Saturday, August 25, 2012

Happy 96th Birthday to the National Park Service

National Park Service

"Experience Your America"

Today it has been 96 years since the NPS was first created. Thanks to President Woodrow Wilson who signed the act (August 25, 1916) which created this federal bureau under the Department of Interior.  This agency protects our natural wonders and our American heritage.  It also provides the Pro Rangers a career path of a life time.

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site
I want to thank the NPS for preserving our national parks because I have many memories of visiting national parks with my family especially Hopewell Furnace NHS.  These are memories I cherish forever and would like to share similar experiences with family and friends in the future.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Leadership Camp 2012

Outdoor Odyssey Leadership Academy

Motto: "Growth Through Adventure"

The Pro Rangers got together at this camp in Boswell, PA to embark on an experience of a life time.  It was nice to see my fellow Pro Rangers come together in one area.  The primary goals for this week were to come together and work as a team, face fears, embrace the great outdoors and to become humble leaders.  The first day was check-in day.  We moved into our living quarters and received our gear thanks to Stephen Sweet and his wife.  Then we played a good ol' game of kick ball.  Nothing like a competitive sport to get us in the mood for what was to come.
After a fun game of kickball we moved over to the low ropes course where we split up into four teams.  I was in team four which we named "The Wolfpack" and our motto was "Fear This!".  The low ropes course was awesome because we were able to pick team leaders and work as a team to overcome obstacles.  As a team we planned a strategy and then motivated each other to complete the course.  Overall I felt our team executed each obstacle very well.  We ended the day with a campfire and reflection while some of our fellow Pro Rangers received some swag for displaying leadership qualities. 

The following morning we awoke very early to conduct some PHYSICAL TRAINING.  I was already feeling the burn from the day prior because even though I think I am a fitness junkie, we were using muscles that have not been used before.  We ran in two lines and made our way to another ropes course.  This course was lines of ropes on an incline and we had to climb up and down the edge of a hill.  While some teams were navigating the course, other teams were doing jumping-jacks.  No matter what we were doing we had to stay moving to keep our heart rates up.  Later on in the day we went to the high-ropes course.  My stomach was turning with nervousness.  I have a fear of falling and this course gave me butterflies in my stomach and I could see I was not the only one who felt that way.  Anyway, I wanted to do this.  I had to overcome my fear.  Jeff was my partner and he gave me so much support.  I could not ask for a better partner. 

Then there was the crazy "Leap of Faith".  The Pro Rangers had to climb up a shaky wooden beam and jump off to try and reach for a metal pole that was hanging from ropes.  The first time I jumped off I quickly held on to my ropes, not even trying to reach for the metal bar.  The second time I gave it my all and leaped out reaching for the metal bar.  This was a proud moment for me.  I gave it my all and overcame many fears thanks to the support of the Pro Rangers and our mentors.  Special thanks to Chief Will Reynolds and Chief Glen Clark for their encouragement.

Taking a leap of faith!
The first two days were filled with so much adventure, could there be more?  Oh yes!  The week had just begun.  We did some more team building obstacle courses and then went to an area with a rock climbing wall and zip-lining.  Even our mentors liked the zip-lining and you could tell they were really enjoying themselves.  There was a long, thick rope that many of the Pro Rangers were climbing up.  I felt that that was one of the most physically challenging things at camp.  Pro Ranger Jay Copper and I received the Fort McHenry challenge coin from Chief Glen Clark and U.S. Park Ranger Sierra Daniels which I will cherish forever. 

It was now time for rappelling.  We went to a beautiful scenic state park where we hiked a short distance to the area where we would gear up and rappel from a rock face off a mountain.  This was definitely a larger rock face then the one we previously rappelled in November of last year in the Wissahickon.  Again I was feeling nervous.  The support of the Pro Rangers prevailed once again and I geared up and made my way down the cliff.  It was absolutely an amazing experience and not as bad as I thought it was going to be.

The Pro Rangers were working as a team and that would be put to the ultimate test.  We went to the Ohiopyle to go white water rafting.  These were seriously some of the best moments of my life.  I can not explain how fun it truly was.  We picked our own teams and jumped into a raft to plow through the rapids and down the river.  Our raft was number 608 and we had Supervisor Mark Howard as our experienced rafter.  As you can see on our faces we were having a blast and together as a team we conquered the wrath of the powerful rapids.  Pro Ranger Jess Cooper overcame many fears as well and I give her kudos for her upliftitng spirit that day.

During our stay at Leadership Camp we were given the opportunity to visit a very special National Monument.  The Flight 93 site was a very breath taking and humbling place.  We were given a tour by an interpretative ranger and were able to go where the general public is prohibited.  It was nice to be able to pay our respects to heroes that defended our nation.  Chief Steve Clark surprised all the Pro Rangers sharing insightful thoughts about our futures in the Pro Ranger Program.

The final dinner consisted of a BBQ and our teams conducted some relay races with canoes.  After that we had the chance to do a "no rules" canoe race with our team of choice.  Jackie Innella and Amy Borch were on my team and we powerhoused it all the way across the pond and to the finish line in first place.  The founder of the camp, T.S. Jones, who is also recently retired from the U.S. Marine Corp, blessed us with his presence at the BBQ.  T.S. Jones discussed with us the concept of MEPS which stands for mental, emotional, physical and spiritual well being.  He shared his words of wisdom and we were very grateful that he came to speak with us. 

 The experience would have to sadly come to an end.  This camp was a great way to end an eventful and rewarding summer internship.  If some of the Pro Rangers were not as close before camp, I feel that after this experience we became one whole unit.  I made friendships that I will have for a lifetime.  I also have mentors I will have with me throughout my career and I could not ask for anything better.  Even a Pro Ranger alumni, Aaron, came to show his support.  Special thanks to our leaders: Supervisor Mark Howard, Supervisor Dave Ballam, Chief Will Reynolds, Chief Kim Coast, Chief Glen Clark, Chief Mark Dowdle, U.S. Park Ranger Sierra Daniels, Dr. McGarvey, Dr.  Luongo, Mr. and Mrs. Sweet.  I can not forget to give a huge thank you to our awesome camp instructors as well!


After this summer I am totally hooked on the Pro Ranger Program!  When anyone ever asks me about my summer, I always refer them to the blog because sometimes pictures speak louder than words.  Classes are starting soon but I can not stop thinking about what exciting event is next for the program.  I can not get enough of this program.  I live, breath and sleep the Pro Ranger Program.  So if anyone is even slightly interested in the program I would tell them to go for it because this program is amazing and gives you an array of opportunities. 
Hooked on the Pro Ranger Program!

Farewell for now but my gut tells me that this is only the beginning of more great experiences for me in the future of the Pro Ranger Program!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

End of Harpers Ferry NHP Internship

In the last weeks at Harpers Ferry, we had many great opportunities. Supervisor Mark Howard took us to Short Hill for some boundary checking. We checked up where the boundary is near personal property to make sure that their driveway is not running through the park property, like it once did. Everything was fine and we enjoyed the scenery while we were there.

The last and final week we were with maintenance. We were able to spend more time with Peter as he took us around Virginius Island teaching us more about the history and landscape of the area when it was a functional and popular island in the 1800s. He talked to us about the excavating and restoring that occurred after the floods in 1996 to restore some of the ruins so visitors may be able to picture what it once looked like.

The next day we went to Prince William National Forest Park for some firearms training! After a whole summer of taking apart and putting together the firearms, as well as loading and unloading, we felt comfortable with the firearms and ready to shoot. We shot many rounds with the handgun, including with our weak hand and one handed. We also were able to shoot the shotgun a few times with buck shots and slugs. Chief Ranger Cindy Sirk-Fear of PRWI instructed us through the target practice, while Ranger David Ballam and Mark Howard reviewed proper shooting stances with us while we waited for our turn to shoot. Renee and I were proud of our targets at the end of the practice.

The last day we were with Custodial and Grounds roads and trails. Working with Merle and his crew in custodial is always great because the crew works so hard and so well together we have a blast. Cleaning the exhibits is also a job that is very important, and we are proud we are able to help take care of the exhibits. Later that day we had another opportunity to work with Denny and his crew of Grounds, Roads, and Trails. We cleared the ground from rocks and large debris where a fence is going to be built. Renee and I enjoyed working alongside the tractor, and stopped for a picture with it.

This summer has definitely been way more than I could have ever asked for. The opportunities and experiences and training we received are just remarkable. Harpers Ferry is a beautiful place that is the perfect amount of history and nature and recreation for anyone and everyone to enjoy. Being able to see and work for a place as important as Harpers Ferry has given us all the inspiration to go out there and protect our land. The people I met here have all had an impact on my life, whether it being public relation skills I learned from interpretation, or working together as a team in maintenance, to all the law enforcement ways of thinking from the Harpers Ferry police that were kind enough to bring us out on many ride a longs, everyone taught me something that will go with me forever. Of course there is no doubt about the person who taught us the most, who had the biggest impact on making our experience here the best. Mark Howard was a great mentor who taught us the ins and outs of being a park ranger. Renee and I truly got the most out of this summer that we could have because of the great people this park has as well as our own motivation for physical and intellectual fitness. This summer has been an experience of a lifetime, so thank you to everyone who made it happen.

Farewell-  Jackie Innella and Renee Benson

Thursday, August 9, 2012

My Last Weeks at Colonial and Leadership Camp

Hello everyone! Sorry I have not updated the blog in quite a while. My last few weeks at Colonial NHP were very busy and exciting! I completed my two weeks working with the Maintenance division based out of Yorktown. For one week I worked in the Carpenter and Paint Shops constructing park signs. Colonial NHP has a large amount of signs especially along the tour roads and the Colonial Parkway. I drove by these signs all summer not realizing how much time and material is spent on each of them.  Now I have grown an appreciation for all the the meticulous work involved in creating park signs.
Along with making new signs, we also had to inspect the old signs. Colonial NHP owns and maintains Cape Henry National Memorial which is located near Virginia Beach. We took one morning to travel to the memorial and inspect the monuments and signs to see if any repairs or replacements were needed. Cape Henry NM represents the first landing site of the English in 1607 before they continued their voyage to Jamestown. Cape Henry NM also played a monumental role in the Battle of the Capes, which was a naval battle between Britain and France during the American Revolutionary War. This battle kept the British Navy out of the Chesapeake Bay and therefore prevented reinforcements to arrive at Yorktown and aid General Cornwallis in the siege one month later.
The Cape Henry Lighthouses
The Cape Henry Memorial Cross

I worked my next week with Maintenance in Roads and Trails. I helped maintain the yards of park-owned buildings and parking lots in Historic Yorktown. This was the first time I ever used a  weed-eater. I think I was pretty good at it too. I also worked in the Cannon shop, where Maintenance builds the carriages for the cannons from scratch. All carriages are historically accurate and they are  all completely functional. A lot of hard work and precision are put into these carriages. All of the metal pieces used in the carriages are forged in the Blacksmith Shop. We were able to work in the Blacksmith Shop and create our own pieces from scrap metal to test out the equipment.

My last week in Colonial was spent with Law Enforcement. My supervisor and Chief Ranger took Erik and I to Camp Peary, a CIA training base for Control Tactics Training. We learned the proper ways to use the baton and OC spray. We also practiced using the Glock 17 simulator. Later in the week the Firearms Instructor at my park was able to take me to the range to teach me how to shoot a handgun. This was the first time I ever shot a real firearm before. I learned the 4 basic safety rules for handling a gun. We also went over the proper techniques for my stance and grip. He was a very good instructor as I did pretty well for a first timer. The gun I used was the Sig Sauer P228.

I was very sad to leave Colonial National Historic Park. I truly enjoyed going to work everyday and getting to know the park inside and out. I am thankful to have been placed at Colonial NHP. It is the ideal park for any intern due to its historical significance as well as the great team of employees who keep it running so smoothly. I am grateful for everyone who took the time to show me the ropes and mentor me. I learned a good deal of valuable information that will help me achieve my goal of becoming the best law enforcement ranger I can possibly be. I am also sad to have left Virginia. It is a completely different atmosphere than here in New Jersey and I think I fell in love with it. Hopefully I will make my way down south again sometime soon!

I ended my summer internship with Leadership Camp up in Boswell, Pennsylvania. It was great to reunite with my fellow ProRangers. We all discussed our summer internships and swapped stories. We performed different obstacle courses as teams all week, while learning the importance of trust, teamwork, and leadership. We partnered up as performed the high ropes course for our first main event of the week. I think this was the only event that got me a little scared. But it was all mental, as I knew the equipment would keep me safe. After the first few sections, I was able to get past that uneasy feeling and completed the course. We also rappelled off a 90 foot cliff face at Laurel Summit State Park. It was such a rush to jump down the side of a cliff while observing the beautiful scenery that surrounded me. I had a ton of fun rappelling, as well as cheering on my ProRangers as they successfully made it down the rocks.
We were also able to go white water rafting down the Youghiogheny River in Ohiopyle, PA. I never went rafting before so I was unsure of the proper ways to maneuver down the rapids. But with the help of great instructors and an amazing team on my boat, I made it all the way down the 7 miles without falling in. THANKS TEAM! On our last full day of camp, the ProRangers traveled together to the Flight 93 National Memorial to pay our respects to the brave souls aboard that plane. It was a very somber time but I am glad I was able to visit the park. The setting was beautiful and the park is doing a wonderful job of building new structures and landscapes to honor the men and women who were on Flight 93. I definitely plan on visiting the park again when they are finished with their visitor center and construction.

Leadership Camp was a great experience. It went by so quick and I already miss my fellow ProRangers. I am so proud of everyone for making through the week and performing to the best of their ability. We worked well as a team and by the end of the week we became one cohesive unit. I know we will all go far in our careers and I am proud to say that I am a part of the Temple University ProRanger Program!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Antietam National Battlefield: Final Weeks

Fellow ProRangers and followers,

The final weeks at Antietam National Battlefield have begun and it is time for one last post. Over the past two weeks, Morgan and I have been privileged with awesome opportunities and have made priceless memories. During our week leading up to Leadership Camp, Morgan and I took advantage of several training opportunities and participated in a special visit to Washington D.C. In addition, we still found time to work in the Park and review weapon procedures at the C&O Canal shooting range.

Morgan and I began the week of July 23 at two different training events. Morgan traveled to Prince William Forest Park for a CPR/First-aid class while I was introduced to Antietam's boundary program as well as Defensive Tactics training. To begin the morning, Ranger Rory Moore explained to me the boundary procedures and allowed me to hike a portion of the boundary for practice. While hiking the boundary, we searched for each survey marker and checked to make sure that they were still in place. These survey markers are extremely critical to park operations, therefore; all steps are taken to prevent their movement or destruction.

Credit: NPS Photo
After our boundary review, I returned to the Ranger Station in order to prepare for our afternoon training at the National Conservation Training Center. This training was hosted by the C&O Canal Rangers as an introduction to Defensive Tactics. At the training we learned a number of techniques related to officer safety and defensive movements. Following the training, we returned to the Park and conducted area patrols.

The next ProRanger event was held on Wednesday, July 25 at the Main Interior Building in Washington D.C. In the morning, ProRangers from across the National Capital and Northeast Regions gathered at the National Capital Region Regional Office to prepare for our meeting with National Park Service Deputy Director Peggy O'Dell. While at NCR Headquarters, we were introduced to NCR Regional Director Steve Whitesell as well as Phil Selleck and Einar Olsen. After our meeting with the NCR staff, we loaded into our vehicles and headed to the Main Interior Building.

Once at Main Interior we were joined by Chief Kim Coast and Temple University's Dr.Vicki McGarvey. Prior to our meeting with Deputy Director O'Dell, we discussed the ProRanger program and reminisced about our summers. Before long, we were escorted to the National Park Service offices and seated in the Directors Conference Room where we would have our meeting. During our meeting with Deputy Director O'Dell, we spoke about our NPS experiences and offered suggestions for the future. Deputy Director O'Dell was extremely active in the discussion and was receptive to our ideas. The Deputy Director is a major supporter of the ProRanger Program and I am confident that she is committed to helping us succeed as National Park Rangers.

National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial
  At the conclusion of our meeting, we all were treated to lunch by Chief Coast and Regional Chief Will Reynolds. Following lunch, we made our way to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial to pay our respects to those Lost in the Line of Duty. Our time at the Memorial was extremely humbling. In total, there are 19,600 names engraved on the Memorial. While at the Memorial we paid our respects to the Rangers and Special Agents from the National Park Service who were Lost in the Line of Duty.

After our trip to Washington on Wednesday, Morgan and I returned to Antietam on Thursday for a day with the Law Enforcement Division. On Thursday we focused on Law Enforcement training and park patrol. Morgan assisted Ranger Tom Jones input a case into the Case Incident Reporting System. This system allows the Rangers to write incident reports and document the facts of each case. These reports correspond with the case numbers issued by Dispatch, and are kept on file for future reference. Case incident reports are extremely important and each detail of the incident must be documented in the narrative.

Case Incident Reporting System

Morgan reviewing the M-4

Our exciting week at Antietam was capped off on Friday with a trip to the C&O Canal shooting range. Firearms instructor Rory Moore accompanied Morgan and I to the range and brought his patrol rifle and shotgun for training. We began the range day with a thorough discussion of each firearm and a safety review of the weapons. Once Ranger Moore was comfortable with our knowledge of the weapons systems, we were allowed to fire the weapons in a safe environment. Morgan and I were given the opportunity to fire the Remington 870 patrol shotgun and the Colt M-4 Carbine during our time at the range. We fired these weapons from different distances and focused on proper form and safety techniques. Ranger Moore stressed that we learn the basics of the weapons first, in order to help us learn advanced techniques in the future.

Following our busy week at Antietam, Morgan and I traveled to Western Pennsylvania for our week at Outdoor Odyssey Leadership Camp. Outdoor Odyssey is an adventure filled leadership center located in Boswell, Pennsylvania. This summer marks the second trip to Outdoor Odyssey for the ProRanger program. As expected, the week was a great success and offered several team building opportunities for the ProRanger program. The schedule at Outdoor Odyssey includes High Ropes courses, White Water Rafting, 94 foot cliff repelling and much more! In addition to the leadership activities, we also made a morning trip to Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. I would like to thank all of the staff at Flight 93 for taking the time to speak with us and allowing us to visit the site.

At the conclusion of Leadership Camp, Morgan and I made our way back to Antietam. Once at Antietam, Morgan returned to Philadelphia in order to prepare for the upcoming Seasonal Law Enforcement Training Program. I remained at Antietam for one more week with the Law Enforcement Rangers. I would like to thank all of the staff at Antietam for allowing us to work here this summer, and all of the NPS staff for making ProRanger a success! Morgan and I will both use the knowledge and experience that we gained this summer throughout our careers.

I wish everyone safe travels back home, and a great semester at Temple!

Jay Copper