Brad Clark grew up near Houston and spent a lot of time hunting and fishing with his dad and granddad as a child. Although he thought it might be cool to become a Texas Game Warden when he grew up, he didn’t seriously pursue it.
“Everybody talked about how impossible it was to become a game warden, that hundreds would apply for just a few openings,” said Brad. “So, I set my sights on a more traditional career and initially pursued a business degree.”
After a couple of years of studying business management, he realized that a career cooped up in an office was not what he wanted to do.
“The second half of my college career was totally focused on the end goal of becoming a Texas Game Warden. I met as many game wardens as I could and went on ride-alongs to learn more about it. I graduated from Stephen F. Austin State University in 2007 with a Wildlife Management degree.”
He didn’t get in to the first time he applied and went to work for the Texas Department of Corrections while keeping his eye on the prize. He made it as an alternate the second time he tried and started his training in 2010. He was commissioned as a Texas Game Warden with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in July 2010, ready for the next chapter in his life.
The day he graduated and was pinned as a Texas Game Warden at the state capitol in Austin was one of the most momentous days of his life, made even more memorable by what also happened on that day.
“My girlfriend was with me that day along with my family and there were just a million things going on with the ceremony and everything else,” said Brad. “I had a ring in my pocket, and I wasn’t sure if I was going to do it or not. And then as we were walking on the capitol grounds, I thought that it was a pretty good spot, so I got down on my knee and proposed and she said yes.”
The couple moved to Concho County in Central Texas for his first duty station and two years later he transferred to Smith County in East Texas, where he has been ever since.
Early in his game warden career, Brad was part of the statewide STORM team, a forensics accident reconstruction unit dispatched to all corners of the state to investigate boat accidents. After having two children, Brad decided that was too much travel for his young family, so he turned his attention to the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) unit and signed on as a drone operator.
Since 2017, Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation (TPWF) has provided dozens of new drones for Texas Game Wardens across the state through TPWF’s Gear Up for Game Warden program. Gear Up for Game Wardens provides specialty gear for Texas Game Wardens through private donations. While the state provides the basic necessities for game wardens to do their jobs, there is still a critical need for additional equipment.
Brad recently received some new equipment after a Gear Up for Game Warden fundraiser in Tyler in October 2022. The successful event raised $75,000 which provided specialty gear for Texas Game Wardens in Smith County, including a new thermal drone for Brad.
“These drones are just flying computers, which means the technology is constantly improving. The drone I’ve been working with is perfectly capable, but the newer technology just takes it to the next level. Both the daytime camera and the thermal camera is able to zoom in a lot further. It’s also more weather resistant and can fly in conditions we can’t with the older technology.”
Brad and other Texas Game Wardens have used these thermal drones in many search and rescue situations and these high-tech tools have literally saved lives.
“That’s why many of us become first responders. We want to help people and serve our communities. When we are in a situation to do that and we have a positive outcome, that’s a real good feeling.”
Brad is tremendously appreciative of the many generous donors who have put these life-saving tools at their fingertips.
“I hope all of these donors feel like they have had a direct hand in saving someone’s life. Because without the donors, without their assistance, without their support, we wouldn’t have these tools to protect and serve our communities. We’re very grateful for their support.”