Explorer Post Builds Life Skills for Any Career Path

Each Tuesday night in Shady Hills, a group of young citizens gathers to complete drills and learn about law enforcement scenarios. They’re learning about state statutes, of course, but they’re also learning to communicate with others and to lead their peers. These are skills they’ll carry with them, whether they decide to attend a law enforcement academy to pursue a career as a Pasco Sheriff’s deputy, enlist as a member of the military, or even pursue another career entirely. This dedicated group of young citizens are Explorers from Pasco Sheriff’s Office Explorer Post 916, and this is just a small part of what these young adults spend their time doing.

Explorer Post 916 provides exciting opportunities to gain important life lessons and volunteer in their community, in addition to competitive and specialty opportunities. Chartered through the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), Post 916 provides valuable life and career skills through immersive experiences and mentorship for those ages 14 to 21. While primarily based on law enforcement as a central theme, Explorer Post 916 is also one of the first programs in the nation to offer three unique and exciting branches, with the recent addition of forensics and drones branches.

Core principles of the Pasco Sheriff’s Office, such as integrity, teamwork, determination and professionalism, are integrated into Explorer Post 916 through a hands-on curriculum. Sgt. Jeremiah Stewart, who has been part of Explorer Post 916 for around a year and a half, stated, “the Explorer program introduces the variety of capabilities the agency offers as far as different units. Teamwork is a universal aspect; all team building exercises, such as physical training, really helped instill a sense of unity and strength amongst the Post, as well as personally.” These opportunities teach Explorers to make sound ethical and moral choices beyond the program. Former Explorers attest to acquiring real-life acumen, regardless of their career path, as well as a greater purpose of civic duty. Knowledge gained from Explorer involvement can be included on scholarship, college and job applications, as a testimony of work ethic and skill development.

Members of Explorer Post 916 have the ability to join patrol deputies for ride-alongs at calls for service, after Explorers pass a certification at a Ride-Along Academy. At this three-day training, Explorers discover radio use techniques, knowledge of etiquette and codes, report writing abilities, CPR & first aid skills, knowledge of defensive tactics, legal procedures and finger printing, and other competencies a deputy would need in the field. The ride-along aspect of the program provides a birds-eye perspective of a career in law enforcement, as well as what deputies face on each call. Explorer Capt. Alex Carlisle, who joined Explorer Post 916 about two years ago, shared, “Ride-Along Academy really helps develop communication skills through speaking with others, using the operations system, applying signals and codes when speaking over the radio and interacting with people. You can have all these skills, but if we cannot interact with others, we can’t perform our job. You put on your vest and go to do the job, but then we realize they are all people.”

Outside of ride-alongs with PSO deputies, Explorer Post 916 also hosts opportunities to build expertise in other areas. This spring, Explorer Post 916 hosted their annual Leadership Development Academy (LDA) at BSA’s Camp Owen J. Brorein in nearby Hillsborough County. LDA is designed to enhance leadership skills of Explorer members, while also preparing them for leadership positions within the Post and beyond. The week-long event engaged Explorers in leadership fundamentals, physical fitness exercises and tactical decision-making scenarios. Explorers were challenged, both physically and mentally, through daily training, drills, squad games and law enforcement scenarios. Explorer Cpl. Jaeden Friesen learned the characteristics of leadership and the different roles in which leaders serve while attending LDA this year. Cpl. Friesen explained, “before LDA, I would have never thought a leader was an advocate. I now feel like being an advocate is a top priority as leadership.” 

Members of Explorer Post 916 also have the opportunity to compete on both the state and  national level. The Florida Associations of Police Explorers (FAPE) State Competition evaluates Explorers on a range of skills, including communication, officer safety protocols, interview techniques, state statute knowledge, legal guidelines, building clearing techniques and scene control as they respond to mock calls for service. Explorer Post 916 was even honored to host a FAPE delegates conference in 2022.

Explorer Post 916 members have also found competition success on a national stage. In January, the Post attended BSA’s annual Winterfest Competition in Gatlinburg, TN, which was also attended by over 35 law enforcement Explorer Posts from across the United States. Explorer Post 916 placed first place in uniform inspections/drill, second place in warrant service and third place in active shooter. While in Gatlinburg, Explorers enjoyed the city and the Great Smoky Mountains when not competing. Explorers also attended ExCon in Las Vegas, which challenged attendees with exciting reality-based training and competition. Capt. Carlisle enjoyed the change of scenery but also the diverse training environment ExCon provided. “This past ExCon included tactics-based trainings, built on the trust of your teammates,” he explained. “If you don’t trust your teammates, you lose points. Everyone knows what they have to do, and to support others when needed.”

Along with competition experiences, speciality opportunities with the Pistol Team and Honor Guard are available for Explorer members as well. These provide Explorers with further hands-on training, as well as one-on-one feedback, which is applicable beyond the Post, as specialty teams instill a greater sense of motivation and discipline. Capt. Carlisle, who has been part of the Honor Guard for a year, shares the noticeable difference amongst Honor Guard members; everything is intentional and deliberate. “The opportunity to represent the Pasco Sheriff’s Office, Explorer Post 916, your team and yourself while presenting the American flag at events, memorial services and more in my community is an honor as well as a great sense of pride,” Capt. Carlisle says.

For those interested in the exciting world of drones or forensics, Explorer Post 916 is proud to offer two exciting new branches, introducing those ages 14-21 to these disciplines, in addition to the established law enforcement branch. These fields are integral to law enforcement operations and these programs offer a science-based look at roles outside of what is traditionally thought of as a responsibility of a law enforcement officer. This program includes guest speakers and demonstrations from PSO’s Forensics and UAS/Drone units, PSO’s Florida Forensic Institute for Research, Security and Tactics (F1RST) and others.

Explorer Post 916 provides a well-rounded skill-building program for teenagers and young adults that will carry them through any path in the future. Explorers enjoy a variety of opportunities throughout their time in the Post. Both current and former members attest to the growth of their communication, accountability and leadership acumen from their experience as an Explorer, as well as a deeper understanding and appreciation of the community in which they live. Post 916 welcomes visitors to attend general meetings held every Tuesday evening from 6 to 9 p.m. For more information, visit PascoExplorers.PascoSheriff.com.

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