By RANDY ZELLERS | Arkansas Game & Fish Commission
LITTLE ROCK — Some new faces will be joining the ranks of Arkansas Game and Fish Commission wildlife officers this fall. The latest class of wildlife officer cadets celebrated graduation from the AGFC’s training program Friday at The Church at Rock Creek.
The process to become a wildlife officer began May 16 when 21 individuals were selected from several hundred applicants to participate in the AGFC’s wildlife officer training program. All applicants chosen underwent extensive background checks before beginning their training.
During the next 18 weeks, cadets spent most of their waking hours at the H.C. “Red” Morris Training Center east of Mayflower on Lake Conway. They received 835 hours of training in self-defense, firearms, first aid and rescue, drug enforcement, physical conditioning, criminal law and wildlife code enforcement.
Capt. Sydney Carman directs the cadet-training program, with many AGFC enforcement officers serving as instructors. Other experts teach specialized topics.
“We handle most of the training in house, but special agents from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service teach a special course on federal wildlife law instruction,” Carman said. “We also typically have instructors with Arkansas State Police come in to assist with training on child abuse and domestic violence situations.”
Carman explains that the intense training regimen and variety of topics is a requirement for all wildlife officers because of their duty to enforce all state laws in addition to wildlife laws.
“There’s no telling what sort of situation a wildlife officer may find him or herself in while working, so we want to make sure our cadets get the training they need to be prepared for what may come.”
Upon being exposed to some of the harsh realities that come with the job, some cadets eventually decide to pursue other interests.
“The reality is that most of our officers will likely come across a life-threatening situation during their career in one form or another,” Maj. Brian Aston, AGFC assistant chief of enforcement, said. “We always try to explain that during the application process, but it sometimes doesn’t strike home until a cadet is going through the training program.”
Each of the 15 remaining cadets celebrated during a formal graduation ceremony before heading to their assigned duty stations. Each officer is assigned to a duty station based on the current needs of the Commission, but accommodations can be made to ensure officers that are familiar with certain areas are assigned near them if possible.
“We always try to place officers in counties where they are already part of the community,” Aston said. “But we also have to ensure vacancies are filled across the state. Sometimes an officer will work in a county far from home for a few years until a vacancy opens up closer to their hometown. Sometimes they decide to stay at their original duty station once they become a part of that community.”
The 2022 graduates and their county assignments are:
- James P. Amis of Timbo, assigned to Marion County
- Ethan R. Angel of Glenwood, assigned to Sebastian County
- David A. Bennett of Helena, assigned to Phillips County
- George L. Bethell of Wynne, assigned to St. Francis County
- Levi H. Bingham of Bella Vista, assigned to Washington County
- Brody D. Davis of Lake City, assigned to Cross County
- Charles C. Greeno of Malvern, assigned to Jefferson County
- Robert T. Lisenbee of Searcy, assigned to Cleburne County
- John C. Lynch of El Dorado, assigned to Bradley County
- Wesley N. Miller of Rison, assigned to Ashley County
- Tanner C. Mills of Taylor, assigned to Lafayette County
- Griffin L. Reed of El Dorado, assigned to Calhoun County
- Anthony D. Romero of Conway, assigned to Lee County
- Lincoln E. Smith of Cabot, assigned to Arkansas County
- Tray D. Werner of Lavaca, assigned to Bradley County
The AGFC has already begun accepting applications for the next class of cadets to fill vacancies throughout the state. For more information on becoming a wildlife officer, visit www.agfc.com/enforcement/becoming-wildlife-officer.