There is actually a purpose to this blog

Scott Adams - the writer of the 'Dilbert' comic strip - once described a Mission Statement as 'a long, complicated paragraph demonstrating management's inability to think clearly.' Therefore, I'll not call this a mission statement.

This blog is dedicated to informing civilian Park Rangers about topics routine taught to police officers but almost unknown to most of us who wear a uniform, work alone, and confront potentially dangerous on a frequent basis.

This blog is intended to offer suggestions based on my experience, and on my understanding of Maryland Law. It may be different where you are.

That's my mission.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

I'm back - in one piece, more or less.

After almost ten years on the job, my agency decided to send me to Ranger school last month. 

Part of the reason they waited so long is that I became a Ranger through the back door - I was already a certified police officer and a certified high school teacher. After several years and a Departmental reorganization that saw most enforcement Rangers transferred to the Natural Resources Police, I became certified as a civilian Ranger by taking a bunch of stand alone courses. Because of my years of police and classroom experience, and my years of working in the Park system, when there came an influx of new civilian Rangers and a new Ranger school cirriculum, they were sent to the training before I was.

I didn't care. I dreaded it like the plague. My only frame of reference for the school was Army Basic Training, Officer Candidate School, and the State Police Academy; I knew it wouldn't be like that - no disciplinary pushups, no bracing against the wall, no "Sir, no sir!" But I dreaded it anyway.

After four Ranger schools, they finally caught up with me and a dozen+  other folks. (A lot of them had been around a good while, but I was the only certified Ranger in the class.)  I already knew the school Dean and the two assistant Deans well, (and - it turned out - virtually every instructor) but I still couldn't shake the dread. I have been accused of making up stuff to worry about.


I survived in spite of my worries. (Like most of the class, I got sick - what do you expect in February when you bring a group of people together from all over the state? What I didn't expect was that the germs - aided by 16-20 hour days - would trigger my athsma and that it would last for five weeks, so far. On the day of graduation, a goodly number of my classmates were still coughing.) As it turned out, I actually had a reasonably good time (take out the first week, when my understrength team was on Operations duty and we had to handle various 'incidents' {I really hate role play} and write up the various incident reports.) After thirty five years as a police officer, I needed to write another incident report like I needed a hole in the head.

I met a lot of good people in the class, some who will undoubtedly cross my path many times in the future. That may well prove to be the most important thing about the whole school. I think our class motto expresses my feelings about my fellow Ranger classmates: It takes a lot of spectacular preparation to produce spectacular results. From what I saw of them, I expect some pretty spectacular results.

I encountered things in the training that I hadn't before - not many, but some. I didn't become an expert on anything, but - this was pretty well the theme of the school - I learned where to go to find the answer. I became certified in more types of environmental education than you can shake a stick at - Certified Intrepretive Guide, Project WET, Project WILD, Project Learning Tree, Leave No Trace... I don't know what all. I think the many dozens of lesson plans included in the program manuals will come in very handy.

We did major projects at my park (rebuilding the playground) and at another one nearby (blazing a new walking trail where one had never existed). I got to drive a Marooka all day - hauling a twelve foot bridge section and several loads of gravel. (That was fun.)

All in all - it was worth the effort. It didn't take four weeks of school for me to know that I work for an outstanding agency with some fantastically talented individuals - I already knew that. And, I already knew that I worked in one of the most beautiful parts of my state. (I enjoy telling people that I get paid to do what they pay to do.) I just didn't expect that I would enjoy the camaraderie as much as I did and I didn't expect the quality of the training. I have had some dull in-service training in my time and that's what I expected.

I was wrong about that.

However, all things considered, I am still much like the little boy on his return from summer camp, who said, "I'm so glad I'm home, I'm glad I went."


  1. I'm in a similar boat--30 years a teacher, 2 masters degrees in the field, and I have to go to 'touchy feely' training... snooze. But time out of class is when the real lessons begin. The tricks of the trade from other rangers is worth it all.

  2. Absolutely; time around the coffee pot is often well spent.

    Touchy-feely training. Yuk. We had quite a bit of it in Ranger School - all of the environmental education programs included segments where each of our teams put on a program, based on the lesson plans in the various manuals.

    Actually, I think we had a mutual, unspoken agreement that we would have fun doing them, despite their childishness. So there I was, in a pink bathrobe, carrying two buckets of water in a relay race, running as fast as my long legs would carry me!

    As I taught high school, I have always been somewhat intimidated by having to present programs to little kids. (Being 6'-6", I have a fear on stepping on one of them.) I feel like I have a better idea of what programs they would like now, so I guess it worth it all.

    Have fun at your training!