Sunday, May 27, 2012

Week 1: Administration and Introductions

Week 1: Administration and Introductions
May  21 - 24, 2012

My first week of work as a ProRanger at Gettysburg has been a whirlwind of activity as I travel about the park to meet the many employees who make the park function. This was an excellent way to familiarize myself with the administration at Gettysburg and their specific roles within the National Park Service.

Most of the administration at Gettysburg is headquartered in the National Park Service Visitor Center and Museum. The Visitor Center and Museum has over 22,000 square feet of exhibit space, with state-of-the-art facilities, artifacts from the battle, and multimedia presentations on the Civil War. The current facility is double in size from the old visitor center and explores the broader social history and context of the Battle of Gettysburg. Supervisory Ranger of Law Enforcement Ryan Levins toured the museum with me and introduced me to the rangers and office staff working on site. Among the many things we looked at was a computer kiosk where you can research your name through a National Park Service database to determine if you had an ancestor who fought in the Civil War. Unfortunately, no Castaldo's came up, but perhaps some more research on my end will reveal some other ancestor!

After a quick walk-though of the Visitor Center and Museum, I met with Brion Fitzgerald, Deputy Superintendent and Chief Ranger for Law-Enforcement and Interpretation. Mr. Fitzgerald warmly welcomed me to the park and discussed the ongoing projects and programs that were going on, including plans for the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg in 2013. I even got an opportunity to review the planning for the Gettysburg Memorial Service to take place at the Gettysburg National Cemetery next year. An amazing amount of details goes into organizing these events, which the National Park Service administration has to carefully review. Planning entails everything from deciding on stage design to selecting celebrity speakers, but above all else, the message of remembering the fallen soldiers was top priority.

I also got to observe administrative meetings held by the department heads at Gettysburg National Military Park. These meetings are essential for leaders from maintenance, interpretation, preservation, resource management, and law enforcement to discuss their department's projects and issues. The meetings examined a wide range of topics, including studies of the park's deer population, how to care for peach trees on the battlefield, and the Department of the Interior's new policy regarding driver safety. Overall, I was impressed by the professionalism and teamwork exhibited by the leadership throughout these meetings. At their conclusion, everyone came away better informed about what was going on in the park and what was required from them for the following week. I look forward to seeing how these administrative decisions will affect the departments I work in over the course of the summer.

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