Thursday, May 17, 2012

Antietam National Battlefield

Fellow ProRangers and friends,

Morgan and I arrived at Antietam National Battlefield Sunday evening and began to move into our residence for the summer. We are staying at the Fulk House, which is located approximately ten minutes from the Ranger Station near the Pry House field hospital. After arriving at our living quarters, we began to settle in and were given move-in instructions by Ranger Linc Beers. Following our move-in procedures we prepared our uniforms for Monday morning and looked forward to the week ahead!

Early Monday morning we reported to the Ranger Station for our first tour of duty. We began the morning with our supervisor Tom Jones. At the Ranger Station, Ranger Jones introduced us to the Law Enforcement staff as well as the Natural Resources staff that works in the building. Next, we conducted a morning patrol of the park and drove to park headquarters to meet the staff members. Once at headquarters we were introduced to Park Superintendent Susan Trail and Chief Ranger Ed Wenschhof. While at the park office we also spoke to the budget analyst and the administrative assistant.

Our next destination for Monday was the park visitor center. At the visitor center Morgan and I watched a short film that described the Battle of Antietam. We also toured the park museum and received a copy of the park's audio tour "CD". Later in the day we completed the audio tour. The audio tour was a great experience and gave us insight into the details of the park and it's history. The tour also familiarized us with the park roads and gave us an opportunity to drive through all of the parks tour stops.

Tuesday morning we once again reported to the Shull-House (Ranger Station) for another full day of Law Enforcement activities. We began the shift by rising the flag in front of the building. On Tuesday, the flag was flown at half-mast to honor the Police Week activities. National Police Week runs from May 13-19 and is a time to honor law enforcement officers.  Later in the morning we reported to Antietam National Cemetery where we lowered it's flag to half-mast and conducted a patrol of the cemetery.

Our next task of the day was to return to the Ranger Station and received our park radios and keys. At this time we also received our alarm codes for the park buildings. These items are all critical to park operations and their use should be taken seriously. After we practiced our alarm codes and learned how to use the radio system we ventured back into the park to visit the Newcomer House. The Newcomer House is a joint-partnership between the Park Service and local tourist agencies that provides Civil War information to area visitors. The house is operated by National Park Service Volunteers and is open to the public during the afternoon hours. At the Newcomer House we were given a tour by the Park Volunteer and talked with a visitor from the local town. Several of the features in the house were original and existed at the time of the battle. This partnership is an excellent opportunity for local residents and visitors to access a historic home and receive great information from knowledgeable volunteers.

After visiting the Newcomer House we returned to the Ranger Station to complete administrative tasks and to take a picture with our supervisor. The following day, Wednesday, we reported to the law enforcement division for our third day in the park. We started the day by completing the required FEMA training for Redcard certification. Next, we went on a morning patrol of the park and talked about the resources. During our patrol we stopped at park headquarters to finish our park identification cards and get them laminated. We also picked up an ID for fellow ProRanger Saran Watts, who is stationed nearby at the C&O Canal. Next, Morgan and I visited the Rohrbach Campground to update the camping list for the weekend. This campground is used by large Scout groups during the summer months at Antietam.

On Thursday we reported to the Ranger Station where we were assigned to Natural Resources. Morgan and I began our day by assisting Ranger Landsman conduct a snake survey in the park. We hiked along the Antietam Creek trying to find the Queen Snake resting along the banks. After a few minutes of hiking, we were able to find a Queen Snake and remove it from it's basking spot. Once we had control of the snake, Ranger Landsman instructed us to take measurements of the snakes body and record its location. The data collected from the snake will help to track the snakes location and estimate the age of the snake. After we recorded the data we released the snake back to it's location and continued to search for additional Queen Snakes.

Following our snake research Morgan and I helped the Natural Resources Ranger collect water samples and conduct testing on the water. We used specialized equipment to measure the temperature, PH, and other qualities of the water. Ranger Landsman showed us how to calibrate the testing equipment and explained to us the different levels of oxygen in the water. During our time at the stream we spotted another snake as well as a species of frog. These animals are just an example of the various wildlife at Antietam.

While we were fininshing up the water testing, the park visitor center requested assistence with a park tour group. Due to the large number of tour buses with the group the park had to make alternate plans for bus parking. Morgan and I reported to the visitor center parking area to assist the staff with parking the buses and insuring that all visitors arrived safely. Once the visitors were at the visitor center, Morgan and I consulted with the bus drivers to decide the best way to exit the parking area. The bus drivers comfirmed that the normal exit would be safe for travel and we proceeded to direct the buses back onto the road.

Our first week at Antietam has been full of exciting duties and intertesting historical information. Tomorrow we will finish-up the week with the administartion division in the morning and law enforcement in the afternoon. Next week Morgan and I will be traveling to other National Capital Region units to participate in training opportunities. Stay-tuned to the ProRanger blog for addditional pictures and stories from the week ahead!

Jay Copper

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