NASHVILLE — — The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officially welcomed 13 new wildlife officers during a commission ceremony held at Buffalo Ridge Wildlife Refuge in Humphreys County. Due to COVID-19 concerns, only a limited number TWRA officials and the graduates were in attendance.
The new TWRA officers and their assignment areas are Robert Badgett, Jr. (Sullivan County), Ethan Brown (Franklin County), Don Chance (Wildlife Manager, Oak Ridge WMA), Miranda Garner (Houston County), Parker Gerdes (Lake County), Gavin Henley (Perry County), Collin Jones (Johnson County), Rob Lewis (Wildlife Manager, Upper Obion River Complex), Jared Poore (Wildlife Manager, Lower Obion River Complex), Andrew Rutherford (Wildlife Manager, Forked Deer River Complex), Bethany Watson (Unicoi County), Brad Wheat (Wildlife Manager, Kentucky Lake Complex), and Andrew Weber (Hamilton County).
As wildlife officers, their duties will include enforcing and educating the public of hunting and fishing regulations, boating regulations, conducting hunter education programs and public education in the outdoors, and habitat management.
Several members of the class were also honored with special awards presented during the ceremony.
Robert Badgett Jr. was honored by receiving the Gregory-McWherter Memorial Award. The award recognizes the cadet in recognition for overcoming obstacles faced when attempting to become a wildlife officer. The award is named in honor of former wildlife officers George Gregory and Gary McWherter who each passed away while still on active duty while battling cancer.
Don Chance was presented with the Leadership Award for the class. The award is presented to the cadet who exhibit strong leadership characteristics throughout the training. He was voted as class president by his peers mid academy. He was also presented the Academy Ace Award, a culmination of multiple accolades in various areas of the academy such as academics, physical fitness, driving, firearms, defensive tactics, and other subjects.
Rob Lewis was the recipient of the Academic Award. He maintained the highest-grade point average throughout the 20-week academy. The Top Shot “Firearms Award” was presented to Parker Gerdes, who demonstrated the greatest proficiency with pistol, shotgun, and rifle.
Andrew Weber is the recipient of the Driving Award, presented to the cadet who exhibits strong proficiency in emergency vehicle operations. Jared Poore received the Physical Fitness Award. The award recognizes those who excel in physical-related activities while in the academy.
Capt. Wade Hendren and Capt. Joe Campbell each received the Buffalo Award. The award is presented to individuals who have gone above and beyond to ensure smooth operation of the academy.
The two captains performed their regular duties and assisted with numerous facets regarding the logistical operations during the 20 weeks.