Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office Explorer Post 1077
If you are you are, or know of someone who is interested in a career in law enforcement, the Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office Explorer Post 1077 program provides individuals an ideal opportunity to explore this profession at a young age.
The Explorer Post 1077 Facebook page states: “The mission of the Post is to offer young adults a personal awareness of the criminal justice system through training, practical experiences, competition, and other activities. Additionally, the program promotes personal growth through character development, respect for the rule of law, physical fitness, good citizenship and patriotism.”
Originally the program was established in 1994 and was operated by Lieutenant MacWelch.
The Explorer Post 1077 initially began with 10 cadets. Many individuals involved in this initial launch are still in law enforcement today: a detective in Rappahannock, a sergeant in Prince William County, a master detective in Manassas City, a lieutenant in Fairfax, and Fauquier’s own Lieutenant Andy Marshall who is now a patrol lieutenant with the Sheriff’s office.
Up until 2004, the program was a huge success. When Lieutenant MacWelch left the County to work for another one the program dissolved. When Sheriff Mosier took office, he asked Lieutenant MacWelch to come back to the County and reinstate the program. MacWelch agreed and since May of 2016 the Explorers program has been back in action. MacWelch currently supervises the community services section of the Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office and is assigned to the patrol division.
The Post is actually a division of the Boy Scouts of America, and is a co-ed program. Students only have to pay a 30 dollar annual registration fee to the Boy Scouts. The rest of the program expenses are covered by donations from individuals, businesses, and fundraising initiatives. Organizations such as the NRA have donated firearm instructional books for the Explorers to utilize. The initial startup cost of the program was approximately $10,000 for uniforms and equipment. Lieutenant MacWelch estimates it will take between $3,000 and $5,000 annually to keep the program going. Yearly costs include uniforms, training materials, and funding an annual week-long academy.
Cadet uniforms consist of athletic gear for physical fitness training, a Class B uniform which includes tactical shirt and boots, ball cap, and BDU (military style) pants, and a Class A uniform. All attire is similar to what a Sheriff’s Deputy would wear: a stetson hat, dress shirt, tie, glossed shoes and belt, and dress pants.
A maximum of 20 students are enrolled in the program at one time. Applicants must be at least 14 years old and have completed the eighth grade. Students may continue with the program until the age of 20. Typically the Explorer’s program has a waiting list of 8 to 10 students who wish to participate in the curriculum.
Explorer Post 1077 is an ideal program for those interested in one of the following careers: law enforcement, dispatch, criminal psychology, military, or one of the other myriad of positions in this profession. “Our purpose is to grow our own. We would love for the young men and women in this program to stay with us, and the Sheriff is willing and wanting to offer them positions when they are eligible.” MacWelch explained that at 18 years of age these young adults can work in the 911 communications center and then move their way up to a certified, or sworn position, at 21 years of age. “Lieutenant Marshall is an example of the success of the program, he is now a patrol officer and was one of our initial Explorers,” shared MacWelch.
The Explorer’s motto “Live with honor; serve with pride” is evident in every aspect of the Post. MacWelch said, “The primary goal is to to teach real life skills, integrity and patriotism to the explorers.” The program provides career contacts and a way for students to build their resumes. Real life training provides students with in-class and practical instruction. Students’ instruction stresses the importance of professionalism and overall conduct as well as various facets of law enforcement such as homicide investigations, firearms safety, accident investigations, and much more. Explorers also choose from a variety of curriculum offered for the year, and are instructed by volunteer instructors from within the Sheriff’s office, as well as instructors who come from other agencies based on the subject matter being taught.
Explorers are also required to complete 50 hours of community service per year, and they are required to maintain a “C” grade average all year. Community service activities trainees are involved in include: The County Fair, Warrenton Town Limits, packing backpacks for children, and participation in Shop with a Cop. Some of the men and women even assist with missing persons searches. The Explorers are in charge of the Child ID program at the Spring Festival, and in 2017 created over 300 identification cards in one day.
There is also a fully functioning honor guard within this program. The Guard participates in post activities and local events, such as the Memorial Day Parade, The Blessing of the Badges, and The House of Worship Safety Seminar.
The Explorers must also follow protocols listed in the operational manual; similar to the one sworn deputies are required to follow. Conduct requirements such as hair, proper public conduct, uniform, and other professionalism expectations are all inspected to ensure procedures are being followed.
Every June, Explorers also participate in a four day, intensive law enforcement study with the Explorers Academy. This event is highly interactive and includes classroom instruction and various practicums throughout each day. “We are not easy on them,” said MacWelch. “We have a slogan printed and placed above each classroom door that says ‘Never Give Up’ and we make each participant slap that sign on the way into class, every class so they remember that they are not to give up.”
While in the Academy these young men and women learn about vehicle stops, chemical operations, firearms safety (utilizing a plastic, non-functioning training pistol), an overview of electronic weapons, and so much more. The 2017 students even had a visit from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The helicopter DHS uses to chase drug runners landed in the field behind the Community Center and students participated in a tour of the aircraft and learned how drug enforcement agents use the helicopter to perform their duties.
The Academy instruction also includes an overview of SERT (Sheriff’s Emergency Response Team) training, K-9 deployment (bomb, patrol and narcotic dogs), felony stops, report writing, and proper use of a police radio. Each lesson is followed by a practicum where they are able to apply the information they acquired in the classroom. While in the Academy students are certified in basic first aid, Automatic Electronic Defibrillator (AED), and CPR (infant and adult).
On the last day of Academy classes, students must participate in a LawFit agility course. This course is utilized across the country for all law enforcement recruits; it is very difficult. According to LawFit’s website: “The LawFit Program was designed to increase the cardiorespiratory efficiency, muscular strength, muscular endurance, lean body mass, and flexibility of officers.” If police officer recruits do not pass this physical agility drill, they do not advance into the police academy; successful completion is vital to securing a spot in any career academy. Academy students participate in the LawFit course and learn cooperation and teamwork along with way. The agility test includes an array of strenuous activities which must be completed within the time constraints allotted. A great deal of physical and mental exertion are components of the LawFit course. Successful completion of this course is a true accomplishment for these individuals.
“Future career paths for the students really varies. We have some who are going into military – several are in ROTC at Liberty – while others are enrolling in community college, or are going onto a four year college and will major in criminal psychology. We have one who wants to be a game warden or some wish to be law enforcement officers,” shared MacWelch.
For information on the Explorer Post 1077 program, please contact Lieutenant MacWelsh via the Fauquier County Sheriff’s website, select divisions then select community services, then select Law Enforcement Explorers. There is an online application to complete. Once that is submitted, applicants will be contacted regarding the next steps.
SPOTLIGHT ON EXPLORERS
Hannah Cordova, a senior at Kettle Run High School, has been involved with the Explorer program since 2016. Cordova is the former Captain of the post and is currently serving as the appointed Senior Explorer Advisor. Cordova will be interning with the Sheriff’s office for the last quarter of her senior year and will move on to college in the fall where she will study criminal psychology. She said the program has helped strengthen her self-confidence and those of the others involved: “We were a shy bunch when we started. The program has opened us up. We have made friends, and connections, we probably wouldn’t have made if it weren’t for this program.” The Sheriff even wrote a college reference letter she didn’t ask for – he provided on his own accord. She said, “The hardest part of the Academy for me was the shooting portion, as I had never shot before. Then once you were done shooting you had to run on to the next challenge.”
AJ Prudhum, a senior at Fauquier High School, became aware of the Explorer program through his father and has been with the post since 2016. His father is a law enforcement officer with the county. Prudum is the current Captain and previously held the rank of Sergeant. Prudhum has been heavily involved with JROTC at Liberty High School for four years, and holds rank of Staff Sergeant and also held the position of Honor Guard Commander for the post in 2017. He described his Academy experience: “The hardest part of the LawFit course at the Academy was the last part, where I had to drag a 125 pound bag – it was difficult because I was already tired from all the other components of the course.” Prudhum plans on studying cyber security or business administration when he attends college in the fall.
Tristan Hodgson, a junior at Fauquier High School, is a JROTC member and serves on the Explorer Post Honor Guard. He too has been involved in the Explorers program since 2016. In 2017, Hodgson was nominated and chosen as the representative for all Fauquier County high schools to attend as a delegate to the Congress of the National Academy of Future Physicians and Medical Scientists. The Congress is an honor-only program for high schoolers who want to become physicians or go into medical research. Winning this is an immense honor, as it attests to his academic achievement, leadership potential and determination to serve humanity in the medical field. He was also inducted into the Society of Torch and Laurel during the Congress, which is a National Honor Society developed by the National Society of Collegiate Scholars to recognize high school high-achievers and provide them and their family vital tools for successfully transitioning to college. Hodgson aspires to pursue a neuroscience medical degree when he attends college.
All three of these young adults said leadership skills acquired through this program have been the most beneficial, and would highly recommend this program to other high school students. Additionally, all agree the community service aspect has an amazing part of their experience. Cordova said, “I completed 96 hours of community service last year, and it has been very fulfilling.” Prudhum completed 115 hours of service in 2017, and the Explorers in total contributed approximately 800 hours of community service in 2017.
MacWelch’s wife, Bev, handles all the uniforms. She is a special education teacher at Coleman Elementary who volunteers and even works with senior citizens at The Oaks. She rallied the residents of The Oaks to help her with the Explorers’ uniforms. The citizens pinned all the patches on the uniforms. Sheriff Mosier even stopped by The Oaks and brought pizza for all who helped and visited with them for a while. Both men and women assisted. Bev then sewed all the custom patches on all the current uniforms; seven patches per uniform. Bev sewed a total of 160 patches for the young Explorers. The seniors also involved in the removal of all pins, once the patches were sewn, and even folded and put back in package to distribute uniforms. MacWelch shared, “One Oak’s resident was a WWII veteran. He was ecstatic to assist and pointed out that he helped with the uniforms; there was such a sense of pride in that for him.”
If you wish to assist, the Explorers would benefit from financial support. Currently, summer uniforms are needed. The cost per person for these uniforms is approximately $800 per Explorer. If you are interested in donating to this program, please contact Lieutenant MacWelch at the Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office by phone at 540-422-8615 or email Richard.MacWelch@fauquiercounty.gov.