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Program offers close-up look at police work

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Travis Sheets, 17, searches Tech. Sgt. Chuck Daniels of the 71st Security Forces Squadron here.  Travis began participating in the base's Ride-Along Program when he was 14.  Now, as a member of the Explorer Post, he receives more in-depth law enforcement instruction.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Kent Cummins)

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Travis Sheets, 17, searches Tech. Sgt. Chuck Daniels of the 71st Security Forces Squadron here. Travis began participating in the base's Ride-Along Program when he was 14. Now, as a member of the Explorer Post, he receives more in-depth law enforcement instruction. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kent Cummins)

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. (AFPN) -- The last place most people want to find themselves is in a cop car, but that is exactly where one local teenager found his dream.

Travis Sheets, a 17-year-old Enid High School student, is focused on an Air Force career thanks to his "Ride-Along Program" experience.

The program, managed by 71st Security Forces Squadron airmen here, allows people age 10 and older a chance to get an up-close look at base law enforcement work including building checks, individual searches, arrest procedures and other police duties.

"The Ride-Along Program is an excellent way in which our youth, or other interested community residents, can gain some insight into a career in law enforcement or to better understand the rewards and challenges police officers face on a daily basis," said Maj. William Cannon, 71st SFS commander.

Travis said he has wanted to be a police officer since he was 5 years old. He is a Ride-Along veteran who has participated in the program since he was 14.

"It has given me a real good perspective of everything the Air Force does," he said.

What started as a curiosity for Travis has blossomed into much more and ride-alongs are now common occurrences for him. He is an active member of the base's Boy Scouts of America Explorers Post program. Explorers are allowed a little more freedom to perform, and not just observe, various law enforcement duties, such as helping direct traffic during special events at the base.

"At first I just wanted to be a (civilian) cop, then I started thinking more about the military and the Air Force," said Travis. "Now I want to be in security forces."

"Our Explorers Post members take advantage of the Ride-Along Program on a fairly frequent basis and their feedback is almost always favorable," said Cannon. "It's an excellent recruiting tool for us, and we've found that it also improves our relationships with the community."

The program also can help broaden current airmen's knowledge of the Air Force.

"For instance, if someone works in the military personnel flight but they want to get an insight into the base law enforcement function, they can participate," said Tech. Sgt. Chuck Daniels, 71st SFS quality control noncommissioned officer. "Emergency responders, such as firefighters and paramedics, can also benefit from the Ride-Along Program."

Even squadron commanders have participated in the program, according to Master Sgt. Randy Hessley, 71st SFS operations superintendent.

"It gives people a chance to come out and see what we really do," said Hessley. "A lot of people think military police, and they think Army. But at Vance, we are more geared toward a law enforcement mission."

Being around a military environment is another benefit for some of the younger participants, Daniels added.

Just ask Travis.

"It's taught me about discipline and respect for authority," the 17-year-old said.

"I can honestly say I've watched Travis grow," said Hessley. "He used to be a little rambunctious. He's a good kid. I think the Ride-Along and Explorer programs have helped him." (Courtesy of Air Education and Training Command News Service)

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