Student Ride-Alongs create deep connections between a younger generation and our national parks
One of the rewarding parts of the Protection Rangers’ job at Gettysburg National Military Park and Eisenhower National Historic Park is working with our local communities and schools. Rangers assist the state, township and borough police officers regularly as part of their jobs. Coordination and cooperation between police, fire, emergency response and other governmental entities are essential to provide the best services for the park and community.
Today was one of our opportunities to work with local students interested in future criminal justice careers. The Adams County Tech Prep Law Enforcement Program conducts ride-along shadowing with rangers this time of year. Students from various high schools around the county shadow law enforcement agencies to experience different parts of the criminal justice system. Students shadow 911 dispatchers, State Police officers, local township officers, fish and game officers, judges and a host of others.
Jennifer Newberry of Gettysburg High School was my senior shadowing student for the day. Winter days are usually quiet, especially during a cold snap. When Jennifer arrived we immediately were called by other rangers to a report of tires dumped on part of the Eisenhower National Historic Site. Cumberland Township officers also responded and after a short discussion of land ownership rangers took lead on the case. The tires were removed by park staff for proper disposal.
We patrolled the park while Jennifer asked me a series of questions about our jobs, educational requirements and challenges. Jennifer expressed that her career goal in the criminal justice field was to become a behavioral analyst for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I was able to show her certain areas of the park she had not seen before and took her to the Visitor Center for a close up look at the Cyclorama painting. While at the Visitor Center, rangers were dispatched to the Eisenhower Farm 1 Barn for a fire alarm. Turns out this alarm was caused by a burst pipe in the system due to the change in temperatures. Park maintenance employees were also on scene to take over and fix the problem.
Gettysburg’s outreach program for high school students supports the National Park Service’s Call to Action C2A #2 Step by Step. The ride-alongs will continue into the springtime.
Protection Rangers at Gettysburg and Eisenhower parks perform a wide range of duties during their shifts. The traditional National Park Service protection ranger provides law enforcement, firefighting, emergency medical service and search and rescue services as part of their jobs. Depending on the park unit, the ranges of these services certainly vary. Rangers at Gettysburg are not conducting high angle rescues like rangers at Yosemite National Park. There are no swift water rescues such as those at Delaware Water Gap or airboat patrols like at Big Cypress National Preserve. No matter the park unit all rangers protect the resources of the park (s) they serve.
Protection Rangers enjoy their jobs because of the variety. You never know what might happen or what the shift might bring. Certainly the bitter cold winter nights on patrol over the last few days has led to quiet shifts with the park to ourselves. Quite the change from 2013 which brought lots of traffic, lots of visitors and lots of busy days.
Having the opportunity to share with students our love for the job is one of the things I enjoy most. We might not make them into US Park Rangers, but hopefully they at least will know more about the National Park Service and our mission. When my shift with Jennifer was complete, it was back to one of my favorite parts of the job – paperwork.
Ryan Levins, Chief Ranger, January 9, 2014