Coats is one of 17 new wildlife officers who graduated from the H.C. “Red” Morris Training Center east of Mayflower on Lake Conway.
Coats was born in Hot Springs and grew up in Harrison. He graduated from Harrison High School and did college work at Missouri Southern State University and the University of Arkansas. He served nine years in the United States Marine Corps, two years with the Harrison Police Department and two years with the Bolivar, Mo., Police Department.
He said, “I had applied for a position as an Arkansas state trooper, and my wife brought to my attention that I could combine my two passions, law enforcement and the outdoors, with the Game and Fish Commission.”
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission cadet-training program is directed by Major Jason Parker along with many AGFC enforcement officers and staff members serving as instructors. Other experts participate in the teaching of specialized topics. The cadets were chosen from several hundred applicants. Requirements for wildlife officer cadets include college degrees or law enforcement experience.
The 16-week training course includes police fundamentals related to wildlife work, training in proficiency with a variety of firearms, first aid and rescue basics, drug enforcement procedures and physical conditioning. The new wildlife officers have state commissions as officers with full police authority, as do the other wildlife officers of the AGFC.
Assignment of the new officers will fill several existing vacancies in the AGFC’s enforcement ranks. They will be assigned to wildlife officer positions across the state, working at first under experienced officers.