Bismarck resident always looking at big picture

By Wayne Bryan Originally Published August 18, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated August 16, 2013 at 12:19 p.m.
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Hannah Keller

Jeff Crow, new deputy director for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, holds a plaque that was given to him by the noncommissioned officers of Fox Battery, 2nd Battalion, 14th Marines. The officers presented the plaque to Crow when he was a guest speaker at a dinner hosted by the battalion.

When Jeff Crow was approached earlier this summer by Mike Knoedl, director of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, about becoming the agency’s deputy director, Crow realized he was being asked to take on a role with a new perspective.

“After asking if I was interested, his next question was, did I have someone ready to take my place?” said Crow, who was then serving as chief of the enforcement division of Game and Fish. “I knew that I was being asked not only for leadership, but that I would need to focus on looking 10, 20 or 30 years down the road.”

The Bismarck resident was announced as the commission’s new deputy director on July 30. In making the announcement, Knoedl called Crow a true leader.

“Jeff’s extensive leadership experience is invaluable to this agency,” Knoedl said. “I expect great things from him.”

Crow said he did already have someone in mind, and 10 days after Crow was named deputy director, Todd Callaway of Hamburg, who has been a wildlife officer for 29 years and was assistant chief of enforcement, was named the new chief.

Crow said he believes his varied professional experience has been preparing him for his new job all along.

“All I’ve have been learning in

my career has brought me to this

point,” he said. “But I still have much to learn.”

Throughout his career as a Marine, a police officer, a law enforcement trainer, a wildlife officer with the AGFC and his duties over the past year as head of the agency’s enforcement division, Crow has always moved into positions where he had an impact on the mission and future of the organizations he served.

Crow was born in California. His father was one of many Arkansans who moved away to find work in the late 1950s. His father met and married a Californian, but in 1969 returned to DeRouse, in Hot Spring County, with his wife, son and three daughters.

Crow’s mother ran a grocery store on Arkansas 84, and his father worked at Acme Brick near Malvern. The family lived above the store. Business was brisk at times, Crow said, because of lost travelers.

“In those days, I-30 stopped at the Social Hill exit, and lots of folks headed to Texas would get lost and take Highway 84,” Crow said. “One day a prison escapee also took the wrong road and stopped at the store. He was robbing Mom when Dad walked in from the back, and the guy shot him in the chest.”

His father survived, and the shooter was captured and returned to prison with new charges.

As a young man, Crow said, he played football and wanted to be a coach, but perhaps his future in law enforcement was shaped by the shooting incident.

Football was an important part of his life. He played as a defensive lineman for the Bismarck High School Lions.

“They were a good team there under coach Clarence Wooten,” Crow said. “I was just carried along in their glory.”

He played on the undefeated team of 1984, the first from the school to make the playoffs. He said his coach was a major figure in his life.

“Coach was hard on me,” Crow said. “A few years, later when I got to Marine boot camp, those drill sergeants didn’t intimidate me.”

After graduating from high school, Crow said, he didn’t have any clear direction of what he would do. Like many young men who were unsure of a direction at that stage in life, he joined the armed forces.

“I had been talking to the Air Force recruiter, but it didn’t seem like a good fit,” Crow said. “I felt I had been built for tougher times, so when I walked into the recruiting office, instead of turning left to the Air Force recruiter, who probably had my papers ready to sign, I turned right — the Marine recruiter was there.”

His first billet as a Marine was as a radio operator in a rifle platoon.

“I carried a radio and a rifle,” Crow said. “I was out on my own for the

first time, but I had a structured environment, and I think it was good for me.”

His unit was sent to Japan but was also deployed around the Western Pacific, including Korea.

“We were in the first Operation

Bear hunt, an exercise with the South Korean Army,” Crow said. “Being up near the DMZ (the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea) was surreal. We were camped there for an exercise, and we would hear real shooting erupt.”

After his active duty, Crow joined the Reserve in Arkansas and spent 12 years as as a member of the 3rd Brigade, 23rd Marines. The unit was called into active duty for Operation Desert Storm, and he was sent to Kuwait City as leader of a machine-gun squad.

“We got to take part in the invasion, but we were the last to go into the breech,” Crow said.

Members of the Reserve unit saw little action as they guarded supplies and camps behind the attacking force, Crow explained.

Crow returned to the Middle East for Operation Iraqi Freedom II in 2004 as a first sergeant with a Reserve unit out of Springfield, Mo. While in Iraq, he was promoted to sergeant major, the highest enlisted field rank in the Marine Corps. He was the senior enlisted man at the battalion level, reporting directly to the unit commander. The position is tasked with discipline and morale of unit personnel.

“It was the highpoint of my career to be an infantry sergeant major and to be promoted in a combat zone,” he said. “It was an honor to fill the role as ‘the Old Man’ of the brigade.”

Crow retired from the Marines in 2007.

His military career ran parallel with his career in law enforcement. In 1986, he joined the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission as a wildlife officer.

“In those days they wanted you away from your home area where you might have conflicts with local people on the job, and I was sent to Newport,” Crow said. “It was very different in the Delta. I knew nothing about commercial fishing or waterfowl hunting. We hunt turkey, deer and squirrel.”

However, the policy of moving personnel away from their homes changed, and he returned to Hot Spring County, where he worked for nine years.

In 1996, he joined the Arkansas State Police.

“I thought the grass was greener there, and I wanted to be involved in traditional law enforcement that had an impact in the community,” Crow said. “When I was first with [Arkansas Game and Fish], the wildlife officers were limited in what they could do. Until the ’90s, they had no arrest authority except for hunting and fishing violations. Now sheriffs and police consider wildlife officers partners in law enforcement, but who also have a primary role in conservation.”

With the State Police, Crow was sent to Batesville, where he handled traffic stops and made criminal arrests. By 1998, he came back home as an investigator for Hot Spring and Garland counties. He worked on major public corruption cases and a homicide that made headlines.

Later he was moved to Little Rock, where he trained new troopers and tactical squads.

“Because of my training in the Marines, I also did in-service training in critical firearms skills.”

After 25 years in the force, he “changed gears,” he said, and was an instructor with the Criminal Justice Institute of the University of Arkansas, which provides free training for law enforcement officers around the state .

Also, while serving as a Marine, a wildlife officer and a State Police officer, Crow earned a college degree.

“It was over a long time,” he said. “I was in the classes of 1987 to 2007. I started at Garland County Community College and got my degree in management from John Brown University.”

Crow said he wanted to show his children that he could finish something he had started, even at age 40.

“It was also a turning point in my career,” he said. “The degree opened so many doors for me.”

In 2011, he was approached about leading the enforcement division at the AGFC.

“It was not on my radar, but I

applied and started in February 2012,” Crow said.

Having gone from Marine sergeant to AGFC colonel, he said, his job was to “equip his employees with what they need to be successful.”

Today, the agency’s officers are full law-enforcement officers able to assist other agencies.

“It is notable that one of our officers was awarded the National Public Safety Medal of Valor,” Crow said, “a national award given by the president and attorney general.”

As for his new assignment, the deputy director said, he is going to take in the big picture.

“I am going to look over the horizon and get ready for the next step and new challenges,” he said. “Externally, that is working at ways to capture the interest of upcoming generations in hunting and fishing.”

Crow said the agency will always strive to balance the needs of the state’s natural resources and the desires of the those who want to enjoy the nature around them.

“We will look at what we provide to the entire state and help tell that story to our citizens,” he said. “We can call on a broad group of people here who are very good at telling that story.”

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or at wbryan@arkanasasoline.com.

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

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