Ellis County Sheriff’s Office Explorer Post 106 brought home multiple trophies, plaques and medals, including third place overall team honors, from the recent Texas Law Enforcement Explorer Advisors Association state competition.

ECSO sent two four-person Explorer teams to the event, which drew 75 teams from across Texas and out-of-state to compete in skill scenarios and individual challenges at the University of Texas at Arlington.

The competition featured 16 different skill scenarios, with each team competing in eight over a two-day period. The individual challenges included Explorer agility, patrol unit obstacle course, bicycle obstacle course and triathlon.

Team A, composed of Explorers Tristan Almanzar, Ross McRee, Coby Paschall and Shelby Snodgress, took second place in crisis negotiation, third place in DWI enforcement and third place in domestic crisis scenarios.

Team B, composed of Explorers Gage Adams, Colten Prater, Brandy Slusher and Trevor Snodgress, took first place in burglary in progress, second place in crime scene investigation, third place in gang activity, third place in officer down rescue and third place in misdemeanor traffic stop scenarios.

The Explorer team of Adams, Prater, Slusher and T. Snodgress was honored as third place overall team in the state competition for its score average and cumulative time across the eight scenarios in which it competed. Rounding out the top five overall were teams from Harris County SO (first place), Plano PD (second place), Dallas PD (fourth) and Arlington PD (fifth).

Several of the ECSO Explorers participated in the individual competitions, with Prater taking first place in the agility event, where he set a new state record with a time of 31 seconds.

“I am very proud of our Explorers,” Ellis County Sheriff Johnny Brown said. “I’m proud of them for their achievements at the state competition but I’m even more proud of how these young men and women have handled several challenges that came their way during the past year.

“Ours is a young post that has had to rebuild after a change in advisors and after several experienced members chose to exit the program,” Brown said. “This makes our Explorers’ accomplishments at the state competition all the more remarkable.”

Explorer Advisor, Deputy Jeff Prater, took over the post and about five youth less than a year ago. “Most of our Explorers are rookies,” Prater said. “Only three – Colten, Coby and Trevor – have more than a year and a half of experience in Exploring. We lost a couple, gained some and, right now, we’re sitting at about 12 kids.”

In preparing the Explorers for the state competition, Prater said he told them, “The most important thing is to go out there and have fun. Give it 100-percent because, if you do, you can be proud of your name on that paper.”

“I told the kids that, if we don’t win a single trophy, as long as they can look me in the eye and tell me they gave it their best then I’m happy,” said Prater, who was “pleasantly surprised” with his teams’ placement when considering their overall inexperience.

The judges’ score sheets included praise for the two ECSO Explorer teams’ teamwork and communication skills in working through the different scenarios.

“They were really impressed with them,” said Prater, who’s admittedly proud of the Explorers but who also notes that prizes aren’t the goal.

“Winning awards and plaques is not nearly as important as learning life lessons,” Prater said. “We would rather they learn and not win a single trophy. (Competition wins) are not what we care about and not what the world is about.”

Assistant Advisors, Deputies Ella Cheek and Ryan Connelly, helped at the state competition.

“They’re a great team,” said Cheek, who worked with Team A. “They’re a great team and communicated well. I saw their teamwork in every scenario as they strategized. I’m glad I got to be a part of the competition.”

Connelly, who worked with Team B, also noted the Explorers’ communication skills and teamwork during the competition.

“They did well in all of the scenarios,” he said. “It’s been fun to work with them.”

Prater, who was just elected to a two-year term as secretary of the TLEEAA board, said the association has plans to continue improving the state experience, possibly including another day of competition to allow Explorers to compete in 12 of the 16 scenarios for which they train.

Prater expressed his appreciation to Post 106’s assistant advisors, parents and scenario actors who helped out at the state competition, along with the ECSO Training Division Deputies and Ellis County-based State Troopers, who volunteered their time to assist with the traffic investigation scenario.

“It’s very obvious to me that there are so many people who care about the Exploring program and care about our youth,” he said. “They know how important it is to keep our kids going the right way.”

Prater says his Explorers will spend the next few training sessions hearing from different speakers, including representatives from the FBI, ATF, U.S. Secret Service and the Texas Rangers. A field trip to the U.S. Marshal’s Office also is planned in the near future.

“We want to bring in different aspects of law enforcement and open up a whole world for the Explorers to see and experience,” Prater said.

The Explorers will then resume their scenario training in preparation for competitions later this fall and winter. Interested youth are invited to attend any of the ECSO Explorer meetings, which are held at 6 p.m. every Tuesday at the Law Enforcement Center, located at 2272 Farm-to-Market 878, Waxahachie, TX, 75165, (at the County Farm on Farm-to-Market 878), east of U.S. Highway 287.

Reach the program supervisor, Deputy Jeff Prater, by emailing jeff.prater@co.ellis.tx.us or by calling 972-825-4934.