For Immediate Release
January 11, 1999

Contact: Tom MacKenzie
404/679-7291

USFWS LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENTS CONDUCT WEAPONS
  REQUALIFICATION AT THE PIEDMONT NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Deputy Assistant Regional Director for Law Enforcement Mike Elkins (L) and Assistant Regional Director for Law Enforcement, Monty Halcomb (R) check out the number of "hits" on a target at Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge, near Macon, GA. USFWS Special Agents are required to qualify in a complex firing sequence designed to simulate actual engagement situations.

These involve accurately engaging targets with their SIG SAUER handguns (9mm, .40 cal or .45 cal) in a specified time. In one scenario, for example, agents must draw and fire their weapons to hit targets twice within three seconds.

Other examples involve firing with opposite hand, from behind cover, and from varying positions and distances to the target.

"Our agents and officers are issued firearms strictly for defensive purposes, and all of our training stresses a defensive posture," said Halcomb. "None of us wants to experience an armed conflict, but we know that risk is always present and we have to be prepared to use whatever force is reasonable and necessary to control the situation, including engaging a criminal in a gunfight."

Halcomb went on to say that conservation law enforcement has been reported to have one of the highest assault rates with deadly weapons of any enforcement group.

"The majority of the people we contact are in remote areas recreating with firearms," said Halcomb. "When these factors are combined with night conditions, hostile individuals, no backup, and perhaps drugs or alcohol, the potential for armed conflict increases substantially."

In order to qualify, a Special Agent has to place a minimum of 80% of his or her shots in the "stop zone" -- the center-of-mass within the target. Elkins and Halcomb both qualified during this range session in December 1998.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employs about 200 Special Agents nationwide to enforce U.S. conservation laws. These Special Agents investigate a wide range of wildlife-related crime including smuggling, unlawful commercial trade in national and global wildlife resources, illegal interstate and international transportation of fish, wildlife or plants; instances of harm to, or the killing of, endangered species, and wildlife mortality due to environmental contaminants.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish and wildlife and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System comprising more than 500 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries and 78 ecological services field stations.

The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state wildlife agencies.

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Release #: R99-004


1999 News Releases

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