NEW ELLENTON - Wackenhut security police officer Casey Petosky is one of Savannah River Site's youngest guns, and also one of its surest shots.
Just six months into the job, the slender 24-year-old former Marine impressed his older, more experienced colleagues by dominating the recent Security Police Officers Training Competition held at SRS, posting a score better than any of the other 127 competitors from across the country. He came away with the Security Police Officer of the Year award.
In a three-day competition that tested shooting accuracy, stamina, coordination and wits, Mr. Petosky showed he knows his way around the obstacle course and firing range, dragging 180-pound sleds, crawling on hands and knees with a gas mask on and sprinting toward a line of targets.
All the while, he did his best to ignore the scores he was posting, and his five teammates just tried not to jinx him.
"They were really excited, watching the scores and rooting me on the whole way," Mr. Petosky said.
Despite his success, Mr. Petosky had never entered a shooting competition. The son of a career Navy man, he grew up around guns and hunted with deer rifles in the woods of York Springs, Pa.
"I had never shot to the extent I shot in the competition, especially with a pistol," he said. "My first major exposure to (the Glock 40) was in class last November."
Mr. Petosky was, however, familiar with the M-4 rifle, a variation of the military's standby, the M-16, which he shot in the Marines.
He enlisted straight out of high school with an eye on a law enforcement career.
"I always had been interested in pursuing that, but I had to be 21 to go to the state police academy, so that's why I decided to go into the military," he said.
After five years of service that included an assignment to Fort Gordon, a friend recommended the Wackenhut job. Mr. Petosky went on to finish at the top of his 23-person training class.
"He's been a great asset from the start," said Mr. Petosky's supervisor, Lt. Greg Wilson. "I think he's got an excellent future with the company - he can basically write his own ticket, depending on where he wants to go."
It's an uncertain time for private security at the nation's nuclear installations, with Department of Energy officials considering partially or fully federalizing security forces. Young, talented recruits such as Mr. Petosky serve as a validation of Wackenhut's training, company spokesman Rob Davis said.
"We work extremely hard not only with the (competition) team, but with everyone out here," he said.
Mr. Petosky is characteristically modest about his early success in the competition.
"Everybody has good days and bad days, and that was a good week for me," he said.