By Mary O’KEEFE
Six members of the Crescenta Valley Sheriff Explorers team returned from a competition in Chandler, Ariz. bringing with them two first place awards.
Out of about 900 Explorers from 50 different law enforcement posts, the Crescenta Valley Sheriff Explorers brought home two first prize trophies from the 13th Annual Tactical Competition.
This is the sixth year the Explorers from the station have competed in the fundraiser/competition sponsored by the Chandler Police Department.
“We had a good eight scenarios we did as a team, all SWAT [Special Weapons and Tactics] related, all tactical,” said Explorer Steven Cronkhite.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff Explorer program began in 1969. It is not a program for the lazy or unmotivated. The program is for boys or girls, ages 15 to 21 years old. They must have at least a “C” average in high school and have a good moral character without any serious arrest record. Deputy Explorers must meet the same basic physical requirements as a deputy sheriff, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department website.
Throughout the year community members have seen the Explorers helping with events like the CV Station’s Rummage Sale and delivering gifts to those in need during the holidays. But they are also out on patrol with deputies from the station and often work traffic control like during the flooding on Ocean View Boulevard.
They train like deputies and must attend a sheriff’s academy. It is an 18-week program and in the end they will have served over 180 hours just in training at the academy. Then they move on to the station and the volunteer hours continue. It is that training and a serious mind set that prepares them for the Chandler competition. Although it is an event they take very seriously it is also an event they wait for with excitement throughout the year.
They compete in a variety of scenarios from Hostage Rescue to serving a warehouse warrant. Each time they are asked to draw on all their training and experience they have learned in their years as an Explorer.
The Explorers brought home the first place trophy in the Sniper Challenge and the Laser Quest. In the Sniper Challenge, Explorers were given a picture of an action figure that would be their target. They then had to go through a series of exercises.
“It consisted of two of our Explorers with long [pellet] rifles that went along a designated route. We had to find markers and the best areas to find cover,” Cronkhite said.
The two members made their way to a designated area where there were several items under a blanket. The blanket was pulled away and Explorers had a minute to memorize all of the unrelated items, which included of red dye, a glasscutter, lighter and a dime. They then had to continue their sniper quest.
“It is a mind teaser that makes you think about other things while you are trying to take out a threat,” said Deputy Jeff Martin, mentor for the CV Explorer program.
When the Explorers reached the targeted area they were faced with photos of 15 to 20 different action figures. They had to determine their real target and respond quickly.
After they had taken care of the target they returned to the area where the items had been hidden and recount as many items as they remembered.
“Sometimes you get tunnel vision so this is an important exercise,” Cronkhite added.
Explorer Tommy Halaszynski said the exercise helps members learn to multitask, yet stay focused on their mission.
In second first place award came from the Laser Quest. This was a laser tag, a really good laser tag game.
“It took place in a two-story, 8,000 square foot warehouse that was full of fog and loud music,” Martin said.
Each team had a specific color on their shoulder. The purpose was to tag as many as they could of the other team without getting tagged themselves.
“Most teams had 12 to 20 people, we had six guys,” Martin said.
The judges for the competition were working law enforcement officers that worked in the division they were judging. SWAT members judged that portion of the competition.
“[The team] had to negotiate in a hostage situation. The judges were part of a [law enforcement] negotiating team,” Martin said.
The warehouse warrant was serving a warrant on a methamphetamine lab. In Hogan’s Alley members had to quickly determine who were the innocent and who were the suspects.
Because it was set up and judged by law enforcement that practice and use these methods on a daily basis the Explorers were trained in a real world setting.
Cronkhite added members return with knowledge of what worked and what didn’t. They share what they learn with other team members and adjust their training accordingly.
There are four new members that have finished the Sheriff’s Academy and will take their place as Explorers. All listened to the tales of the competition and all were ready to participate in next year’s event.
Four more recruits are in their third week of the academy and destined to see it through.
The Sheriff’s Explorer program operates on what grants they can get awarded to them and donations. It offers its members a chance to be part of a team.
“To be part of something more,” Halaszynski said.
They learn leadership, teamwork and the value of community service. They help the community in many ways including as extra support for the sheriff’s along with the sheriff volunteers.
Funds are needed for competitions like that at Chandler, field trips and equipment costs. Anyone who would like to support the Crescenta Valley Sheriff Explorers can contact Dep. Jeff Martin at (818) 248-3464.