CONWAY – Fifteen new faces will be joining the ranks of Arkansas Game and Fish Commission wildlife officers this summer. The latest class of wildlife officer cadets celebrated graduation from the AGFC’s training program Friday, July 6, at Antioch Baptist Church.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson spoke as the keynote speaker of the commencement ceremony for the new officers.
“Most people don’t appreciate the amount of training and knowledge we require for our wildlife officers,” Hutchinson said. “In addition to the core requirements it takes to be considered a cadet and go into the training, it requires 16 weeks of training in the classroom and the field, experts you have to become in 90 different subjects, and you’re not simply checking licenses and deer tags and running down poachers.”
Hutchinson reminded the new officers of their role as representatives of the state of Arkansas.
“We want [visitors to the outdoors] to respect what we have in the state, but we also want them to feel welcome here,” Hutchinson said. “In today’s world, enforcing the law is not easy. You have to be trained in a lot of areas, you have to use good judgement and discretion in how you go about that.”
The process to become a wildlife officer began in March when 17 individuals were selected from several hundred applicants to participate in the AGFC’s wildlife officer training program. All applicants chosen were required to have a minimum of a four-year college degree, four years of full-time law enforcement, four years of military service, or a combination of those criteria.
During their 16-week training, cadets spent most of their waking hours at the H.C. “Red” Morris Training Center east of Mayflower on Lake Conway. They received 740 hours of training in self-defense, firearms, first-aid and rescue, drug enforcement, physical conditioning, criminal law and wildlife code enforcement.
AGFC Director Pat Fitts welcomed the cadets, “We are proud of these cadets for the work they’ve accomplished so far and we are thankful for the support they have received at home to make their sacrifice possible.”
In Arkansas, wildlife officers are certified law enforcement. They enforce state law as well as wildlife law. Much of their job includes keeping the woods and waters safe, and that requires the authority to make arrests for criminal cases as well as wildlife code violations.
Capt. Sydney Carman directs the cadet-training program with Lt. Tracey Blake. Many AGFC enforcement officers serve as instructors, and many AGFC biologists and experts from other agencies are brought in to teach specialized topics.
Assignment of the new officers will fill several vacancies in the AGFC enforcement ranks.
The 2018 graduates and their county assignments are:
·Tyler A. Barber, Calhoun County
·Christopher B. Crawford, Bradley County
·Aaron P. Dillard, Ashley County
·Blake S. Forga, Sevier County
·Chad H. Herndon, Yell County
·Tyler L. Hill, Lafayette County
·Dustin C. Houart, St. Francis County
·Matthew A. Malone, Mississippi County
·Douglas F. Martisek, Union County
·Brandon R. Motley, Crawford County
·Barry C. Robinson, Nevada County
·Joseph K. Turner, Johnson County
·Kurt A. VanMatre, Crawford County
·Andrew L. Watson, Lafayette County
·Keenan W. Wilson, Lee County