Hunting News

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

MCA program protects base members, wildlife

by Airman 1st Class Tammie Ramsouer
JBER Public Affairs

11/26/2013 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Sirens and emergency vehicles surround a traffic accident on base. As first responders tend to the motorist and document vehicle damage, a military conservation agent arrives to assess the condition of an animal just hit.

A homeowner opens the front door, and is suddenly face-to-face with a bull moose and it does not want to leave. What do you do? Who can you call?

On a daily basis, military conservation agents respond anything from wildlife encounters and vehicle accidents to someone destroying government property or animal habitats on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. MCA agents train to protect animals and humans from harm in experiences such as these.

These MCAs are volunteers from the base. Any active duty military member can volunteer in the MCA program by filling out an application at the Wildlife Conservation Office. Once the application process is complete, the wildlife conservation officers select participants and plan their training.

"People go through the interview process," said Tech. Sgt. Andy Lockhart, noncommissioned officer in charge of military conservation agents. "If they are selected, we quiz them about wildlife knowledge."

Upon deciding the required amount of volunteers for the current year, training begins for level-one agents.

"Once individuals are selected, usually two to three weeks later we will have a level-one class in the afternoons," Lockhart said. "It's usually about three hours each in three consecutive afternoons."

At the end of the third afternoon, the MCA trainees perform scenarios. Before November, they are required to get 40 hours of on-the-job training with level-two or level-three agents.

One of the first things they receive training on is dealing with animals during the summer, Lockhart said. He said moose blocking housing and dealing with bears in dumpsters are a large part of the job.

"They take a test in November about what we have been training on, which consists of our regulations, as well as questions from the base map to make sure they know the area," Lockhart said. "Once they pass the test, usually the first two weeks of December, we will have a six-day class, 40 hours worth of instruction and usually six to eight hours worth of real-world scenarios. In that 40 hours of instruction, agents from Alaska Department of Fish and Game and Alaska State Troopers come in and talk to the agents."

Once the level-one agents complete the class and pass everything in the scenarios, they are considered level-two agents. They get to go on two patrols with other agents on base and qualify on the M870 Remington pump-action shotgun.

Once they qualify with that weapon and go out on those two patrols with a law enforcement-qualified agent, they become law enforcement-qualified, Lockhart said. The agents are trained how to use the shotgun for a last resort in case of a life-or-death situation with an animal.

"We are trained on shot placement and the steps to take prior to aggression," Lockhart said.

The MCA program is considered a special-duty assignment once the agents reach level two.

After their second year, agents who finish all required courses in time, become level-three agents, Lockhart said. Level-three agents spend more time in the training room where they are responsible for making sure people are getting trained correctly.

The next step is to become a numbered agent.

"A numbered agent is basically in charge of making sure the program is steered in the right direction," Lockhart said.

The numbered agents make needed changes to the program's regulations and monitor the radio more often than lower-level agents. The numbered agents listen to the communication from patrol agents to make sure everything the patrol does is correctly applied.

"It's basically the overall management of the program from the top of the MCA level down," Lockhart said.

Within the numbered agents there is a top numbered agent, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the whole MCA program. The NCOIC works with the wildlife conservation officers, Mark Sledge and James Wendland, to make sure any deficiencies are corrected in a timely manner.

The MCA program as a whole sets the agents up for the law enforcement side of wildlife conservation as well as a possible direction they may want to go when they separate from the military, Lockhart said.

One of the agents accepted in the MCA program in 2012 was Senior Airman Brad Robinson, 381st Intelligence Squadron analyst.

"I've always enjoyed the outdoors, so when I found out that I could get involved with the wildlife or keep people safe on base, I was happy to be a part of the experience," Robinson said.

"Just the chance to get out there and interact with wildlife is rewarding," Robinson said. "I have definitely considered the possibilities of staying in this career field after I separate. It's something I enjoy doing."

Security Forces call the MCA agents when there is a call from a resident about wildlife on base.

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