Staff Photo by Thomas J. TurneyCost Guard Officer Ryan Pelchat, Thursday, January 28, 2016.

Staff Photo by Thomas J. TurneyCost Guard Officer Ryan Pelchat, Thursday, January 28, 2016.

No ordinary police officer: Pelchat patrols both land and water

By William F. West

Staff Writer

2 Comments | Leave a Comment

Ryan Pelchat is no ordinary police officer.

That’s because his job is to help patrol and protect Coast Guard Base Elizabeth City.

Pelchat, 24, came to the Harbor of Hospitality this past spring with experience in maritime enforcement. He previously served approximately four years as a boarding team member at Small Boat Station New Haven, Conn., where he also doubled as a member of a tactical crew team.

Asked what he believes makes a good Coast Guard police officer, Pelchat said, “Learning how to talk to people is the biggest one, because you can have all the knowledge in the world, but if you don’t know how to apply it and talk to people, you’re going to have a rough time.” He also cited the importance of patience.

While Pelchat’s duties involve the routines of enforcing speed limits on base and keeping a close eye on the buildings and grounds, he is extra-watchful for any possible trouble on a homeland security base in a post- 9/11 America. He was quick to cite his experience and training as an asset.

“So not only is your awareness heightened, but you know what to look for. You know how to react. You’re more prepared for it,” he said.

Pelchat said he keeps his skills honed by routinely participating in, as examples, active shooter drills, in drills about how to breach buildings and rooms and in drills about what to do if a traffic stop goes wrong. He said he’s a sharpshooter with a pistol and a marksman with a rifle.

Pelchat is a police officer in a tough time for those wearing badges in the land, with social media video showing people protesting against law enforcement. The division has become particularly deep in the aftermaths of the fatal shooting in August 2014 by a then-Ferguson, Missouri, police officer, and in April 2015 by a then-North Charleston, South Carolina, police officer.

Pelchat acknowledged his profession has taken a beating in terms of public relations.

He said he asks himself daily how he can do his part to help improve relations with people. He said he believes the answer is to treat people with respect on every call and at every traffic stop. “And typically, you won’t have any problems, and people really appreciate that. And they see that, too,” he said.

Pelchat is originally from Winston-Salem and he was attending Davidson Community College when a Coast Guard recruiter, with whom he had previously spoken, called him about him signing up. He left the Triad in November 2010.

“I always wanted to be in the military, but I never wanted to be in another country. I always wanted to be in the homeland, per se,” he said.

He said his focus on potentially entering the Coast Guard had come his senior year, at the same time he had been considering becoming a law enforcement officer at the local or state level. He had been a police explorer for a time while in high school and recalled he wanted to work in anti-drug enforcement and help impact peoples’ lives in a positive way.

He said he had always wanted to join the military since he was a boy because he liked the military structure. His father, Mike, had served in the Army; an uncle, Scott Haley, had served in the Air Force and is presently an Air National Guardsman serving in Qatar. Haley is a master sergeant.

Pelchat said he couldn’t pinpoint which branch of the service to choose. He said his father advised him, “Hey, why don’t you think about the Coast Guard?” He said he next researched the Coast Guard and other service branches.

“The Coast Guard really shined out just because of the law enforcement capacity overall,” he said.

After completing boot camp training at Cape May, N.J., he reported for duty at New Haven.

In addition to being part of search and rescue teams, Pelchat’s duties included helping ensure enforcement of fish and game, maritime and safe boating laws. His duties also included helping watch out for and detain anyone who wasn’t supposed to be on American waters and helping turn them over to the proper federal officials for processing.

The second hat he wore while stationed at New Haven included going out at odd hours to conduct security sweeps of major bridges to make sure there weren’t any suspicious people in the area or any people carrying any suspicious packages.

He also was part of a team that would often escort busy vehicle ferries from Port Jefferson on New York’s Long Island to Bridgeport, Conn., with the job specifying anyone in a vessel 500 yards or nearer to a ferry would be halted and questioned.

After serving at New Haven, he went to the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center at Charleston, S.C., and was there for a time before reporting to Base Elizabeth City. He said he’ll be serving in the Harbor of Hospitality until 2019.

Asked about his future plans, he said that he wasn’t completely sure whether he wanted to remain in the Coast Guard, but that presently, “I feel like I want to do 30 years.”

“I mean, it’s a great career. It’s a great environment, great people,” he said.

“And I’m in something that I really love to do. And you’re constantly learning every day,” he said.

Pelchat said that, because he’s a maritime enforcement specialist, his believes options are open, from possibly going on drug busts in the Caribbean or boarding large vessels coming into ports from foreign countries.

He lives in Elizabeth City and is a single father of a 20-month-old daughter. He also has a 2-year-old German Shepherd.

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