Monday, May 7, 2012

Game Commission Enrolls 29th Class Of WCO Cadets

HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Game Commission’s 29th Class of Wildlife Conservation Officer (WCO) Cadets recently took up residence at the agency’s Ross Leffler School of Conservation, which adjoins the headquarters building along Elmerton Avenue in Harrisburg.

The class, comprising 31 men and five women, will undergo 50 weeks of exhaustive training, including field duty with veteran officers, before graduation in March of 2013. If all 36 Cadets reach graduation, it will represent the largest class in the agency’s history.

“For years, the Game Commission has been one of the top ranking agencies in terms of employee longevity,” said Carl G. Roe. “This spoke volumes about the dedication and commitment of our employees to the agency’s wildlife management mission. However, in recent years, we’ve had an increasing number of employees reach retirement, especially within the ranks of our WCOs, which has made it necessary for more frequent classes with even more Cadets.

“Those who pass will join a proud team of Wildlife Conservation Officers, and be entrusted by the public to protect and conserve Pennsylvania’s wildlife resources and habitats and enforce the state’s hunting and trapping laws.”

Roe noted that the individuals who made it into the 29th Class were chosen from a field of nearly 750 applications, and were selected through a series of written tests, interview boards and physical examinations.

“These cadets now will be challenged to successfully complete the nearly year-long training program that will prepare them to become a valuable part of the state’s wildlife management agency,” Roe said. “They will undergo an intensive and wide ranging curriculum that will test them physically and mentally.”

Training will include subjects such as: wildlife management; physical fitness; firearms proficiency; unarmed self-defense; law enforcement; legal procedures; conservation education; land management practices; computer skills; and public relations. Cadets will be evaluated throughout the weeks and required to meet stringent standards to continue.

Upon graduation, each cadet will be commissioned a Wildlife Conservation Officer and given an assignment within the Commonwealth. Following a probationary period of at least one year, the WCO’s performance will be evaluated and, if acceptable, he/she will be granted permanent status. Continued training will be required on a regular basis for certain skills, such as firearms proficiency and legal updates. Other advanced skills training may be offered on a voluntary basis.

Of the 36 individuals enrolled in this class, 30 have college degrees or professional certifications; six have served as Deputy WCOs for the Game Commission; and five have been or were Game Commission employees in other capacities. Nine are veterans, of which three are from the Army, one the Marine Corps, one the Coast Guard, two the Air Force, and two the Navy.

Other previous careers include police officer, corrections officer, deputy sheriff, clerk, dispatcher, attorney, wildlife nuisance control agent, land abstractor, city councilman, arborist and sales representative.

The minimum age of those enrolled is 21 years, the maximum is 49 years and the average age is 29.6 years.

Cadets and their hometowns are: Cory Ammerman, Harrisburg, Dauphin County; Jason Amory, Meadville, Crawford County; Eric Anderson, Pittsburgh, Allegheny County; Douglas Barrick, Newport, Perry County; Shawn Barron, Somerset, Somerset County; Douglas Bergman, Sutersville, Westmoreland County; Jesse Bish, Corsica, Jefferson County; William Brehun, Stahlstown, Westmoreland County; Richard Briggs III, Wapwallopen, Luzerne County; Shawna Burkett, Erie, Erie County; Stacy Carroll, Holbrook, Greene County; Patrick Cull, Sharpsville, Mercer County; Kathleen Edmiston, New Wilmington, Lawrence County; Susan Edmiston, Hermitage, Mercer County; Josh Fette, Farrell, Mercer County; Byron Gibbs, Mars, Butler County; Ryan Gildea, Ashley, Luzerne County; Michael Greiner, Beaver Falls, Beaver County; Mark Gritzer, Clearfield, Clearfield County; Philip Kasper, Hunlock Creek, Luzerne County; Francis Keilbach, New Stanton, Westmoreland County; Nathaniel Kimmel, Indiana, Indiana County; Steven Knickel, Red Lion, York County; James McCann IV, Cheltenham, Montgomery County; Kirk Miller, Williamsport, Lycoming County; Kevin Moran, Scranton, Lackawanna County; Aaron Morrow, Harrisburg, Dauphin County; Bryan Mowrer, Hanover, York County; Jeffrey Oleniacz, Montrose, Susquehanna County; Michael Papinchak, Murrysville, Westmoreland County; Anthony Parrott, New Castle, Lawrence County; Christopher Reidmiller, Homer City, Indiana County; Brian Sheetz, Lebanon, Lebanon County; Michael Yeck, Rochester, Beaver County; Salvadore Zaffuto Jr., Portage, Cambria County; and Cassie Zliceski, Quakertown, Bucks County.

The Game Commission has budgeted nearly $2 million to train these 36 individuals, who will fill vacant districts throughout the state. The agency anticipates that all vacant districts will be filled when this class graduates in March.

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