Anastasia Varela was one happy camper last Saturday morning in Narragansett.
Surprisingly, her jubilation wasn’t because Varela enjoyed S’mores by a bon fire, spent some time swimming at the beach and successfully climbed the Army’s famous rock wall at Camp Varnum, the Rhode Island National Guard’s seaside training facility that overlooks the Atlantic Ocean.
Varela, as well as Warwick Police officer Geoffrey Waldman and other members of the Warwick Police Department, were overjoyed when Lt. Patrick McMahon, who directs the Rhode Island Law Enforcement Explorer Academy, announced Varela as the 2019 winner of the weeklong session’s prestigious Physical Agility Award.
However, as Waldman said with a wide smile on his face, “This is the third year in a row Anastasia has won this tremendous award.”
Varela, who just graduated from West Warwick High School and is only 18 years old, finished ahead of 79 other Explorers to capture an unprecedented third consecutive Physical Agility honor.
She was one of four Post 327 cadets who attended the often grueling sessions and received the coveted award during Saturday’s military-like graduation ceremony that attracted an audience of more than 200 proud parents and friends.
Likewise, Waldman was assisted during the seven-day session by Post 327 advisors Sgt. James Michailides, Officer Brian Chianese and Officer Al Melucci, who once directed the WPD sponsored and coordinated program and is now the Resource Officer at Pilgrim High School.
“We’re all very proud of what our Explorers accomplished during this camp,” Waldman offered. “It’s no picnic; the week-long program that involves rigorous training and physical stress as any para-military type academy would entail and operates on a 24-hour basis for seven days at Camp Varnum.”
Post 327, as noted, had four Explorers – Varela, Gabriel Brophy-Curran, Sarah Corbin and Erin Pestasna – who successfully completed the camp and were among the record-setting 80 cadets that represented 10 posts throughout Rhode Island who graduated Saturday.
As Waldman emphasized, the Explorer Camp is difficult at times and is actually part of the Boy Scouts of America for youngsters ages 14 to 20 who have at one time or another expressed an interest in pursuing law enforcement as a career.
“The Explorers began their day at 5 a.m. with a wake-up call from [East Providence PD] Lt. David Pacheco putting them through their exercises as they watched the sun come up over Beavertail,” Waldman noted.
During last week’s academy the Explorers attended classes each day with such topics as defensive tactics, crime scene investigations, criminal law and procedure, a demonstration by the RI State Bomb Squad and a demonstration on how police K-9’s are used for tracking of lost or wanted persons and illegal substance detection.
To date, the WPD’s Explorer Post has 20 cadets and the program, as Waldman explained, runs from September to May/June and meets on Wednesday nights from 6:30 to 9. If anyone is interested in joining, they can go to the department’s website, www.warwickpd.org, and fill out an application.