Monday, June 5, 2017

Getting My Feet Wet

Getting My Feet Wet 

Week 1

Hello there! My name is Brennan McAuley, I am ProRanger intern in Cohort 5 on my second summer internship. Before we get started…

Take a moment and close your eyes, Imagine a Caribbean paradise. (seriously do it, take 30 seconds)

Now open them, I am going to guess what you imagined:  You imagined crystal clear blue waters accompanied by sandy beaches. Under that blue water, you saw lush coral reefs bursting with marine life; fish, sea fans, sea turtles, and even sting rays leaping from the water.  Maybe you imagined an island that has the power to release a fresh sense of discovery every time your feet touch the sandy shoreline.  You could have imagined an old Danish style town which was, at one point the beating heart of an entire island. This town you imagined is littered with palm trees and overflowing with hundreds and hundreds of years of history. You could have imagined a place that is just as full of life below water as it is above. A place that contains the largest Mangrove forest in the Caribbean. This same place contains over 2,000 years of human history and was discovered to Europeans by Christopher Columbus on his second journey to the new world in 1493, but is rediscovered by visitors from all over the world each and every day.  

Places like this truly do exist, and they go by the names of Buck Island Reef National Monument, Christiansted National Historic Site, and Salt River Bay National Park and Ecological Preserve.  The only reasons these extraordinary places exist in the manner in which they do is because of the core mission of the National Park Service. Men and women have worked for years and years to preserve, promote and protect these highly significant cultural and natural resources.

I am here (at all three of these NPS units) this summer on my own mission, that mission is to work closely with the highly skilled protection ranger division to learn how to preserve, promote and protect the aforementioned resources in the best way possible. I have recently completed a full week, this is what I have been up to. 

 First Day

I landed on St. Croix Sunday, May, 28th at 3:10 pm. I got picked up by Ranger Laurencin in his patrol car. We spent the drive to Christiansted catching up since we had spent the previous week together on a ProRanger leadership camping trip in the Delaware water Gap. I got a brief tour of Christiansted National Historic Site.  From there we went Immediately to the marina where the NPS patrol boats are kept and did a boat patrol out to Buck Island. Once arriving back at Christiansted we responded to a call from another park employee that suspected someone had tried to break into the fort. We scanned the scene and looked for clues. We both came to the conclusion that it looked as if someone did attempt to break into the fort. The next step in this investigation will be to review the security cameras.  This set the tone for the rest of the week to come. I could see they were serious about exposing me to all the things the protection rangers did on a daily basis.

“Official” Start Date

My first official day started off with an early morning surveillance of Buck Island. Both Ranger Laurencin and I were at a high point on St. Croix with a perfect view of the Island and the surrounding waters/ reefs.  From here we scanned the park boundaries and the waters within for any illegal fishermen.  On this particular morning, we did not find any poachers however, we will be back, and unfortunately so will the poachers.
While we were up on the lookout Laurencin decided it would be a good idea to do some “office” work. We got in the patrol vehicle and began investigating a recent case. Ranger Laurencin handed me the stack of written statements on the events that occurred. Based off of the facts in the statements I took my 36 CFR and listed each of the violations that occurred within the park boundary (according to the statements).  The next step was to create an action plan for how the case would be further investigated. This was great exposure to a real life investigation.  
Buck Island 

Overlooking BUIS in search of poachers 


I was able to join in on an MOCC class taught by Ranger Camacho. In this class we covered tons of safety information along with practical pieces of training such as; setting off flares, tying knots, docking, reversing the trailer, water rescue techniques, and even buoy obstacle courses in the open ocean. This training took more than 24 hours and was quite in depth. While I am not an expert on boating, I now feel as If I can safely operate a motorboat.

Preparing to set off a distress signal 

Water rescues practice 

learning about the trailer and how to reverse one 


My first experience this summer in court was at the District Court of the Virgin Islands. Ranger Laurencin had issued several tickets/ citations and the defendants failed to pay which lead them to receive a court summon. The same defendants who failed to pay their fines also failed to appear in court. I saw how the Rangers worked closely with the U.S Attorney to present the cases to the judge and propose how they wished to proceed with each specific case.   
The Courthouse
Fun Fact: The Rangers have never lost a case down here


It was time to do some more office work. I familiarized myself with the report writing software infamously knows as “IMARS” I was shown how the system operated and what a ranger had to do to make a report. After that, I got to try and enter my very own report. I got the hang of it after a little while.  
In addition to IMARS training, I was able to assist Ranger Laurencin in creating and editing an operations plan for the 33rd annual Women Race which took place in the park. We did a risk assessment known as G.A.R “Green, Amber, Red”. This ensured that there was a written plan to ensure the safety of everyone involved in the event.  All in all, this office work was pretty exciting and extremely important.

When Buoys turn into Boats

As the week progressed, I found myself driving the patrol boat out to Buck Island and approaching other vessels so that ranger Laurencin could make contacts. This was extremely helpful and really good for me to practice boating and at the same time be able to listen to, and observe law enforcement contacts. I also found myself in scenario drill training, what I mean by this is, chief and the other Rangers would create potential law enforcement scenarios, and I would have to react as if I were a protection ranger in each of the scenarios. Through these types of training, I am able to learn a tremendous amount. 

Driving the patrol boat for the first time 

33rd Annual Women’s Race 

The week came to a close with the 33rd annual Women’s Race which started and ended in the park. I saw how VIPD worked closely with the LE Rangers to ensure the event ran safely. I was able to practice working in a large crowd by scanning to look for potential hazards. The event ran smoothly.  

I could not have asked for a better park for my summer II internship. Just in my first week, I can see the commitment each LE ranger has to help me gain experience and knowledge this summer. 

They do not take fitness "lightly" down here,
Chief Rodriguez, ProRanger McAuley, Ranger Laurencin, and Ranger Camacho

 Ranger Laurencin, ProRanger McAuley, and  Chief Rodriguez 

Training for our upcoming PEB

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