stopped by the administration building first to document the morning finding of termites in the walls. The damage to the structure is severe and this will be funded through the parks base account. The next site we went to was a cabin camp bathroom. Finally we ended the day with the sponge blasting/graffiti project at cabin camp 4. The graffiti is all over the walls and influences others to participate, so it is being removed. The most fascinating part about this is the method they are using to do this. They have a machine, and this is no ordinary machine. It uses sponge and shoots it out at the wall and this removes the very thin top layer of the wood. The most alluring part of this machine is that you scoop the sponge fragments back up after you use it, and reuse it up to 7 times. It’s a recycling sponge machine! We left this site and went home for the day.
Wednesday we spent with Rocky inspecting the Dams in the park. Most of the morning was spent at the staff meeting to discuss events taking place in the park and where we’re at with them. We ended right around lunch time and inspected the Dams following. We began at Carters Pond, an Earthen Dam right off scenic drive. Carters Pond was only just recently re-opened to the public for catch and release fishing. We inspected the dam for leaks, tall unmaintained grasses, tree roots posing a potential threat, and looked at the spill way. We noted our findings and went to another dam. The next dam was a man-made dam, but also a historic structure. The dam could use a lot of maintenance around and on the structure including a safety rail extending out to the center. The final dam we inspected that day was another earthen dam. We walked around the entire site and Rocky pointed out what used to be a swimming pool a long, long time ago for groups that came to the park to camp. Currently, it’s an extension of the lake and no longer a pool. There are, however, wooden benches and other remnants of a once highly used swimming area.
Thursday we ended up last minute going to the end of the summer youth exposition at Anacostia Park. Through conversations with Regional Chief Will Reynolds, we decided to go to the event and we definitely do not regret this decision. We traveled with members of the YCC and maintenance crew and I enjoyed the conversations we were able to have with them. The event began with a few talks from very important people. Representatives from youth groups got on stage and said a few words, including ProRangers Mark Clark and Jay Copper. After this we walked around to see what all of the youth groups had been doing throughout their summer. There were videos, poster boards, and cheers. We had lunch and then the noticed people lining up to a window. Turns out they were renting roller skates. Therefore, Sara, Meaghan, Jay, Mark, Charles, and I all put skates on and Dan and Will Reynolds photographed the event. I personally find these to be one of the most exciting events we have participated in this summer. Who knew we would go to this event and roller skate? I don’t know how to roller skate…neither do Mark and Charles. This alone made for a comical event!
We were later interviewed as a group regarding the ProRanger program. We all had a lot to say and hope to get the message out there to youth groups and the nation that this program is shaping the face of the National Park Service. We have a huge burden to carry and we do it with pride, professionalism, and integrity. The event ended and we went home.
Our final day this week will be forever recorded in my mind. We had a ride along scheduled with The United States Park Police, thanks to Scott Fear, Cindy Sirk-Fear, and David Ballam. I rode with an officer in district one and we had a great time. We patrolled the area near the Jefferson Memorial, The Lincoln Memorial, the White House, Haines point, and the FDR memorial. We were given Kevlar vests to wear throughout the evening, which I really enjoyed. We did everything from running radar, to stopping cars for traffic violations (other than speed), to enforcing parking and no stopping rules, to helping tourists find their way around the city. There were still people walking around the sites at 1am, and I’m talking about families. I had no idea Washington D.C. was busy so constantly.
The best part of my night, by far, was performing security at the zero. The ellipse on the South side of the white house is a popular location for tourists to take photographs. However, any time the President or his family step outside onto a balcony, the secret service and the park police shut it down. I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this. We participated with shutting this down, because we were with the park police. From our location we were able to view the balcony, where President Obama was standing. Therefore, I am ecstatic to say that I not only saw the President, but I assisted in providing a security barrier for him. During the moment I was viewing President Obama, I also observed several dark figures walking across the roof of the white house, they were snipers. I have never felt such a surreal feeling in my life. It literally felt like something out of a movie and I was in awe at what was taking place. We stayed here for nearly 2 hours and then returned to our patrolling.
We stopped a vehicle at 12:15 for not using headlights and it turned out to be a 19 year old who had been drinking. He blew a pretty low number in the breathalyzer, but regardless, he was 19. The kid was given the break of his life and his mother came and picked him up. I feel that he was given a serious wake- up call as he immediately hugged his mother as she approached.
We left this call and went to Haines point to close it for the evening. It closes at 1am and reopens at 5am. We drove through with another unit and shuffled vehicles out of the area. We approached a vehicle and found a man sleeping inside of it. We asked him if he had been drinking and he said no. He drove away and we followed as it was the only exit. The man drove in the center of the two lanes and was swerving a lot in and out between the two of them. We stopped him. 2 other units arrived and assisted. The man was slightly irritated claiming he did not drink or do any drugs. They gave him a field sobriety test and he passed. He did not smell of alcohol at all. The officers inspected his hands and arms and found no indication of intravenous drug use. The man was no fully awake when he first drove away, and the stop certainly woke him up. His driving was dramatically improved the second time around. The ride along ended and I went home.
This week I learned a lot about the amount of pressure the maintenance staff has on them. They have a back log of tasks that is always increasing. Maintenance is a fundamental part of the Park Service team. I learn each week how much each division depends on one another and I saw the final piece of that this week as maintenance was our last division to work with. We will be with them again next week, too. The park police ride along was everything I had hoped for and more. They have a reputation in D.C. for being very serious when it comes to the law. I fully agree and I hope to ride with them again!

Friday, July 29, 2011

FOMC- Law Enforcement/ Youth EXPO

I had an amazing week! The law enforcement division is really teaching me all that they can. I have done a wide variety of activities all in just one week. My chief ranger is so encouraging and wants me to learn all that I can! He knows every piece of information I retain can only help me become a better, more well rounded, ranger and can be used all throughout my law enforcement career. I have been working with an amazing Law Enforcement ranger. She explains everything in great detail to make sure I understand what we are doing and why we are doing it. She has taken me under her wing to show me the in and outs of every aspect of what LE rangers at FOMC do.

In the beginning of the week, Sierra and I held a meeting with the interpretive staff to inform them about the updated Emergency Operations Plan (EOP), what their role would be, and where to locate the EOP binder for reference. This is very important, because in the event that something happens at the park there is a set spot for reference on how an interpretive staff member should safely handle the situation. Ensuring every member is aware of the EOP and is debriefed on it is crucial to their understanding of the operations; therefore, holding a division-wide meeting is essential to ensuring the success of the EOP. To make sure proper security measures are being taken at all times, I spent some time going through the key cabinet and logging each key identification number to make sure there were no doubles and at any time all the keys could be accounted for. Additionally, I learned how to cut new keys and imprint identification numbers on each key. I was shown how to look up and use location codes and case incident codes for the park. These codes are used anytime an LE has to write a case incident report.

I went on a ride along with Sierra and sat at the main gate doing traffic patrol. I had the chance to observe a traffic stop for a failure to stop at a stop sign, and I was able to assist with filling out a written warning. When a vehicle traffic stop is done, every action we take promotes safety. When you initiate the stop you turn on the lights and sirens. Whenever the sirens are turned on, the in-car camera automatically turns on. This provides video evidence of what occurred during the vehicle traffic stop. Additionally, whenever a stop takes place, the law enforcement officer calls it into dispatch to let dispatch know they are initiating a stop and to check for any wants, warrants, legal registration, and such. The officer wants to hear that everything comes back clear and valid. The LE officer observes how compliant the individual is and makes sure that the individual is not carrying any weapons. Whenever a stop is finished, the LE ranger must call dispatch to inform them that they are safe and no longer on the stop.

On Thursday, July 27th, I had the opportunity to go to Anacostia Park in Washington D.C. to a Youth Expo to promote the youth programs that the National Park Service is involved in. I spent the day with six other ProRangers. We were all immediately excited to see each other! We had a great time doing interviews and taking pictures to help promote the Philadelphia ProRanger program. Mark Clarke and Jay Cooper even volunteered to go on stage and speak about the program and the incredible opportunities it holds for the individuals involved!I really enjoyed getting to spend the day with Regional Chief Will Reynolds! I would have to say that my favorite part of the day was when my fellow ProRangers, Charles and Mark, entertained everyone with their inexperience on a pair of roller skates!

I hope that we can do a lot more things like this together. It allows us to promote the ProRanger program as well as spend time with each other. It is great and extremely memorable!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

C & O Canal Shooting Range

I had one of the most exciting experiences of my life! Here at the C & O Canal, my supervisors Brad and Josh gave Lita and I the opportunity to shoot at their range. Before hand, Brad went over the most important procedure, safety. He explained how each and every instrument attached to the weapon worked and he even took the 9mm's apart to give us a better understanding of how its all connected.

Brad allowed us to put them together and take them apart several times in order for us to get comfortable with handling the weapon. Today I learned how to clean a weapon, check for bullets, load magazines, and properly carry it. I had a lot of fun handling it and I was interested in learning about the weapon throughout the entire day. Being as though I had never handled a gun before, I was a bit anxious when we had arrived at the range, but I had confidence in my supervisors because they were very knowledgeable. After assessing my performance at the shooting range today, I realized just how much I have left to learn. I also know that practice makes perfect and now that I have the basic idea of how to use such a weapon, I can not wait for the next visit at the range!

SLETP - The End is Near

As you are all aware, the summer is drawing near to an end. While internships are winding down so too is our academy class. I cannot believe we have a couple of weeks left until our graduation, time certainly finds a way to escape through your fingers. Although the end is in clear view, we must continue to stay focused on our tasks. It is important to finish strong and not lose our heads while we are so close the finish line.
Today was one of the most exciting experiences of my life. Here at the C & O Canal, our supervisors Brad and Josh, took Lita and I to their shooting range. Before actually handling the 9mm, Brad went over the safety procedures and he also got us familiar with the weapon. He demonstrated ways to hold the weapon and he even took it apart to give us an idea on how everything is connected before and after one pulls the trigger.

It has already been another awesome week here at INDE! The time seems to be flying by! Tuesday Dan and I were in charge of the Lost & Found for the whole park! We went around to each building and took all the items out that visitors left behind. We went into dispatch with boxes of items! We had everything from hats and sunglasses to sweaters and lunch pales. We then wrote down all of the items and put them back into the box. This helps the dispatchers because they will make a spreadsheet of all the lost items and send all the stuff to the MEB. In the MEB one of the administrators takes care of all the lost items. After a certain amount of time she donates the items to different organizations. We felt so helpful after all that was done!
We also watched the LE Rangers handcuff a man that was intoxicated and causing a ruckus at the park. We saw how the rangers handled the situations and the steps they took to get the man under control. Even though we do not want any harm to the park it was awesome to watch!
Then we traveled to Washington DC for the NCR 2011 Youth Expo! We drove the Pontiac G6! While there Mark and Jay went on stage to talk about the ProRanger Philadelphia Program! We were able to see what the youth programs were doing in the NCR. They made displays for all of us and we went around to each table to see how their summers were spent. We also roller skated! We tried to get Chief Will Reynolds to join us but we will have to try again when he is out of uniform! We were interviewed about our program and told others about how it works. It was a good way to tell our story and hope that others will take the same path as us. I talked to a student who was thinking of applying to Temple University. He asked me about the school and the program. He seemed really interested and I hope to see him 2 years from now! Our supervisor Paula helped make this trip possible! Tomorrow Don Sweet comes to visit us! We are so excited!

Week 9 at Colonial

Week 8 at Colonial Maintenance

Hey everybody! My eighth week at Colonial was my last week of maintenance. It was a very hard time to have to say farewell to such a fun division. During this week though, the division turned up the intensity of their tasks for me, which allowed me to leave with memories I will never forget. My fondest memory however, is the day that I had the opportunity to work in laying down asphalt on the Colonial National Historical Parkway. It reminded me of my time when I used to lend my uncle a hand in his contracting business. The beauty of being able to take something similar to concrete and be able to mold it into a structure for public use was amazing to me just as it was when I was 16. More importantly, this day reminded me of the reward one can feel after a long day of work on a task, and being able to see that work become a reality. I first was able to take part in the removal of the damaged concrete in the ground by using the jackhammer; the jackhammer is no joke I tell you. Upon removal of all the concrete in the whole the maintenance team and I added tar to the pit, and then the asphalt had arrived. I was prompted by my supervisor, Bill, to hop up on the truck with co-worker, Jim, and shovel the asphalt into the pit. About 10 minutes later I was instructed down, and was told to help with raking and smoothing out the asphalt. Finally, I had the pleasure of using a ground tapper, which is a power tool that flattens the ground by pounding it at a very fast rate. All in all it was a great day and a great two weeks with a division that allowed me to do so much labor work with my hands. I really wish I could have had a third week with everyone. Until next time!

Myself with the jackhammer

 Me with the Ground Tapper

Another Picture with the Ground Tapper

Week 10

This week was full of different eventful days. On Tuesday, I attended the Wildland Firefighter Training. It was held at Delaware Water Gap. We started off the day by going over the online courses and refreshing our memory of the vocabulary used during a fire. We also went over the hand tools and how to communicate appropriately with each other in the field. After lunch we hiked a mile up a mountain with our hand tools and began to use them as if we were preparing to put out a fire. We stopped and talked about how far apart we should be from the other members when making our line. We talked about how we should set ourselves up according to what tools we had. After that we hiked back down and learned how to clean the hand tools and sharpen them so that they would be ready for the next time they needed to be used. Once we finished with that, we moved onto the hoses and how to use them. The last thing we did for that day was practice using our fire shelter. The instructors gave us 30 seconds to remove the shelter from our packs and set them up correctly. They came around and tugged on each end of the shelter and let us know why we needed to have them on properly. To conclude the day we spoke a little more on safety and to always speak up when we did not feel safe or comfortable. Unfortunately, because of all the activity we were doing, I was not able to get any pictures of me during the training. We were asked to leave cameras and phones in a safe place.

Visitors at the Beach Concert

Wednesday, I worked in the office for the majority of the day. I input the tickets into the computer as a reference. That way when the officers need to look for a report they can just go into the document pull it up and get all the information that they need. In between doing that, I attended a safety meeting. There everyone talked about what safety hazards and potential safety hazards within the park that needs to be fixed. Good thing is that majority of the things that were on the list have been fixed. Later that evening, I worked our weekly beach concert. Since we have the Piping Plovers at Sandy Hook and they are endangered, I was assigned to make sure visitors stayed out of the nesting areas as the concert was going on. Before the concert ended, I assisted in helping a mother and father find their missing children on the beach. They were reunited in 20 minutes. I was really glad that I was able to help because I know that any parent would be worried about their children, so it was important that we found them.
Thursday, we picked up government vehicles that were fixed and installed with lights. After picking up the vehicles, we assisted in looking for a vehicle related to an arrest. For the next few days we did traffic, which included driving around and opening and closing parking lots when they were at full capacity. We were taught how to assist in a lockout. This involves using a wedge into the car door and using a bag to expand the space between the car door. Then use a long wire to press the unlock button within the car door.

FOMC- Administration & Law Enforcement

From here on out it looks as though I will be spending the remainder of my time working with Law Enforcement and Administration! This pay period and next pay period I will be working two days a week with administration and three days a week with law enforcement.

I was oriented in the Administration division and what their job description in the National Park Service, and particularly FOMC, bestows upon them. In administration, I started off my day by creating a proposal for the associated cost of personnel hours for the upcoming fiscal year. I was taught how the system works then took on the task of creating this for each employee in each division. I did this for law enforcement, maintenance and interpretation.

Next, I scanned the old and current Standard Operation Procedures (SOPs) so they will be readily available for the other employees to access. Fort Mchenry has an entire room dedicated solely to filing. I went into the Central Files room and learned how to use the NPS filing codes to file papers into the central filing system.

Saturday, I worked with law enforcement and we went over one of the ranger's case incident reports for an encroachment issue at HAMP. We edited his report to have the right information and data on the narrative sheet. It was important that his report be factual, concise, and to the point.

The park was pretty empty due to the extreme heat so we took the spare time to catch up on some small work and to wash the patrol vehicles. Even the patrol vehicles need to be shown some love!

I closed out my week by being shown the closing procedures for both HAMP and FOMC, and the differences between them. Hampton is patrolled more in a vehicle because the park is larger. Fort Mchenry is patrolled more by foot and letting the visitors, runners, and bikers know that the park will be closing. FOMC has far more visitors then HAMP so by the time the park closes, the closing procedures run somewhat quicker. In both parks we look to make sure everything is secured and that there are no strange vehicles or visitors remaining inside the park.

Week 7 Fee/Dispatch

This week we worked with Fee and Dispatch. Our schedules were divided up the first two days between them.  The first day Ryan worked in Dispatch while I worked in the Fee Booth.  We had to greet the visitors as they came into the park to use the beach. Since we were the first people that the visitors see when they come into the park, our Fee Supervisor stated that we needed to wear our flat hats, so that we can show them the traditional Park Service look. During our time at Fee we sold daily passes, season passes and passes for Senior Citizens. Our first day there we watched the employees as they dealt with the visitors and then after break we took over. We also learned how to count the passes for the day, make sure everyone had the right amount of passes they needed for the next day so that everyone was prepared. We worked on the Fourth of July weekend because it was going to be a busy day at the beach. Instead of taking turns with our trainers we worked the entire shift by ourselves, with them being close by just in case we needed any assistance.
While working at Dispatch, we had to answer the phones and talk to visitors as they came into the Ranger Station. We were given the Sandy Hook Compendium which had information on everything in park. It listed information on Pets not being able to be on the beach, the hours of the Visitor Center, how to obtain a permit for the Chapel and other crucial information so that when visitors would call, we would be able to answer them accurately. In addition to that we would give directions on how to get to the park for the Beach concerts, what other fun events were taking place for families at Fort Hancock and along the Bayside. We gave out fishing permits, handled lost and found cases, and even handled a first aid case when a visitor came in with a hook in his finger. We were also taught how to use radios and the Phonetic Alphabet. One of our Dispatchers showed us how to look up information for traffic stops on their computer systems. Ryan and I were both given a chance to dispatch and use the radios during our shift. We were also taught how to take down information quickly and precisely for the records. We were taught how to communicate that information so that we were not giving away unnecessary information.
Working in Fee and Dispatch was a great learning experience because we really needed to know our information about the park and the beach. Visitors always have questions so we always need to be prepared and that is one of the greatest things to take away from that. Communicating with each other is also another great thing that we learned. Dispatch is another division that holds everything and everyone together. They have to communicate with all the employees and need to know what their location is at all times. So for when there are those “what if” moments they are always prepared and ready to go.  In one incident, there was an issue with people walking into the Piping Plover nesting area, so the visitors called the Ranger Station to have them send someone out to take care of it. Without Dispatch, we would not have that “go to person” to let us know when fix any problems within the park or help look up essential information when it is needed.


Hello everyone, this post covers the last few weeks I missed and fell behind on my blog entries. Sorry for the wait....
The two weeks before I packed up and went to leadership were split between resource management and law enforcement (with a tad bit of interpretation). My first day with resource management was spent with the division supervisor going around meeting everyone and getting a general overview of what everyone does. the following day with resource management was spent with the museum and artifacts preservation branch. While here I worked on scanning and cataloging new documents that the park received. Most (if not all) of these documents were VERY old, some were even pre civil war. It is because these documents are so old and fragile that we scan them, allowing the originals to be kept in safe storage and out of harms way. In addition to scanning documents I also worked on upgrading the system that was in place for cataloging all of the park maps. Gettysburg is a nice sized park with over 1300 monuments and historic structures so we were working with quite a few maps. One of the more exiting things I got to do while here was assist in changing out some of the artifacts on display in the museum. The artifacts on display are all original and therefore need to be kept in excellent condition which is why these periodic changes and swaps are done.
The next couple of days were spent with the spraying crew. We went out into the wooded areas and sprayed chemicals that targeted certain types of weeds but for the most part our day was spent targeting the infamous mile-a-minute species. This was quite the experience and I even saved a couple turtles from certain death while out there. To finish off the week I saw how all of the park maps were created. This is an important task and I was surprised to see that it was all done by one man. He walk me through the map making process while we were in the office and later on in the day we went out and mapped the coordinates of the of the park boundaries. since this had not been done in a while (at least for the area we were in) it was an adventure trying to even find the boundary markers through the thick undergrowth.

My following week was spent with law enforcement. This week was basically spent getting to know certain "problem" areas of the park better, going over the code of federal regulations as well as RM-9, and reading through some of the paper work. I also sat in a few of the staff meetings where all of the division chiefs sit down and discuss what has been happening on their end and they progression of anything they have going on, as well as the different projects that they are beginning to get rolling. Being as though this was my first time with law enforcement, it being a shorter week, and getting ready to head off to leadership camp, this week was geared more towards the administrative aspect of the division.
This week I also had to go back and pull out my inner interpreter for a day while I worked the visitor desk (photos to come) and also had the opportunity to give my first interpretive talk program on the Soldiers National Cemetery/ Cemetery Hill. Being my first program I was a little nervous going out there and started off a little slow. However, once I realized that they weren't going to bite my head off if it wasn't perfect, things began to go a lot smoother and before I knew it I had completed my first interpretation program.
Once leadership camp was done I jumped right back into the thick of things with law enforcement. I learned how to properly write up reports, helped review the reports of the other LE Rangers, and do the protection division weekly report showing everything that the protection staff did and calls they had to respond to. I also did patrol with my supervisor Ryan this whole week which was really interesting. I learned how to use the portable and mounted radar units we have and witnessed a few traffic stops in the process. We also had a visitor in the park this week, country singer Trace Adkinks, who was here doing an interview. Me and Ryan controled the flow of traffic in the area, controlled the crowd, and did some permit compliance, making sure the camera crew adhered to the park policy.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tia's Experience at C & O Canal

I’m having such a great time at C & O Canal because I’m getting exposure to the law enforcement aspects of the National Park Service. I really enjoy the scenery and environment of the park, I’m not really used to much of the natural resources here that this park has to offer. Lately, Lita and I have been biking on the C & O Canal trail and interacting with its friendly visitors. We also have the opportunity to do ride-alongs with the law enforcement officers, giving us the chance to learn more about the park. Our Supervisor, Josh, has been immensely instrumental in our exposure to the visitors and the regulations of the park which we must try to enforce. The ride-alongs really help because the LE Officers familiarizes us with certain areas. The C & O Canal is over 180 miles long so I’m learning something new each day by patrolling many different sections. A few days ago, some of my fellow ProRangers and I went on a detail to work for the Manassas 150th anniversary of its Civil War Battlefield. It was quite an experience because I met so many different National Park Service employees from parks all over. Although it was very hot for those few days that we were there, I had a great time. I was very happy to see a lot of familiar faces from leadership camp like LE Supervisor Dave Ballam, the Chief of NCR, Will Reynolds, and my fellow ProRangers. My Experience here in DC/MD/VA has been a blast!

Valley Forge NHP - Week 9

We spent most of the week nine with LE, beginning Tuesday with patrol on the North side of the park. There was some vandalism overnight Monday into Tuesday and our Chief instructed us to go off the trails and look for more evidence of the vandal's presence. The only evidence we found was the remains of the trashcan that was set ablaze. We did encounter a few dogs of leash, so we took the opportunity to engage the visitors and enforce park regulations.

In the afternoon, we hiked an area of the park that has eluded us until this week. Behind Washington's Chapel is an unmarked, but heavily traveled, multi-use trail. While walking in this area, we were stunned at the beauty of our surroundings. We felt like we were walking through a miniaturized scale of Muir Woods, which was amazing considering the busy Route 23 was still less than a mile away.

We were back with Natural Resources on Wednesday to meet with the St. Gabriel's Hall summer students. It was excessively hot outside, so the students were not as motivated to pull Mile-a-Minute as the previous week. We did the best we could to convince them that it wasn't *that* bad, but the students seemed more interested in asking us about college and what it was like to work for Valley Forge. In the end, we all still managed to pull a lot of the invasive species while giving insight into college life.

During our break, we attended a Lunch and Learn in the theater on Astronomy. The Lunch and Learn is a partnership with local hobbyists that offer to come to the park about once a week for a one hour informational talk on various topics. The staff is encouraged to participate in the learning and often times the topic pertains directly to the park. The Delaware Valley Amateur Astronomers, a group that also conducts a nighttime stargazing event periodically in the park, gave the Astronomy talk. The talk was in 3D and focused on all the planets and constellations in our galaxy, putting into context the grandeur of our universe. After lunch, we finished up our day with Natural Resources in the cool Valley Creek. It was refreshing getting into the stream to hunt for invasive crayfish because it was so hot outside!

Thursday was quite an exciting day with LE for us. After a morning of running errands for LE, we met our Chief Gregg Tinkham and our Supervisor Mike Valora at the ranger station. We first took a field trip to Hopewell Furnace to meet the LE Ranger for the park, Steve Ambrose. Ranger Ambrose is a seasoned firearm instructor and offered to teach Ben and me how to use the handguns properly at a firing range close to his park. Before meeting him, Ben and I had the opportunity to tour the park a bit.

“Hopewell Furnace showcases an early American industrial landscape from natural resource extraction to enlightened conservation. Operating from 1771-1883, Hopewell and other "iron plantations" laid the foundation for the transformation of the United States into an industrial giant. The park's 848 acres and historic structures illustrate the business, technology and lifestyle of our growing nation.” -

The park is a lot smaller than Valley Forge, but seems huge because it is surrounded on all sides by preserved state lands. We arrived just in time to partake in an interpretive talk on the operation of the furnace during its functional years. We met a few of the interpretive rangers and they seemed excited to see fellow NPS employees wandering throughout their park. It was so hot outside that even the animals in the barnyard huddled together to share the little bit of shade from the afternoon sun!

Once we hit the range, Ranger Ambrose first gave us a safety lesson on how to properly hold and handle the guns. When he felt confident in us, he allowed us to load the magazine and take a few shots. He corrected our posture whenever we were out of stance and gave us really useful tips on how to take the most accurate shots. He made both of us feel comfortable with shooting, especially since it was our first time. We both improved tremendously in the few hours we spent with Ranger Ambrose. First, we shot the 9mm Sig, the 40-caliber handgun and our Chiefs 45 caliber handgun. Both of us preferred the 45 to the other handguns because it felt most comfortable to our hands. After the handguns, we were briefed on the functionality of the pump action shotgun that our patrol cars are equipped with. I was surprised at the amount of recoil, but so long as my stance was correct, I was able to control the gun.

The last gun we shot was the anticipated m16. Both of us were excited to use this gun, even in the sweltering heat. By this time, we were more familiar with the safety precautions surrounding the guns and eager to go. The m16 was much lighter than the shotgun and the recoil was a lot less drastic. It was more difficult to use than I, Angela, imagined because using this gun required me to shoot with my right eye opposed to my dominant left. After a few rounds, and some hot brass on my skin, I got the hang of using the gun. Overall, it was a productive day with LE and we both learned so much about the guns used in the National Park Service.

On Friday, we were invited to a bike and boat trip with the Natural Resources division. The trip was to honor the hard work the Youth Conservation Corps, a group of high school students, had done over the summer in the park. We drove to Bethlehem to meet staff members of the Wildlands Conservancy, the company hosting our group outing. We started with a leisurely 4-mile bike ride to the boat launch, riding parallel to the Lehigh River and the Lehigh Canal. We learned about the history of the river and the canal along the way as well as the types of animals that thrive in the conservancy. Once we reached the boat ramp, we all partnered up for a brief safety speech on handling the canoes. Ben and I partnered together because of all our previous experience canoeing together at Leadership Camp and on the Schuylkill River. Once we hit the river, it was a nice ride back down to where our trip originated. It was very hot outside, so we all took a long break to swim in the river and cool off. It was a fun day outside in the heat with the members of Natural Resources, so Ben and I were very grateful they allowed us to join them for their trip.

Saturday morning the two of us had a bit of EMS practice. When I arrived at the Ranger Station, I found that Ben had cut his hand while riding his bike to the station. While he was not hurt badly, his wounds still needed tending. I practiced my bandaging and wrapping on his hand and then took him home to change into a clean uniform shirt. After dealing with that, we sat down to work on our weekly blog until lunchtime.

We finished our week with a lesson in cleaning the handguns. What gets dirty must be cleaned, so our Supervisor Mike Valora took time out of his day to review gun cleaning safety and disassembly of the gun. We took our time to make sure we did a good job, especially because these guns are not fired every day.

The internship is coming to a fast end, but we are very excited for our last few weeks here. We expect to be with Law Enforcement for the majority of the time remaining and have a few exciting things planned for the next couple of weeks.

Looking forward to reading your posts,
ProRangers Ben and Angela