24-hour Green Mile tests VU Conservation Law Enforcement students' endurance, skills and knowledge

24-hour Green Mile tests VU Conservation Law Enforcement students' endurance, skills and knowledge

A group of Conservation Law Enforcement students stand in front of shelter they built with natural materials.

April 25, 2023

VINCENNES, Ind. – A group of 24 Vincennes University Conservation Law Enforcement students participated in a grueling 24-hour exercise known as the “Green Mile” putting their physical and mental endurance and course knowledge to the test.  

VU Conservation Law Enforcement students kneeling behind fire they build.The “Green Mile” began on Wednesday, April 19, with a fitness assessment that included a 1.5-mile run, push-ups, sit-ups, and a 300-meter dash. The students then engaged in a full day of real-world scenarios, land navigation, and wilderness survival training. They underwent swim tests and water survival drills at the VU Aquatic Center before participating in night operations and vehicle stops.

The exact details of the exercise were kept a mystery, but it was confirmed that there was a surprise activity leading up to the sunrise. The mystery activity was a 4:30 a.m. mock search and rescue mission for a missing person. They hunted for clues, treated the victim for injuries, and carried him out of the woods.

The event included a 3.5-mile ruck along the Wabash River waterfront that finished at Kimmell Park. Despite the demanding nature of the exercise, all 24 students successfully completed the challenge that culminated around 7 a.m. on Thursday, April 20.

Conservation Law Enforcement Major Brecken Helsley '23 reflected on the experience and shared his excitement about the challenge. 

“The 'Green Mile' was a very fun and tiring event that I believe sharpened some of the learned skills from class by allowing us to use them in real-world scenarios,” he said. “This ranged from stopping hunters who are hunting illegally to orienteering using a map and a compass to navigate to search and rescue and survival skills.”

Two males building a tentThe knowledge and skills are the foundation for the Bedford, Indiana, native’s aspirations of pursuing a career with the National Park Service as a law enforcement park ranger and attending its academy in Colorado in the fall.

“Being involved in some of these skills allowed me to realize what is actually possible and what isn’t in these types of situations which made me a more reasonable planner and a more reliable person in stressful situations,” Helsley said.

VU Conservation Law Enforcement Department Program Chair and VU alumnus Eric Doane draws upon the 29 years he served as an Indiana Conservation Officer when designing the exercises and scenarios. The retired officer introduced this unique hands-on learning event in 2022, and portions of the Green Mile take place across the Wabash River from the Vincennes Campus at Robeson Hills, a 545-acre outdoor laboratory and environmental education site managed by VU that includes a nature preserve.

Doane said, "The 'Green Mile' was created to give the students a real-world experience of what a conservation officer does and the extensive training that goes into the career. Although the 24-hour event is exhausting and uncomfortable at times, the students truly get a sense of accomplishment as they face many challenges and push through to the end. I am very proud of this group of students!’’

VU Conservation Law Enforcement students doing water survival drills at VU Aquatic CenterKylee Shelton '22, who participated in the ‘Green Mile’ last year, discovered she was capable of more than she ever thought possible. The Conservation Law Enforcement alum from Bloomfield, Indiana, offered advice to current students.

“I was super excited for the ‘Green Mile’,” Shelton said. “The experiences I gained from the 'Green Mile' are a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and it looks good on a resume. Instead of sitting in a room all day and watching videos, we got the opportunity to put everything we learned into real scenarios. It puts in perspective how difficult and determined you have to be to want to do this kind of work/career. What I took away from the 'Green Mile' was never stop and keep pushing yourself even when you are exhausted mentally and physically.”

College of Business and Public Service Dean Susan Brocksmith also commented on the importance of real-world learning. 

"The ‘Green Mile' is just one of the ways we prepare our students for any situation they may face in life. It's a challenging exercise, but it's also an opportunity for our students to develop resilience, teamwork, and leadership skills," Brocksmith said.

VU Conservation Law Enforcement students running at VU's track

In today's world, conservation law officers play a vital role in ensuring the protection and preservation of our natural resources. These professionals are responsible for enforcing laws and regulations related to wildlife, fisheries, and environmental protection.

VU's Conservation Law Enforcement program provides students with the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in this challenging and rewarding profession.

Learn more about VU’s Conservation Law Enforcement degrees by clicking HERE

Go HERE to see a Green Mile Photo Gallery

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