Saturday, September 14, 2013

Heather Hyde, U.S. Park Ranger: Salem Maritime NHS & Saugus Iron Works NHS

It has been almost 4 months now since I first assumed the title of Law Enforcement Park Ranger.  Because I started working on the same day that all of the ProRangers began their summer internships, my new position felt a little bit surreal.  Now that everyone else has headed back to school though, things have finally begun to settle down and feel a little bit more permanent.  September is kind of the calm between storms here in Salem.  I say this because we have recently concluded a busy summer season and now we are gearing up for the month of October.  I have heard that the city of Salem nearly doubles in size during the weeks leading up to Halloween! 

It is funny to remember back to the day when Steve Clark called to tell me the news about my new position...  The first words out of his mouth were, "Hi Heather!  Do you like Halloween?  What about big ships?"  Until I moved to Salem I did not fully understand what he meant.  Reflecting on our conversation now, though, his description was exactly right.  Salem is known primarily for 2 things:  the role it played in 1692 during the Witch Craft Hysteria (which now contributes to a large obsession with Halloween and the supernatural) and the Maritime history of the area spanning over a century.   This period of time is symbolized in part at my park by a replica of a 3 masted tall ship called the Friendship which was originally built in 1797 and carried exotic goods to and from sea ports in faraway lands. 

For those of you that don't know, Salem is a city (although not by my standards having moved from Philadelphia!) located along the Eastern coast of Massachusetts' "North Shore".  The architecture here is fantastic and around every bend, it seems, there are fabulous views of the ocean!  I have only been here for a short time but I have already explored much of the area and I am excited to continue to do so.  My time working so far has largely consisted of transition and initiation.  It took until early July until I was fully "geared up" and ready to go out on patrol.  The first picture below is of me in front of our park sign the day after I got my body armor.  I was so excited to wear it along with my duty belt.  The first time I put everything on, it just felt right.  It felt natural.  And I realized that I had finally accomplished my dream of becoming a law enforcement officer!  Seeing my badge and gun for the first time was amazing.  I was nervous to go to the range to qualify but it ended up not being a problem.  We shot at an indoor range on Hanscom Air Force Base (where my Dad served and lived back before I was born!).  Even several months after those experiences, I still have moments when the reality of my job and my position sink in a little bit more. 

Soon after I began working, my chief ranger and I attended the annual LE refresher training at Cape Cod National Seashore.  For one week I lived at the beach, made new friends, and was reminded of the knowledge, skills and abilities that had begun to fade over the past year.  It was a great experience and we had some amazing instructors!  I was even able to re-connect with the Chief Ranger from SHEN (where I did my first internship) who is now the Chief at CACO!  The second picture below is a group photo from that training.  Another training event that I have been fortunate enough to attend is the Operational Leadership course held at BOST.  Once again, this training was very beneficial and I learned a lot that I can apply to my job every day.   

In July I helped manage the preparations and event security for the concert and fireworks that Salem Maritime hosted on Independence Day.  Our site is known for having the best fireworks on the North Shore!  After seeing them for the first time, I definitely agree.  Because our park is concurrent jurisdiction, Salem Police Department assisted us in controlling the huge crowds that assembled on Derby St. for the festivities.  Luckily, there were no injuries or incidents to report that night and everyone had an enjoyable time.

Later that month, the British invaded the park!  For two days in late July, General Gage and his troops camped in our park and demonstrated for visitors various aspects of life and war in the 18th century. 

Besides the special events that have happened this summer, my duties have essentially involved various forms of babysitting.  Every morning and every night the Protection Division is responsible for alarming and unalarming the historical buildings and opening the Visitor's Center and the public bathrooms.  One thing we deal with a lot here at the park is our homeless population.  Another issue is dog owners taking their pets off their leashes.  My first contacts have occurred in the aforementioned types of situations.  Although they have never resulted in any dangerous incidents, I always have to be on my guard and work to not become complacent.  I have not made any cases yet and I have not placed anyone under arrest.  I can only hope that I will get some more experience soon, either in my own park or in other local parks that let me come train with them.

Our division is very small here!  There are only 3 commissioned rangers.  As a result, when the other two rangers are off or on vacation, I am alone.  This is something that I find to be extra special about my park - in no other location would someone at this stage of their career be considered the "Acting Chief" for multiple days at a time! I love the responsibility that comes with being the only individual on duty at a given time. 

I feel that the ProRanger program has prepared me immensely for the things that I have faced so far in my new career.  It has given me a great understanding and awareness of the other divisions and the work they do.  Most people in the NPS do not have that kind of experience.  Also, it has motivated me to remain physically fit.  It is difficult sometimes to continue with a regular routine but I hope that I can be a positive example for my co-workers.  I can tell already that there are some things I have learned during training at my park that will stay with me throughout the rest of my career.  It may not be the most glamorous place to work, but I am pulling everything out of it that I can possibly get.  Goals for the near future are to attend NPS Fundamentals, get my EMT certification, obtain a red card, and seek out as much extra training as possible. 

Thanks for reading!         


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