Red Oak Police Department Explorer Post No. 1132 brought five trophies home following competition at the Bay City Police Explorer Competition of a Lifetime from July 13-15, including three first place trophies.

The team competed against 56 teams from 30 posts from throughout the state and the nation, including five teams from Dallas Police Department; eight from Fort Worth; The Colony, which brought home overall champion honors in 2006; and Plano, which earned national champion honors in 2006. The competition also included teams from Arizona, Colorado and Oklahoma.

“Most of these teams receive some type of funding from the department. They have a much bigger pool of people to choose from, not to mention that the advisors for these teams are assigned to the Explorers and can spend as much time as needed preparing for an event,” said Red Oak Police Sgt. Jim Langham, head advisor. “They were undoubtedly up against some of the best in the nation and certainly some of the best inthe state.”

The Red Oak Explorers took one team of four consisting of team members Zach Bland, Brandi Ward, Gary Fowler and post Capt. Matt Boatright.

The team competed in 12 events.

“We had no idea what event we had until about two minutes before we had to compete in it,” said Bland, 15. “We had four competitions a day, so 12 events total. We placed in five, but I think we could’ve done better.”

The team placed first in domestic disturbance, hostage negotiation and police-driving events, and second in standardized field sobriety test and shoot-or-don’t-shoot events.

“I am extremely proud of the Explorers’ performance at the Bay City Competition of a Lifetime. To take first and second place in half of the events they drew is astounding, especially when you consider the teams they were up against,” Langham said. “I was actually able to sit in on each event this time and watch them perform. I am a bit surprised that they didn’t bring home trophies in a few more events. So overall I very pleased as well. They looked sharp, knew what they were doing, acted professional and represented the Red Oak Police Department very well.

“I was confident we would bring home a few trophies. I did not expect to bring home five and certainly nothing less than a second place trophy,” Langham said. “In fact, I think the whole team was shocked when they won first place in the police-driving event. We were almost as shocked at the second place in standardized field sobriety testing event.

“Maybe we are too critical of ourselves,” Langham said.

The Bay City competition was only the second competition for the post and the first for Explorers Ward and Fowler.

“We had two Explorers on this team, Brandi Ward and Gary Fowler, that have been with the program less than six months. Both performed exceptionally well. Brandi obviously paid a great deal of attention during the training sessions, especially when we had a negotiator from PD Dallas SWAT come teach them hostage negotiations. When they walked into that event it was as though the judge was in their way. They each knew exactly what to do and how to do it,” Langham said. “Brandi’s job was to document vital information about the suspect, weapons, family and anything else that was useful. She didn’t even ask any questions before the scenario began and went right to work as soon as the clock started. Gary we already knew absorbed information like a sponge. Even with his limited experience he fell right into place and was very helpful with ideas and pointing out things that the team needed to do during a scenario.”

The police-driving scenario was also new to the Explorers, with 15-year-old Bland and 19-year-old Boatright entering the event.

“That was the first time we did it in competition,” Bland said, explaining that the course tested various driving skills, such as driving in reverse, navigating through cones and other skills. “I have a permit and they allow me to drive with a permit. There were 18-year-olds driving against us that have been driving three more years than I.”

Overall, the post advisors were pleased with the team’s hard work through three-day stretch of constant teamwork and little sleep.

“They worked well and pulled each other. When someone was faltering, they picked them up,” said detective Boux Bland, advisor.

Up next for the Explorer post is a three-day SWAT camp in August and a possible trip to the Plano X Competition in November.

“This will be very physically demanding and stressful,” Langham said of the SWAT camp. “They will be taught by some of the best SWAT teams in the area on how to make dynamic entries. Although we know it is going to be tough I think they are very excited about going.”

Langham also considers a future out-of-state competition integral to the success of the post.

“I would like to find an out-of-state competition to go to — preferably in Washington, D.C. Since I grew up there, I am very familiar with the Smithsonian Institute,” Langham said. “My hope is to find an event to have them compete in that area and then take an extra day to walk them around the Smithsonian and possibly some of our nation’s monuments.”

The post always accepts new recruits and Langham said now is a perfect time to join.

“We are always in need of new recruits. Since this competition is behind us now and the new members have completed their basic training, I will be starting the training cycle over again very soon. Now is a great time for anyone to join,” Langham said. “They don’t have to live in Red Oak. We have members from Midlothian and DeSoto and have had members from Ferris and Waxahachie.”

Those interested in the program must have completed eighth grade and be between the ages of 14 and 21. Explorers must have a passing grade in all of their classes. If not enrolled in school then they must have a GED or high school diploma. They must pass a background check that will include confirmation of the fact that they have not been arrested, have no pending criminal cases against them and that they do not use drugs or alcohol.

The Red Oak Police Department Explorer Post No. 1132 meets at 6 p.m. every Tuesday and 7 a.m. every Saturday at the Red Oak Police Department. Those interested in joining may do so by attending a meeting or calling (972) 617-7632 and leaving a message for Langham.

More information on the Explorers is available at www.vipersites.com/explorers.

E-mail Mandy at mandy.bourgeois@waxahachiedailylight.com