Brittney Lofthouse – Staff Writer

Twenty-four recruits lined up at the Southwestern Community College Public Safety Training Center Monday morning marking the 100th class of National Park Service (NPS) training held at SCC. SCC is one of only seven colleges in the country that offers training for people who want to work as Seasonal Law Enforcement Rangers (SLET) for the park service and boasts the most graduates actively working as rangers in the most parks in the country.

SCC began offering the National Park Service training course in 1978, making 2018 the 40th year the program has been offered locally.

“We are extremely proud to be one of only seven training sites nationwide entrusted to offer this training on behalf of the DOI [Department of the Interior] and the NPS [National Park Service],” said Curtis Dowdle, Dean of Public Safety at SCC. “Throughout our four decades of offering NPS-SLET, we’ve had no problems filling these classes. Since so many individuals are coming here from out of state, this program greatly benefits Macon County because these recruits are living here, buying food, groceries and other goods and contributing to the economy of our region.”

The classes include more than 750 hours of training in everything from woodland tracking to firearms training – and recruits even have to endure a taser zap and pepper spray. They also do scenarios and role-playing where they are presented with tricky situations and have to come up with the best possible solution.

“Our absolute top priority is safety,” said Dowdle. “Every minute of the 762 training hours is carefully designed to equip these recruits with the skills and knowledge they’ll need to keep themselves and park visitors safe. Our curriculum includes a wide range of topics that are covered in classroom lecture and training in the field. Physical fitness, legal issues, behavioral science, enforcement operations, patrol procedures/scenarios, driving, and physical techniques for subject control – as well as firearms training, use-of-force simulation exercises, woodland operations and tracking are just some of the areas recruits are required to master before graduation. Our curriculum is accredited by Federal Law Enforcement Training Accreditation (FLETA) and coordinated by the National Park Service (NPS), Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.”

The 24 recruits on Monday came from as far away as Germany and featured students hailing from 16 different states within the United States. Of the 24 students who make up the 100th class, not one student comes from North Carolina but they do come from states from as far away as California, Rhode Island, New York, and Washington. The closest to home includes two students from Tennessee and one from Virginia.

After four decades of offering the program in Franklin, Dowdle said that the Seasonal Law Enforcement Training program is so successful because of the reputation the college has built.

“We take great pride in delivering our training. Over the past 40 years, SCC has an established history of making certain our training ensures our students have the ability to work in an ever-changing and diverse environment,” said Dowdle. “The fact that 19 out of our 24 current recruits were recommended to SCC – mostly by current rangers – tells us that our graduates believe in the training they received here and want to be surrounded by other rangers who’ve been to SCC.”

Dowdle said the course, which will run until April 27 isn’t easy, but will prepare the students to work in the county’s national park system.

“Our training program is extremely challenging,” said doodle. “Many of our recruits who previously served in the military  as well as those who have attended training at Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Glynco, Ga., tell us the training rivals what they experienced in boot camp, and/or surpasses the training provided at FLETC. We believe that challenging our recruits is the only way to adequately prepare them for the most difficult days they will face in the field.”