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Under the Flat Hat

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When I started we were issued micro-cassette recorders to record our law enforcement contacts, now there are body cameras which I hope all ranger agencies with law enforcement authority adopt. The body armor some rangers wear is significantly lighter than what was issued in the mid-1990s. Some agencies are evening using external carriers for body armor, sometimes for ergonomic reasons.


For rangers with wildland firefighting duties there have been many changes too. When I started there was GSA issued webgear or military surplus webgear to hold the fire shelter, canteens and a small gear bag. Now there is a new generation fire shelter, hydration systems (like Camelbak), and countless variety of webgear and Load Bearing Equipment for wildland firefighting. Gone too are the military surplus googles, now replaced by a variety of wildland specific safety goggles. The PPE clothing has also improved in function and ergonomics. In the last few years there has also been the appearance of lighter weight “hiker” style boots for wildland firefighting.


EMS has changed too, AEDs have become common places and CPR has changed. Tactical medicine (Tactical Life Saver for Law Enforcement) has become a thing. The

basic EMS skills have evolved, and standards have changed.


There are also many more choices of EMS bags, now and better options for EMS bags set up for the rural, park or wildland settings. Although the public’s expectation remains large the same, that we as rangers will be able to help them if they’re hurt.


We also have a lot more choices for patrol packs now than we did when I started. I wrote about my preferred patrol backpack last summer. I remember it used to be hard to find a good patrol backpack in a neutral or professional color. Now it is easy. Compared to 20 years ago, the choices are simply amazing.


I know there have been many changes, but I’ve saved what I feel is the biggest for last; electronics. When I started my career the most common electronic device we had were our portable and mobile radios. Cell phones were “bricks” and were not common.


Now think what we may have, digital trunked radios, GPS, MDC’s tied into CAD (computer added dispatch) and ARS (automated reporting system), regular

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First Quarter 2018

laptops, FLIR, night vision goggles, digital cameras, digital motion-activated game cameras (some with cellular connectivity to text message you the photos as they occur) and smart phones/tablets.


With the right set up a ranger can have access to nearly ALL their electronic paperwork without having to set foot in the ranger station. Of course, with smart phones/tablets you have a camera, camcorder, access to your email, GPS, maps and many apps that are useful for park rangers.


One of my favorite apps is iNaturalist, which now allows you to ID plants and animals by uploading a photo! On my phone other Apps I commonly use are a PDF reader, Google Earth, Topo Maps +, AllTrails, Strava, CA Laws, NASAR Field Guide, and Wildland Toolkit. The information and tools we can carry in a shirt pocket now is incredible.


Despite all these changes I’m glad certain things have not changed, such as our Flat Hat and our basic duties of Protecting the Park from the People, the People from the Park, and the People from the People.


In many cases the changes just help us do are basic duties in a safer and more effective manner.

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