They’re men and women often seen on the trail or on the campgrounds at a state park, but how much training does it take to become an Arkansas State Park Ranger?
CENTRAL ARKANSAS – In a split second, a peaceful climb up an Arkansas mountain can turn into someone’s worst nightmare.
It’s a situation many hikers don’t plan for when they step on the trail, stuck between a rock and a hard place. That is when Arkansas State Park Rangers respond.
“Being that calm voice in that storm can be a difference for a person,” Ranger Brittany Thomas said.
At Petit Jean State Park, rangers train through simulated rescues, replicating very real instances that can happen any day.
Sporting tan uniforms with a title on the back, these men and women are hard to miss.
“It was a pretty easy decision to become a Park Ranger because I get to do everything I always wanted to do all in one job,” Corporal Joshua Baker explained.
Baker is stationed at Petit Jean, and in his time on the job, he’s helped on numerous rescues carrying injured hikers up steep hills and through narrow walkways.
It’s a physically demanding job and takes a lot more training than most would think.
“Turns out, you’ve got to go get a degree. Once you get the degree, you go to go through the academy. Once you get through the academy, there’s another level of being a seasonal ranger,” Baker explained.
The list goes on.
“You got to Wilderness Remote First Aid, then you go to Search and Rescue Training,” Major Will Strain said.
Rangers will go through about seven months just to put the title on. After that, it’s about 100 hours of training each year.
“They tell you straight up, it’s going to be difficult, but it’s really rewarding when you give back to the public like that,” Strain said.
“You never know if you’re going to be out on the water doing something or doing a high angle rescue, ropes and rescue off a cliff somewhere,” Sergeant Jason Parrie added.
Rangers say it’s important to learn their park and work together as a team.
“You want to be fast, but you don’t want to hurry because if you’re in a big hurry you can make a mistake,” Strain said.
“When you’re finding people in the worst situation they very well could have ever been in, and because of you, you’re able to put them back in a better situation,” Baker added.
Along with Search and Rescue, rangers have to be proficient in fire safety, emergency medical care, and act as a police officer of the park.
So next time you’re on one of Arkansas’ trails, you can walk peacefully knowing someone always has your back.