BLACKFOOT — Members of the Greater Blackfoot Chamber of Commerce honored 10 members of law enforcement, the fire service and the National Guard on Wednesday.
"This is always a special time for our Chamber," said president Shirley Brumfield as she introduced the program.
Three officers each from the Bingham County Sheriff's Office, the Blackfoot Police and Fire departments and one from the Idaho National Guard received plaques and a gift basket with items from various businesses.
County commissioner Whitney Manwaring spoke briefly before the officers received their recognitions.
"I know the important of not only the fire service but of law enforcement and the military and all the sacrifices they makes," said Manwaring, a retired firefighter.
"In my duties as county commissioner I've seen the importance of law enforcement, firefighters and the military working together," he said, noting that the local officers have done so.
Receiving the recognition from the police department were Detective Paul Hardwicke, Sgt. Shawn Hunter and Cpl. Wes Wheatley. Those from the Sheriff's Office were detention deputy Mandy Hardin and Captains Robert Sobieski and Mark Cowley. From the fire department were Doug Anthony, Justin Dial and Tony Catt. First Lt. Annie Gardner was the Guard honoree.
Eight of the 10 honorees were present. Hunter was in training in Boise and Dial was enjoying his day off, likely hunting, according to his shift commander.
Maj. Steven Pratt, an Aberdeen native, read Gardner's achievements. Her mother provided her biography. The others were provided by their leaders.
When Annie was a senior in high school her parents went to Fort Knox, Kent. As a sort of joke her souvenirs included an enlistment packet for the Army. She was not amused and assured them that the military was the LAST thing on her agenda.
In January of 2001, much to their dismay, she informed them that she had in fact been speaking with a recruiter and had enlisted with the Idaho Army National Guard. At that time she was unmarried, had no children and was not sure of the path she would be walking. We knew she was a strong person and had the determination to do whatever she wanted and do it well.
She came back from basic training and was confident that being an enlisted soldier suited her just fine. After two years, she knew she wanted to be an officer. With a marriage and a small child she set her sights on good grades and the ROTC program. Years later, she has 5 children, a high school-aged niece who lives with her full time, a military husband and a rewarding military career.
She juggles ball games, Girl Scouts, a full time job, her family and her obligations with the military with courage and determination. It is very important to her for her children to know that whatever they set their minds to, they can accomplish.
In June 2012 she was named the first female commander of Golf Co. 145th Support Battalion in Idaho Falls.
In September of 2008 the Blackfoot Police Department received a grant through the U.S. Department of Justice Community Oriented Policing Services for an additional officer to specifically enhance the city's program and prevention of violent crime. Paul Hardwicke became the Community Programs Coordinator and built a program from the ground up.
He was reassigned from patrol to work in the Detective Division. Along with working case assignments, Hardwicke is the city's computer guru and maintains all the department computers, participates in all community events such as Pride Days, works with groups such as the Boy Scouts, does presentations, updates the sex offender registry, is our ILETS representative, and oversees our Citizens On Patrol program. Most recently he coordinated the launch of ALERT ID for the department and community.
Sergeant Shawn Hunter began his career with the Blackfoot Police Department in August of 2006 and was promoted to his current position in March of 2011.
Hunter was assigned the task of preparing the Department for Re-accreditation through the Idaho Chiefs of Police Association (ICOPA). Accreditation is a certification process in which an agency meets a body of professional standards as demonstrated through normal inspection or audit by the authority granting the certification.
The Blackfoot Police Department was one of the first to be accredited in the state, successfully completing the process in May of 2001.
As if supervision of school resource officers and day shift patrol officers, regular patrol duty assignments, re-accreditation and being assigned the collective “honey do’s” that fall on the weekday supervisor were not enough, in his off time Hunter earned his master’s degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice.
Corporal Wes Wheatley joined the Blackfoot Police Department in April of 2008. He was promoted to Corporal in October of 2011.
Wheatley is being recognized for his dedication to the professionalism of the department.
Along with being a leader in Patrol and volunteering for many extra duties, he completed an intensive training course to become a Law Enforcement Fitness Specialist in February of this year.
He has worked with the Police Department and Sheriff’s Office to build a workout facility at the Law Enforcement Building, arranging for the purchase of good quality used equipment as well as soliciting donations of other needed equipment.
During the summer months the Blackfoot Police Department has a cross training program that takes one officer from patrol and assigns that officer to the Detective Division. Wheatley was chosen for this assignment this past summer where he adapted quickly to the investigations side of law enforcement and did an excellent job. Although he enjoyed his summer working with the detectives, he will be the first to tell you that his heart is in patrol.
Some of you may have noticed the new graphics on our new vehicles. Wheatley is the designer of those graphics as well as the logos we now have on our soft uniform shirts.
Captain Mark Cowley has been with the Bingham County Sheriff's Office since Feb. 1, 1988. He has been the coordinator for the Youth Coalition program for the past years. He has coordinated and mentored hundreds of local schools through this program. He has overseen and transported these students all across the U.S. as they participated in competitions and have won numerous national awards. He is currently serving as captain over the Detention Division.
Cowley is married and has two daughters and a son. One daughter attends school in Shelley. His son attends the University of Idaho.
Captain Robert Sobieski has been with the Sheriff's Office since Aug. 27, 1985. He has dedicated his 28 years of service to helping and protecting the citizens of the county. He has been over Search & Rescue as well as the Marine Patrol for many years.
His first concern is making sure everyone accomplishes the task at hand and everyone gets home to their families safely. He is currently serving as captain over the Patrol Division.
He is married and has two sons and a daughter. His sons are both in the Idaho National Guard. The oldest served a tour in Iraq. His daughter is a Shelley High School student.
Mandy Hardin has been with the Sheriff's Office since June of this year. She was hired as a fulltime detention deputy.
She is a single mother with three young children. She was born in Idaho Falls and recently moved to Blackfoot.
When she applied to the Sheriff's Office, she was seeking part time employment. However, when asked if she would be interested in a fulltime position, she graciously accepted.
She has a great interest in law enforcement and ultimately would like to be involved in crime scene investigation as she likes puzzles and said she feels crime scenes are just a big puzzle to reconstruct.
According to her co-workers she is a pleasure to work with and not much about the job gets under her skin. She gets along with everyone.
Doug Anthony got his start in the fire service as a volunteer for the Chubbuck Fire Department. He was later hired full time at Fort Hall Fire Department. In 2009, the Blackfoot Fire Department started a Firefighter I course. As one of the instructors for the class, Anthony had the opportunity to get to know a lot of the personnel around the station. After nearly four years with the Fort Hall department, Anthony successfully tested with the Blackfoot Fire Department.
His captain has served with him the past two years. He is someone who can be relied upon to get things done quickly and effectively. He works well with minimum oversight. He is motivated to learn his craft and takes advantage of opportunities to learn new things.
His certifications included Advanced EMT and Firefighter II. Beyond having these certificates he is competent in practical knowledge and job application of his skills.
When it comes time to conduct training for new hires, shift personnel or for Volunteer Academy, Anthony jumps right in and shares his knowledge and love for the job. Anthony has proven to be an asset to his crew, the department and the community he serves.
Tony Catt started with the Blackfoot Fire Department in November of 2009. He started as a volunteer fireman in Moscow in 1995 before moving to Lewiston. He also worked for the Fort Hall Fire Department before coming to Blackfoot.
Since starting as a lowly rookie on C shift, he has been active in all aspects of the department. He has overseen the reading program started by Local 4454 and the department in the Blackfoot and Snake River schools since its inception two years ago and has made it a huge success.
He also works hard at continuing his education and has been a fire service instructor for several years.
Often, late at night, Catt can be found studying on his computer as he tries to get his homework done between emergency calls.
Catt is also an excellent cook and his culinary work is greatly appreciated by his fellow firefighters.
Catt can be depended upon to do what is needed at the right time. He has the initiative to get things done when they need to be done.
Justin Dial started as a volunteer for the Firth Fire Department about 2000. He became a Blackfoot fire volunteer about 2003. He became a fulltime firefighter with the Blackfoot Fire Department in February of 2004.
He has always been eager to learn and advance his skills. He is currently an Advanced EMT and Firefighter I-certified.
He has taken the officers' advancement tests the last few years and someday wants to advance in the ranks. He is always to do what is asked of him. It's obvious he loves being a firefighter.
He has a wife and two little girls and lives just outside of Blackfoot.