Fifteen wildlife officer cadets celebrated graduation from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s training program July 6.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson was the keynote speaker at the celebration held at Antioch Baptist Church.

The 2018 graduates and their location assignments are: Tyler A. Barber, Calhoun County; Christopher B. Crawford, Bradley County; Aaron P. Dillard, Ashley County; Blake S. Forga, Sevier County; Chad H. Herndon, Yell County; Tyler L. Hill, Lafayette County; Dustin C. Houart, St. Francis County; Matthew A. Malone, Mississippi County; Douglas F. Martisek, Union County; Brandon R. Motley, Crawford County; Barry C. Robinson, Nevada County; Joseph K. Turner, Johnson County; Kurt A. VanMatre, Crawford County; Andrew L. Watson, Lafayette County; and Keenan W. Wilson, Lee County.

“In Arkansas, wildlife officers are certified law enforcement. They enforce state law as well as wildlife law. Much of their job includes keeping the woods and waters safe, and that requires the authority to make arrests for criminal cases as well as wildlife code violations, according to the release.

Assignment of the new officers will fill several vacancies in the AGFC enforcement ranks, according to the release.

“Most people don’t appreciate the amount of training and knowledge we require for our wildlife officers,” Hutchinson said. “In addition to the core requirements it takes to be considered a cadet and go into the training, it requires 16 weeks of training in the classroom and the field, experts you have to become in 90 different subjects, and you’re not simply checking licenses and deer tags and running down poachers.”