Saturday, June 30, 2012

Shenandoah week 5&6

Week 5 I spent with Law Enforcement. Tuesday I got to witness an LE get her firearms qualification by district ranger Dixon Freeland. While we were at the gun range Dixon also taught me how to shoot a 40 caliber semi-automatic handgun. This was really exciting to me because I have never shot a gun before and I must say that I did really well for my first time. Dixon taught me a lot about carrying and using a gun and the safety that comes with it. 

Pretty good for my 1st time!

Earlier that day four people were backcountry camping. When they woke up they heated water for their coffee and one of the men saw a raccoon. The raccoon was about ten feet away from him when he noticed that it started approaching him. As the raccoon got about four feet from him it launched at his body and bit his leg. The man then tried to fight off the raccoon but was unsuccessful, he football kicked it and the raccoon came back again. The other members in the party as well as the man began to hit the raccoon with sticks until the raccoon finally left them alone. They hiked to safety and were able to call for help. The man went to the hospital and received his first dose of rabies shots. It is believed that the raccoon was rabid because of its behavior. 

The following day, Wednesday, I worked with Bill Cardwell an LE ranger in the North District and Justin Mills who works with the nuisance wildlife. We went searching for the raccoon so we could check it for rabies. We were unsuccessful in finding the raccoon, but this was an awesome experience for me and taught me a lot about what happens in these types of situations. 

I also got to watch a Search and Rescue (SAR) off of Old Rag Mountain from an overlook. Throughout the day I got to hear on the radio everything that happened with the SAR. The reason that I was not able to help out with the SAR was because we were out looking for the rabid raccoon. The SAR was in the Central District therefore the North and South District Rangers had to cover the grounds for the Central District Rangers. They are all like one big close-knit family and I appreciate that. I cannot wait to work in that kind of environment with such wonderful people.

On Thursday, I worked with Bill Cardwell again and we began the day by going to the gun range and I got to shoot a shotgun and a M16. These are very unique guns; Bill taught me a lot about them before he let me shoot them. Like Dixon he also taught me a lot about the safety of the guns and the safety of those around me when I am handling the guns.

When we were finished at the range Bill and I drove to the ranger station so we could service a gun. Bill is an armorer; there are 3 different courses you can take to become an armorer. First, you have to become a firearms instructor and then you can go to classes to become one. The three different courses consist of a handgun, rifle, or shotgun course; depending on what course you take depends on which firearm you can service. Whoever carries a gun in the Park Service needs to get their guns disassembled and serviced every five years. This consists of taking the gun apart and replacing anything that is worn and/or damaged. Taking apart the gun was really interesting and I learned some things about guns that I would have never even thought about before.
Disassembling the gun

My week with Law Enforcement was an overall success and made me realize that I cannot wait to start my career as a LE Ranger.    

“An ounce of protection is worth a pound of cure” –Benjamin Franklin 

Week 6 I worked with Natural and Cultural Resources (NCR). Monday I got to listen to Jim Schaberal, Wendy Cass, and Rolf Gulber. They deal with natural science and management, cultural science and management, and backcountry and wilderness. Jim Schaberal gave me an overview of the Natural Resources; he talked about air and water pollution and the impacts that it has on the park. Their biggest issue is probably coal fire power plants and cars because they affect the visibility of the park. 80% of visibility is lost due to pollution. Wendy Cass gave me an overview of the Cultural Resources; she talked about the plant species within the park, long-term forest monitoring and rare plant monitoring. She also talked about how the Botany staff helps the LEs by recognizing prime plant poaching locations and when they complete off trail SARs the LEs lead them.
Rolf Gubler gave me an overview of nuisance wildlife and adverse conditioning. There are 500-600 bears in the park. Adverse conditioning is when they install fear in a habituated animal by using slingshots; paint ball guns, pepper spray, rubber buckshot, rubber slugs, cracker shells, and the most used are beanbag rounds. Adverse conditioning works best when the animals are young or in their early stages of habituation. In the backcountry it is harder to track animals so they put up a lot of signs.  
beanbag rounds

 During the next part of the day I worked with Abby and Merrit, we went to Big Meadows swamp area and looked for a rare species called garlic mustard. A professor from Eastern Michigan University did a study on the area and had some questions about it; so I assisted them in some of the fieldwork. Using a tremble GPS to locate and flag stakes we had to estimate a percentage of garlic mustard in the specific area. 

Lastly I worked with Chris and Justin who work with the nuisance wildlife. While we were eating lunch a volunteer told us about three different campsites that had unoccupied coolers. We drove in the campground at Big Meadows and went to the three different locations, which were all next to each other. We looked inside each cooler and two of the three coolers had only drinks in them so they received a warning. The third cooler had food inside of it so we took it away and placed it in a bear safe container located behind the registration office. We also left a impound notice at their campsite. Since this is bear country, and skunks, raccoons, and deer are here all year-round, the food storage policy is as follows; food, garbage, equipment used to prepare or store food, and all scented items must be kept in a vehicle when not being actively used. It is illegal to feed, frighten, or disturb wildlife. All resources such as wildflowers, plants, animals, and artifacts are protected by law in national parks. Please leave them for others to enjoy. This information can be found on the website and also on the back of the campground maps.
This was the warning that the first two coolers received. 

This was the third cooler that we took away.

This is the impound notice that we left at their campsite.
Tuesday I worked with the fish crew and we went to two different streams to shock the fish. After the fish were shocked they were then picked up in nets and transferred to someone who was carrying a bucket half full with water. When they finished that process the fish were then divided and separated so they can be weighed and counted. They were then placed into two different nets that were sitting in the water and the process happened two more times. Then we proceeded to go to another stream and did the same exact thing. The monitoring program is designed to provide site-specific information needed to understand and identify change in park ecosystems that are characterized by complexity, variability, and surprises, and to help determine whether observed changes are within natural levels of variability, or if they may be the result of unwanted human influences. The broad-based, scientifically sound results obtained through this systems-based, long-term ecological monitoring program has multiple applications for management decision making, research, education, and promoting public understanding of park resources.

This is what they shocked the fish with.

Weighing the eels.
Counting all the fish and separating them.

Wednesday and Thursday I attended Leave No Trace (LNT) training. This was a training course taught by Liz Garcia and Steve Bear that consisted of a classroom course as well as going with nine other people and spending the night sleeping in the backcountry.  We learned the history of LNT and the importance that it has on parks. We also learned about the seven principles and used them as we hiked to and from our campsite. They are 1) Plan Ahead and Prepare 2) Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces 3) Dispose of Waste Properly 4) Leave What You Find 5) Minimize Campfire Impacts 6) Respect Wildlife 7) Be Considerate of Other Visitors. This was very educational and helped me learn a lot about camping.  As we were learning the sixth principle we noticed a bear near our campsite. He did not bother us but it went really well with the principle. On Thursday, we hiked back and acted out different scenarios. I was involved in two scenarios the first one I got to act out was; I was a ranger and two men were feeding a fawn potato chips. I had to approach them and inform them of the dangers that come along with feeding wildlife. The second scenario I was the visitor and Danielle was the ranger I had to act like I took artifacts from a specific site and bring them to her. She had to inform me that you should leave what you find and to let other visitors experience it like I did. This was helpful and gave each and every one of us the opportunity to act out what we learned. I would definitely recommend this training for everyone that does/is going to work for the park service especially the individuals that have a lot of visitor contact.

The bear-our surprise visitor!
Our bear hang

Backcountry sign

Doing our scenarios.

Friday I worked with Liz Garcia and Kandace Muller. Liz taught me a lot about air quality and the importance that is has on the park. There is a camera located at Pinnacles overlook which shows you how far you can see on Skyline Drive. They are required to issue an ozone advisory when the levels reach 76 ppd. The mountains can change the ozone forecasting. Visibility is the biggest problem they have in the park because one of the reasons the park was created was for the beautiful views. Kandace taught me about the archeological sites and showed me some of the 600,000 museum items that they have here at Shenandoah. This was really interesting to me and made me appreciate the history of Shenandoah National Park much more than I already did. Looking at all the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) items that they have and all of the souvenirs from back then were really cool and gave me an understanding of what it was like before.  

Air quality site
Overall weeks 5 & 6 were very different and interesting. I love that I get to work with all the different divisions inside the park. This gives me a better understanding of what everyone does and it also makes me appreciate and understand the importance of each division.    
Hello everyone,
   Sorry about posting this so late, after two weeks away to fulfill my reserve obligations I returned to FOMC on June 16th, in the midst of Sailabration.  It was good to spend some time with my friends and colleagues, but it was even better to get back to FOMC so that I could experience a big event and get a feel for all of the little behind the scenes things that make the visitor experience a good one.  During the event I had a variety of duties, I helped at the checkpoint one day, drove the shuttlebus on another, helped out with administrative duties, and finally I helped park cars on the last day of the event. 
   Once Sailabration was over we egan the process of returning the park back to it's normal state.  One of the most important things that we did was conduct an inventory of all the EMS bags in the park so that we could replace any items used in the course of the event.  We also made sure that the tents and temporary fences that were put up all over the park were taken back down in a timely fashion so that the visitors could enjoy the park without so many things ruining the view.
I hope to have more for you all next week and look forward to hearing how things are going at the other parks.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Boston Weeks 5 & 6 & 7!

Greetings everyone!! Your two comrades from the Boston have returned!! And with our return, we'd like to present to all of you weeks 5, 6, and... AND... WEEK NUMBER 7! So let us begin..

Week 5 we took part in assisting Law enforcement helping patrol at the Bunker Hill Parade. Also we had a day with the Public Affairs Officer, Sean Hennessey, and learned thoroughly about his tasks and different roles at the park. Additionally, Mr. Hennessey gave us an extensive tour of Boston and took us to other Park  Service sites in the Boston area such as, John F. Kennedy Birthplace, and Olmstead. In the middle of the week we were sent to Minuteman National Historical Park to work with their law-enforcement rangers in ride-along status and also with foot-patrol. The week topped off with us going to Court with the rangers, and seeing a live case, as well as having dispatch training. 

Wayne (left) and Mark (Right) in front of the Minute Man Statue
As if week five was not fun enough, Week 6 began with a momentous bang! We traveled up to Cape Cod, and worked there for 3 days. Our first day at Cape Cod National Seashore consisted of Mark and I taking part in a ATV training course. This course was a rigorous one, where we learned the ins and outs of ATV protocols for before, maneuvering the ATV backwards and forwards in tight turns, shifting through gears properly to get up hills, and also proper seating and leaning on the ATV. Our second day we worked with Natural Resources in helping to identify nests for the endangered "piping plover", and rode along with law-enforcement rangers. On our final day we took part in visiting the North and South District Visitors Center, took part in the Seasonal Training exercise for workers in Interpretation, walked a small 1 mile trail behind the South visitor center before heading back to Boston. We worked a night shift the following day, assisting in alarming buildings with the rangers, and more shadowing. Our week ended with a trip to Lowell National Historical Park, known for its Textile Industry. In Lowell we shadowed law-enforcement, set-up barricades for the Summer Music Series Concert, and took part in crowd control during the beginning of the concert before departing.

Wayne Looking a Piping Plover Nest Found at Cape Cod
Mark on Back Trail at Cape Cod

Textile Factory at Lowell  

 And then there was week 7. During week 7 we worked with the law-enforcement day shift, helping to fix barricades and place barricades for the upcoming Harborfest celebration. In addition to these tasks we were given a presentation on "Use of Force" by our supervisor, informing us on the proper ways to use force, and the supporting Supreme Court cases and laws governing the use of force. After we then did a cover and concealment course set-up by our Supervisor, for us to move from cover to cover and hit can targets with Air soft guns. Later in the week, we did mock vehicle stops by the side of the law enforcement office, where our supervisor taught us calling in vehicles, how to approach the vehicle, and handling whatever the situation may be when making the contact of the vehicle operator. After this introduction, our supervisor created scenarios placing one of us in the unmarked car in front of us, and the other in the patrol vehicle, and we proceeded to do the different scenarios while being critiqued on our actions by our supervisory ranger. And now before this blog ends, there is just one more thing... the pictures from week seven!

Mark Fixing a Barricade
Wayne Putting a Boot on a Vehicle

Mark before beginning the Air Soft Cover and Concealment Exercise

Wayne During the Cover Concealment Exercise
Till next time everyone!

Week 7 at Mount Rushmore

Taking a break on the LE
patrol motorcycle.
I cannot believe my time at Mount Rushmore has gone by so quickly!  This past week I was able to stand by for firearms qualifications of our Chief Ranger Don Hart and the newest permanent here, Megan Kinkade.  Megan Kinkade happens to be from the San Antonio ProRanger Program and it has been great to be able to share experiences with her!  As a bit of a refresher, Kinkade worked on some basics of drawing her weapon and marksmanship close range to get a feel for her handgun.  She and Chief Hart then went through the firearms qualification, shooting at the three, seven, fifteen, and twenty-five yard line.  In order to pass you must make at least 21 out of the 30 rounds within the scoring area; both passed with flying colors!  After qualifying on handguns I watched Chief Hart qualify on his shotgun and AR 15 rifle.  When qualifying with the rifle, you must shoot in a few different positions including prone, sitting, kneeling, and standing.  Qualifying with a handgun includes shooting with non-dominant hand, standing, and kneeling.  Being able to watch these qualifications allowed me to get some tips on hand grip as well as certain things to focus on while shooting such as keeping your wrist steady and sticking to the fundamentals.  
Kinkade shooting her handgun.

Kinkade shooting the shotgun.

Chief Hart shooting AR 15
rifle in the kneeling position.

Kinkade and myself also went through taser training and are both now certified.  We learned the ins and outs of taser usage and the proper way to carry and handle them and the cartridges.  When using a taser, you are to aim below the chest trying to split the hemisphere (one probe above and below the waistline) in order to achieve neuromuscular incapacitation.  After taking the written tests, we then practiced spark testing, drawing, and shooting blank cartridges.  Once we felt comfortable we then took turns shooting two sets of live cartridges; one set using the laser site and one set without.  It is great to have this certification prior to the academy because it gives me a little better sense of what to expect when it comes to taser training. 
Removing the probes being sure to
pull straight back and keeping part of
the line attached to the cartridge.
Another duty that needed completed this week was to re-flag the trail hiking up to Mount Baldy.  There had been a recent medical rescue in which the trail to the top had been difficult to follow which had proposed the idea of re-flagging the trail.  Ranger Oestmann, Kinkade, and I hiked from the East Boundary of the park, up to Baldy, and then down to the West Boundary flagging our path with yellow tape on trees.  Later in the week I did a solo back country patrol following our trail to make sure it was navigable.  I believe it is safe to say that Mount Baldy will be much easier to find for the casual hiker!  

While on foot patrol in the developed area with Ranger Dave Woodcock we received a report of a man walking around handing people rocks and making gorilla noises.  We copied the description of the man and along with Rangers Todd Van Alstyne and Kinkade were able to locate the man.  After Van Alstyne interviewed him, we learned that he was not a threat to himself or others and was just a bit eccentric.  He was informed that he could not collect rocks while in the park and that he should perhaps be more aware of his surroundings. 

It has been a very fun week and I cannot believe I only have four more left! I hope everyone is still having a great time and learning a lot!!
ProRanger Erin Langeheine       

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Tickets to the Gun Show!

Greetings once again from Morristown!

So as I go through and update my blogs, I noticed that there were quite a few missing. So as I continue to wonder where my blogs are going, here is a recap of my past weeks at Morristown National Historical Park.

During my fourth week, I moved around the different divisions within Morristown. I started my week working with the Curatorial Staff at the Washington’s Headquarters. I assisted in documenting the historical books for their database. The most interesting part about that is that I came across a book from the year 1634! Many of the books within their collection date back from the 1600’s, and some books date from even earlier.  Throughout the day I was able to read primary documents, from many different historical figures. Along with books that contain these primary sources, there is also a catalog of microfilms. On these films there are more documents that people can view. Scholars use microfilms as a resource in their research. Tuesday, I worked with the Maintenance Staff. One aspect that I admire about the maintenance staff in general, and thinking about my experience with the staff at Sandy Hook, no matter how their day is going, they never stop smiling. I had a good time working with them; I assisted with weed whacking the Visitor Center, the Ranger Station and the entrance to the Maintenance area. Wednesday, I worked with the Natural Resource Staff; we pulled invasive plants, such as Japanese Barberry, from the native plans enclosure. I learned that the effects of having little to none Native Plants in our forests leads to limited source of food for the Deer population. One invasive plant that has been a big issue is the Japanese Barberry. I asked what the history of the Japanese Barberry is and everyone has told me that they are not sure of what its purpose is but they do know that many people plant them in their yards because of the look. People also plant them because it “keeps the Deer away”. Reason for the quotations is that, because these Barberries have spread all over, it brings Deer into people’s backyards because they are searching for food. So the plan to keep them out actually brings them in. Go figure!

After working with Natural Resource, the following day I was given the opportunity to go with the Law Enforcement Rangers to get Qualified. One of our own Rangers, Ranger Socha, is a certified Firearms Instructor. I had never stepped foot in a Range before so it was really neat to be there. Before training, Ranger Socha went over the safety procedures and precautions, made sure that everyone had all of their protective gear and were wearing their protective gear while others were shooting and made sure that everyone could hear when he had to give directions. So I watched the while the Rangers went, and then I was taught how to hold, use and load the Rifle and Shot Gun. I’m not sure if this really matters but I prefer the Rifle, the Shot Gun almost knocked me over. After leaving the Range, I learned the importance of checking the Firearms thoroughly and to spend time doing so each day. It is very important to make sure the equipment is not rusty because it can cause harm in a life or death situation. Just the little things that I would have not thought of before, makes me think twice about what I do every day.

My shots could use some cleaning up

Ranger Socha teaching me the proper technique
So with that being said, I hope everyone is checking their equipment every day. More importantly being safe. Enjoy your evening everyone!

With love from Morristown,