New Arkansas wildlife officers, from left to right, Keenan Hicks (Columbia County), Bennett Huggins (Cleveland County), Ethan Moore (Phillips County), Michael Neece (Bradley County), Onezean Ravenell (Jefferson County), Dustin Smith (Jackson County), Kelsey Spry (Crawford County), Austin Thomas (Drew County), Michael Tibben (Calhoun County) and Darren Walls (Lee County).

The 2019 class of Arkansas wildlife officers includes Keenan Hicks, who has been assigned to Columbia County.

Hicks, originally from El Dorado, was one of 10 cadets who graduated during a ceremony held July 19 at Antioch Baptist Church in Conway. They completed 18 weeks of instruction at the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s H.C. “Red” Morris Enforcement Training Center at Mayflower.

Cody Hiland, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, was the keynote speaker.

“You’ve been challenged with the protection and care of one of the things that makes Arkansas what it is: Arkansans love hunting and fishing,” Hiland said. “I can’t think of another thing that more fully captures the minds and the hearts of Arkansans than the idea of heading to deer camp for a week, that first morning in a duck blind when the sun’s coming up, fishing for largemouth bass somewhere or wading a creek fishing for trout.

“Today, you’re going to be charged with securing that heritage for our children and our grandchildren – and what a privilege that is, a privilege that comes with a cost.”

In addition to Hicks, the other graduates were Bennett Huggins (Cleveland County), Ethan Moore (Phillips County), Michael Neece (Bradley County), Onezean Ravenell (Jefferson County), Dustin Smith (Jackson County), Kelsey Spry (Crawford County), Austin Thomas (Drew County), Michael Tibben (Calhoun County) and Darren Walls (Lee County).

Col. Greg Rae, AGFC Enforcement Division chief, introduced Smith, 31, who was chosen as class leader.

“We all woke up this morning as game wardens and that’s something to be very proud of,” Smith said.

The 2019 class arrived at the training center March 17 with 16 cadets; 10 graduated.

“As you can see, not all 16 individuals are here with us,” Smith said. “Those six aren’t here for various reasons but, at the end of the day, we lost them because this academy is not easy.”

This year’s 18-week course was a bit longer than most, which run 16 or 17 weeks. It has been as long as 22 weeks, based on class size. The course began in 1984.

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