From Eagle Scout to Park Ranger Director: A 20-Year Journey in Law Enforcement and Resource Protection

From Eagle Scout to Park Ranger Director: Michael O’Connor's Journey and the Call to Protect Our Natural Treasures

My name is Michael O’Connor, and I received my Eagle Scout in 1997 with Troop 1565 in Washington State. I am now the Director of the Park Ranger Law Enforcement Academy at Northern Arizona University, and I wanted to share about my experience in Scouting and how it helped shape a 20-year career in Law Enforcement and how some of you may find your way into working in the Resource Protection career field with one of our tremendous land management agencies.

As a young scout, I found myself enjoying the incredible outdoors that the Pacific Northwest has to offer. I traveled many miles on foot with a 40-pound pack through Olympic National Park, North Cascades National Park, and numerous areas managed by the United States Forest Service. I was very fortunate that my troop had excellent adult role models who shared with us their passion for the outdoors and instilled the value of Scouting. I always asked myself, “who protects these places? Who protects the people that are out here enjoying the wilderness?”

As I progressed through Scouting, I took on leadership roles that helped shape the man that I would later become. I became a member of the Order of the Arrow and then went on to earn my Eagle Scout. Joining the ranks of Eagle Scout has been a life-changing experience. Throughout my career and life as an adult, I frequently look back upon my days in Scouting with pride and a sense of accomplishment. Still to this day, I have on my professional work resume that I am an Eagle Scout.

It wasn’t until I decided to attend Northern Arizona University that I learned that the protector of our parks and forests are the people of the National Park Service, US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. NAU offered a program through their Parks and The Recreation Management Department trained these individuals on how to do these jobs safely, efficiently and with compassion.

Now over 20 years after completing this same program I am proud to say that I am the Director of the Park Ranger Law Enforcement Academy at Northern Arizona University. I have come full circle. I am now able to be a part of the incredible program that NAU has that was created by those who came before me and instill a passion for public safety, the outdoors, and education.

I challenge each of you to continue to live by the Scout Oath, to accept a duty to your country, to help other people at all times, to stay strong, to focus on your mental health and strength, and to follow your moral compass. Public safety and Natural Resource Law Enforcement agencies are looking for community members who possess these qualities and strengths to protect our national treasures and landscapes for all to enjoy. I would encourage you to explore Northern Arizona University and become the next generation of students at the Park Ranger Law Enforcement Academy.

Michael O’Connor, Eagle Scout 1997