Conley tells of "intense" academy experience
Texas Game Warden Dillan Conley came to the weekly meeting of the Colorado City Lions Club, as he was the guest speaker. He reported to Lions about what it’s like to become a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Game Warden.
Conley said that applicants need to be aware of certain requirements before applying. All applicants must be at least 21 years old, be a U.S. citizen with a bachelor’s degree. They must also have a valid driver’s license and clean background. There are other tests that must be passed before submitting an application to the TPWD, including a psychological and physical condition exam, along with screenings for hearing, vision and drug use.
Conley came to Colorado City right out of the academy last August. He started the process in February of 2015 and was officially accepted in October 2015. He spent seven months, or 30 weeks, at the training center in Hamilton County. A total of 1195 candidates submitted applications and only 41 candidates made it through the academy and received job offers.
Out of the 1195, only 950 applicants went through the basic PT test where they had to run, do sit-ups, do push-ups, and complete a swim test.
During the interview process, another major weeding-out occurred and only 482 candidates made the cut. The interview process consisted of completing a personal history statement and going before an interview board with three game wardens of various ranks and answering questions.
The background investigation portion included extensive background checks where personal history statements were checked and copies of driver’s licenses, birth certificates, college transcripts, military records and credit records were checked. When that part of the application process was completed, there were only 155 applicants to make the cut.
Conley said the next step was for cadets to be ranked based on what had been learned from background checks, and the number dropped to 142. After a review by a Colonel, Lt. Colonel and Director of HR, only 131 applicants were still on the list.
In October of 2015, Conley received his conditional job offer from the agency, and the number of applicants dropped to 43 after the physical test and psychological test. Conley said each candidate could accept or deny the invitation to go to the academy, and only 41 chose to accept.
The lengthy process leads up to the actual academy which was “intense”, Conley said. The 200-acre academy is still under construction on donated land. Conley said it is a huge facility that has all the amenities to give cadets the situations they may experience as game wardens in the field.
Conley showed a slide of what the average week of a cadet entailed and Lions were surprised to learn that after completing a very long, busy day, cadets still had to clean and study for the next test.
“We were extremely busy,” Conley said. “It was intense!”
During academy, other game wardens and personnel would visit to take part in the training. There was a lot of role-playing and Conley said some played the part of someone nice and some played the part of someone who’s angry and mean.
Part of the training included qualifying with firearms at the gun range and time in the Fire Arms Training Simulator that provides training for decision-making skills.
Water survival is also a big part of cadet training, as it is of the utmost importance to learn to fight and perform rescues while fully clothed in the water. Cadets are also taught breathing strategies which helps them learn to stay underwater longer. Swift water training is also practiced and even the training is quite dangerous but also important to learn.
There’s a driving course, and cadets get plenty of practice on learning to control a vehicle. Conley said he particularly enjoyed the driving.
“It’s a ton of fun!” he said.
Cadets were well-educated on handling wildlife, and Conley said he got to grab a big, mean alligator. There were so many aspects to the training that it was obvious Lions were only getting a taste of what it may have been like.
Conley said he was pleased to get word he was being sent to Mitchell County, as it was one of the top destinations on his list. Cadets get to turn in a wish list of locations, but the agency sends them where they may be the best fit. Conley said that over 30 went to Texas-Mexico border.
Out of the 41 graduates, two were female game wardens. There are over 530 game wardens in Texas.
Conley said that he’s made contact with over 500 dove hunters and 400 deer hunters during his time here, and he’s had great experiences.
“It’s been a very great year of people following the law,” Conley said.