Despite my story, “Death in the Great Dismal,” murder and mayhem at the Great Dismal Swamp is, thankfully, not a frequent occurrence (knock on wood!). Nonetheless, the federal wildlife officers who patrol and protect the wildlife and visitors at that and other national wildlife refuges are highly trained federal law enforcement officers. Once they’re screened physically and psychologically, they undergo sixteen weeks of “land management police training” at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia, the same place that officers destined for work with NCIS, the National Park Service, US Forest Service, some Homeland Security divisions, and many other federal branches train. After this, they have three weeks of classroom work and scenarios covering wildlife refuge specific laws and regulations. But, even then, they’re not quite finished. They undergo ten weeks of field training with two different field training officers on wildlife refuges. Then, every year, they have an intensive “in-service” training to ensure their skills are sharp and they’re up to date on the latest laws and policies. In addition, they get together locally to do drills and practice with their firearms.
These are the men and women who stay on site during government shut downs, thrash their way through blackberries and greenbrier to find downed planes, respond to grisly accidents, patrol in boats in the worst winter weather to protect our waterfowl, and confront people who don’t want to talk to them. They’re also the ones who help elderly tourists change flat tires, rescue stranded canoeists, jump into water to help people out of their sinking cars, or just chat pleasantly with visitors to the refuge.
So, while life is usually pretty peaceful at the Great Dismal, there is always something going on at a national wildlife refuge, and these dedicated, honorable federal wildlife officers do their best to protect and serve the public and the wildlife.
C.B. Lane grew up in Virginia Beach. After college in Blacksburg, Peace Corps in Senegal, and work in Northern California, she settled in Suffolk, where she lives on a farm near the Great Dismal with her husband and two wiener dogs who bark at everything that moves. C.B. received her MFA in Writing from Spalding University and is a member of Sisters in Crime. She has written short stories, is a frequent student at the Muse Writer’s Center in Norfolk and is working on a novel set in southeastern Virginia just after the Civil War. C.B. blogs at cblanewrites.wordpress.com.