LITTLE ROCK – The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission honored 20 wildlife officers for their dedicated service to the natural resources and the people of Arkansas during its Fifth Annual Enforcement Awards Banquet in Little Rock March 13. The banquet recognizes officers from across the state who have gone above and beyond the call of duty during the previous year.

AGFC Director Pat Fitts spoke to all in attendance about the sense of pride that comes with leading such a fantastic group of individuals.

“Most of the men and women honored here today will tell you, ‘I was just doing my job,’ for the actions that brought these awards, but I think it’s important for us as an agency to recognize them for going above and beyond,” Fitts said.

Commission Chairman Steve Cook, who had a short career in law enforcement before his current business, also spoke at the ceremony, commending all officers on their professionalism in the face of adversity.

“You have to deal with a lot out there every day, the good and the bad,” Cook said. “Sometimes they’re your friends, and sometimes they’re not so friendly. And you continually soar to a higher level. That’s the integrity of a great organization – doing what’s right."

Wildlife Officers Sydney Grant and Cody Standifer from the AGFC Hope Regional Office were both honored with the Warden’s Star, an award for an act of heroism involving an unusual situation that required immediate action and the use of good judgement, ingenuity and exceptional tactics to prevent an incident from escalating. Grant and Standifer were the first on the scene at Millwood Lake on Nov. 18, 2017, when winds up to 70 miles per hour and a temperature shift of nearly 40 degrees caused extreme conditions during the opening day of waterfowl season. Many avid duck hunters attempted to launch on the lake that morning, despite life-threatening conditions. Grant and Standifer responded to a report of a boating accident on the lake in their boat. Once at the area where the incident was believed to occur, they were unable to locate any victims. Their own boat was in danger of becoming disabled from the wind and waves, so they were forced to make their way to the nearest boat ramp. Once at the ramp, they heard and saw an individual clinging to a stump 600 yards from the bank. They and fellow officer Cpl. Keith Teague jumped back in the boat and pulled the victim from the water. Due to their quick actions and attention, the victim escaped the deadly situation with only stiff legs from the cold water.

Other individuals receiving Certificates of Commendation were as follows:

• Capt. Chris Carpenter and Wildlife Officer Bradley Huggins from the AGFC Hot Springs Regional Office – For locating and consoling an individual on the brink of suicide and getting him to a medical facility to receive the help he needed.

• Lt. Mike Nast and Wildlife Officer Dusty Kirkpatrick from the AGFC Mayflower Office – For the cold-water rescue of two commercial anglers from the Arkansas River.

• Sgt. Jeremy Whiley, Sgt. Steve Paul, Wildlife Officer Adam Baker and Wildlife Officer Tyler Webb from the AGFC Hot Springs Regional Office for the rescue of 15 people and four pets from a condominium fire on Lake Hamilton via boat.

• Cpl. Jay Hagans and Wildlife Officer Brian Tatum from the AGFC Calico Rock Regional Office – For the swift-water rescue of two kayakers stranded on the Archey Fork of the Little Red River during heavy current and high rain.

• Sgt. John Partain, Sgt. Ronnie White, Cpl. Jeff Neel, Cpl. Dennis Hovarter, Cpl. Blake Broomfield, Cpl. Keith Teague and Wildlife Officer Andrew Watson from the Hope Regional Office – For their combined efforts during extremely high winds on Millwood Lake, resulting in the rescue of eight individuals from three separate boating accidents on the water in one day.