By Dana Simas, CDCR Public Information Officer II
Twenty Parole Agents with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) Division of Adult Parole Operations (DAPO) graduated recently from the first Range Master’s Academy held in three years. The new crop of firearm trainers is now ready to provide the best possible training to all units in the field.
“Being a Range Master is important,” Dan Stone, Director of DAPO, told the graduates. “The importance of having quality training, quarterly qualifications, and safety procedures continually enforced throughout the year is critical.”
This is the first Range Master’s Academy in three years as demand for trainers has risen sharply due to retirements.
“We’ve seen a lot of retirements of Range Masters the last couple of years so the need has grown,” said Doug Eckenrod, Parole Administrator.
During the hiatus between academies, DAPO revamped its firearm training based on best practices found across the state’s and nation’s top law enforcement agencies.
“Our mission is to protect the public,” Eckenrod told the graduates. “We used the down time as an opportunity to go back to our partners — other state agencies — and create the most up-to-date range instruction DAPO has ever provided.”
The graduates came from across the state, ten from the Northern parole region and 10 from the Southern parole region. The candidates were selected from among the applicants based on aptitude and skill.
The two-week training was provided by DAPO’s Division Training Unit (DTU), with Agents Geoffrey Reisland and Brandon Balanza leading the way.
“Teaching is a skill,” Reisland said. “They need to understand firearms and the nuances that go with it to be able to pass it on to someone else.”
Range Masters, who can be distinguished by their bright red uniforms, conduct the mandatory quarterly firearm qualifications required for all DAPO field agents. The Range Master Academy ensures there is consistency in training across the state and that DAPO agents are professional, competent and well-trained.
“It’s not just about putting rounds on a target,” Balanza said. “You need to know manipulation of your weapon, be able to control and use it in a high-stress environment.”
This new crop of trainers had a healthy dose of competition. Bryan Nakayama, a Parole Agent II in Sacramento, won the coveted “Top Gun” title after hitting three targets twice, reloading and hitting each target two more times faster than anyone else in the group.
“I do a little extra (training) and practice at home, without bullets, to build up speed,” Nakayama said.
He has been with CDCR for 14 years and joined DAPO in 2004 where he worked in GPS-monitoring units before eventually moving to DAPO’s DTU.
“As a public safety entity, our number one mission is protecting the public,” Doug Eckenrod said. “The public has an expectation that (the agents) are professional, they’re competent and well-trained. That’s what this is about — providing that competent professional trainer to somebody we’ve given that authority in a public setting.”
DAPO expects to hold another two-week Range Master’s Academy late this year or early next year to fill behind recent retirements.