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Have you’ve been around the Paris Landing State Park area this summer and observed a fleet of big white boats from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and wondered what was going on?

New wildlife officers from across the state have been here undergoing a series of boating enforcement training exercises ranging from rescue to interacting with the public.

Under the watchful eye of several veteran boating officers the young officers are put through numerous scenarios ranging from maneuvers of their big vessels in tight quarters of a crowded marina atmosphere to learning how to best operate the state vessel while it’s on plane and approaching another boat or attempting to pull someone over while traveling at a high rate of speed.

“This is a great area for us to bring the younger officers and provide them with a wide variety of boating scenarios they may encounter throughout their career,” said former Henry Countian Joe Campbell, boating enforcement and training supervisor with Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency who now resides in Dover.

“Here on Kentucky Lake they are exposed to big water and what windy conditions can be like. There are main channel buoys and secondary channel buoys, barge traffic, marinas, and a high use area where a multitude of boats are using the waterways.”

“We put them through survival tactics so they’ll know, first hand, what it’s like if they too fall overboard or have to rescue someone in the water. And, law enforcement officers might find themselves in unique situations when routine checks take a different turn. Sometimes the outcome is unpredictable.”

With an experienced officer at their side each young officer logged a lot of time behind the wheel of the big center console boats. “We want them to get a feel for the job,” said boating accident investigator Glenn Moates.

“Later on these guys will have boating under the influence and accident training. Then they will have ten weeks of firearms training at the academy in Donelson,” continued Moates, when asked what lies ahead for new officers.

Tennessee has over 200,000 boats registered statewide, which is down slightly from a surge that occurred a decade or so ago. Still, that’s a lot of vessels across the Volunteer State on the various waterways which range from small lakes to flowing rivers with some big reservoirs in-between.

When I accepted Campbell’s invitation to see, first hand, what all was involved in the training course it was quite interesting to see what all took place. The veteran officers were sharing their experiences and putting the newcomers through some challenges and potential scenarios---some which may be unfortunate at times.

“We teach them everything from how to back these big boats down a boat ramp to parking them in tight quarters. From how to pull up and encounter the public in a professional manner to operation in such spots as a tailrace below dams,” explained Campbell. “You just never know what lies ahead so we try to prepare them.”

Later in the week the crew was headed to Barkley Lake venturing down river to lock through Kentucky and Barkley dams and experience operation within a tailrace situation where a lot of current changes things.

Prior to that it was out of the boat and in the water where officers placed the new recruits in a possible scenario of an unfortunate encounter with an irate boater. Should a struggle occur an officer could find himself in the water too while trying to take command of the situation at hand.

Tossing officers into the swimming pool while in uniform, armed with their firearm and various gear was all part of it. Things can happen quick; so the officers were exposed to that too and taught how to react should the unfortunate occur at the blink of an eye.

“Paris Landing State Park has been very good for our training exercises. The staff has been supportive of our needs and exhibited great hospitality,” said Campbell, when asked about the state park as his choice for training.

And what about some of the do’s and don’ts of boating that you and I can practice to make it safer for everyone out there?

“I’d say the top mistakes we tell our young officers to watch out for is the public just operating a boat too fast for the conditions, not wearing life jackets or having proper registration, and operators just not paying close attention,” said Moates, when asked about the basics.

Joe Campbell’s experience has taught him to teach others. Three things topping his list when teaching boating safety to young officers or the public through school systems or random courses is to wear life jackets; don’t drink and drive; and take a boating safety course.

By the end of the week the covey of new officers had logged several hours of training at the hands of experienced officers who had “been-there; done-that”. Not too many years ago they too were in training and honing their skills for an uncertain future in boating safety and enforcement.

The road ahead can be bumpy but their training will hopefully help prepare them for unchartered waters that are all part of the job as an officer starting out with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.



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