HARRISBURG, Pa., March 5, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Following 50 weeks of intensive training, the 28th Class of the Pennsylvania Game Commission's Ross Leffler School of Conservation today graduated and was commissioned as Wildlife Conservation Officers (WCO) during ceremonies at Susquehanna Township Middle School. Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas President Judge Todd A. Hoover delivered the keynote address and administered the oath of office.
The 21 new officers reported to the RLSC training facility at the agency's Harrisburg headquarters on March 21, 2010. Included in their 50 weeks of classroom instruction and field training were wildlife management; law enforcement; wildlife laws and regulations; land management practices; conservation education; public relations; firearms training; and unarmed self-defense.
Game Commission WCOs are responsible for administering a wide variety of agency programs within an assigned district of about 350 square miles. Primary duties include law enforcement, responding to wildlife conflicts, conservation education, and administration of the Hunter-Trapper Education program. Officers also are responsible for supervising and training part-time Deputy Wildlife Conservation Officers.
"This WCO Class will fill 21 of the 35 vacant WCO districts, but we still will have 14 districts vacant with the potential for another 18 districts being vacated, due to retirements and promotional opportunities, by the end of this fiscal year," said Carl G. Roe, Game Commission executive director. "By June of 2011, we anticipate a return to more than 30 WCO vacancies statewide. So, we plan to have another WCO class enrolled in March of 2012."
During the ceremonies, graduates were recognized for achievements in the areas of academics, marksmanship, physical fitness and leadership.
WCO Graduate Kyle Jury received the class award for academics, with a score of 97.1 percent. The class' average score was 90.9 percent.
WCO Graduate Kevin Anderson was honored with the marksmanship award, scoring 460 out of a possible 550 points.
WCO Graduate Anderson also was selected as the fitness award winner for maintaining the highest standard of physical fitness during the 50-week training program.
And, WCO Graduate Eric Erdman was chosen by his classmates to receive the "Torch Award for Leadership."
Members of the 28th Class, their hometowns and their new assignments are:
Steven Ace, Knox, Clarion County, to Clarion County; Kevin Anderson, New Bloomfield, Perry County, to Adams County; Christopher Bergman, Monongahela, Washington County, to Fayette County; Ronda Bimber, Lucinda, Clarion County, to a district that is comprised of parts of Venango and Mercer counties; Brandon Bonin, Patton, Cambria County, to Fayette County; Daniel Bookser, Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, to Westmoreland County; Matthew Chipego, Noxen, Wyoming County, to Susquehanna County; Jeremy Coughenour, Berlin, Somerset County, to Bedford County; Eric Erdman, Milton, Northumberland County, to Clearfield County; Gregory Graham, Lititz, Lancaster County, to York County; Kevin Halbfoerster, Bath, Northampton County, to Lehigh County; Kyle Jury, Halifax, Dauphin County, to York County; Jason Kelley, Rome, Bradford County, to Northumberland County; A. Wade Kramer, Lancaster, Lancaster County, to Somerset County; Matthew Lucas, Ebensburg, Cambria County, to Westmoreland County; Richard Macklem II, McElhattan, Clinton County, to Bucks County; Daniel Murray, Elizabethtown, Lancaster County, to Centre County; Shawn Musser, New Cumberland, York County, to York County; Jacob Olexsak, Butler, Butler County, to Crawford County; Brian Singer, Clarks Summit, Lackawanna County, to Westmoreland County; and Philip White, Bear Creek, Luzerne County, to Monroe County.
In 1930, Ross Leffler, then president of the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners, proposed the establishment of a training school for game protectors. When the training school opened its doors in 1932, in Brockway, Jefferson County, it was the first such conservation officer training school in the world and served as a model for other states. From 1932 until 1935, the Ross Leffler School of Conservation offered in-service training for game protectors. The Commission voted to make the school a permanent facility and enrolled its first class of trainees in 1936, and continued training new classes at this facility until 1986. In 1987, the training school was moved to the Harrisburg headquarters, which just opened the doors to its current facility in Susquehanna Township, Dauphin County.
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SOURCE Pennsylvania Game Commission