The Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP) held its annual award ceremony to recognize the achievements made by conservation law enforcement officers in 2021. The annual event was held on May 14 at Anne Arundel Community College. 

Maryland NRP Superintendent Col. Adrian Baker and Deputy Superintendent Lt. Col. Robert Kersey, with the NRP Color Guard, open the awards ceremony Credit: Maryland DNR

“It is important that we recognize and award the many contributions our officers make,” NRP Superintendent Col. Adrian Baker said. “They are not only sworn to protect our precious natural resources but provide public safety. I’m proud to say our agency consists of committed and courageous men and women dedicated to protecting and serving. I appreciate their devotion to the Maryland Natural Resources Police.”

Individual officers and staff that were honored were:

Corporal Brian Hunt and Officer First Class Jacob Gerczak were awarded the Medal of Valor, the agency’s highest award.

Corporal Hunt, an NRP diver, rescued a man from beneath a capsized boat in the Chesapeake Bay, saving his life.

Officer First Class Jacob Gerczak Credit: Maryland DNR

Officer Gerczak prevented two separate suicide attempts within two months, including saving one woman who jumped into frigid waters and talking with another woman until she safely stepped down from a bridge.

Officer First Class Nathaniel Minnick, assigned to the Western Region, was named the 2021 Officer of the Year for his rigorous pursuit of violators of Maryland’s wildlife laws.

Officer First Class Nathaniel Minnick. Credit: Maryland DNR

Officer First Class Jeremy Ryan, who patrols the Upper Eastern Shore, was selected as the Conservation Officer of the Year. He was also awarded the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Fishing and Boating Services Officer of the Year and Shikar Safari Wildlife award for his proactive enforcement efforts. 

Officer First Class Jeremy Ryan. Credit: Maryland DNR

Officer First Class Thomas Burt of the Lower Eastern Shore was honored as Boating Safety Officer of the Year. He received an additional award presented by DNR Fishing and Boating Services.

Officer First Class Thomas Burt. Credit: Maryland DNR

Sergeant Sean Wiles was awarded the Support Services/Special Services Officer of the Year award for his commitment and dedication. Sgt. Wiles is an essential part of coordinating events involving NRP’s police academy.

Corporal Erica Garver, assigned to the Western Region, was awarded the Maryland Park Service Officer of the Year. 

Twenty-eight officers received the Award of Merit, the second-highest honor, for actions that saved lives on the water and on land: Officer Charles Tyler, Officer Charles McCauley, Officer Charles Wheatley, Officer Albert Leavell, Officer Robert Offenbacker, Officer Liam D’Aoust, Officer Joseph Gukanovich, Sgt. Robert Bakeoven, Officer Jacob Gerczak, Officer Andrew Blickenstaff, Sgt. B.C. Miller, Officer Gannon Lyons, Corporal Bernard Haberkam, Officer Shane Falconer, Corporal Timothy Fabian, Corporal Christopher Stancliff, Officer Racquel Kavanaugh, Officer Andrew Cummins, Officer Connor Heavner, and Sergeant Jacob Coxon. 

Additional awards included the unit citation, which recognizes a specific area or district for superior performance; the superintendent’s letter of appreciation; and the superintendent’s commendation. 

During the ceremony, multiple officers who received promotions were also honored. As family and friends watched, each officer accepted their award and was praised for their high achievement and going beyond the call of duty to serve. 

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