Rutherford Sheriff's Explorers capture top awards at Winterfest competition

Feb 11, 2020 at 10:00 am by Lisa Marchesoni

Rutherford County Sheriff's Explorers

Rutherford County Sheriff’s Explorers captured four top 10 spots during the regional Boy Scouts Winterfest competition this weekend in Gatlinburg.

Adviser Deputy Andy Pugh said the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Explorers competed against 25-30 other teams in each event. About 110 Explorer Posts from the U.S. participated in the competition.

“I am proud of their work ethic and their manners,” Pugh said. “We received several compliments from different agencies on how they performed and acted. I was proud of their teamwork in achieving the top places in the competition.”

Winners and their categories are:

  • First place: Capt. Malia Xayachack and Lt. Patrick Burns in interview and interrogation.
  • Third place: Capt. Malia Xayachack and Cpl. Evan Myers in DUI stops.
  • Fifth place: Sgt. Arielle Cooper and Cpl. Louann Braunwalder in drug identification.
  • Ninth place: Explorers Caleb Jones, Brian Shockey, Savannah Bowman and Iziah Maxwell in felony stops.

Rutherford County Sheriff’s Explorers train and practice for the competition all year in their weekly meetings. Sheriff’s deputies and detectives helped with the training.

The Explorers Post is open for students ages 14-21 who have completed 8th grade. Students must maintain a minimum C average, earn community service hours and attend meetings every Thursday night.

“If you are interested in law enforcement or criminal justice, this is the perfect learning environment,” Pugh said. “Explorers go through classroom and practical training, perform community service and work as a team. We train together and get knowledge together.”

Xayachack, who has been an Explorer four years, said the group teaches confidence that allows her to learn skills and talk to anyone.

“It creates a solid foundation for joining any law enforcement agency,” Xayachack said. “It helps you build your skills, help in life and in other jobs.”

Former Explorer and sheriff’s office Deputy Matthew Dougan now serves as a Military Police officer with the U.S. Army in Germany.

The Explorers Post training in law enforcement knowledge and tactics of standardized field sobriety tests, domestic violence response and communications skills helped Dougan excel as a deputy and then while training for the military police.

“At Explorers, we trained doing scenarios that put us on the spot and under pressure,” Dougan said. “Being in Explorers the most makes you responsible and teaches you discipline. One of the most important things I have taken from the post is teamwork. We do a lot of community work and that has prepared me in dealing with the military community.”

Pugh said several Explorers became law enforcement officers at the Sheriff’s Office and the Tennessee Highway Patrol.

Students interested in joining the Explorers may contact Pugh at or 615-427-2220.

Photo: Explorers and their advisers post their awards after competing in the annual Boy Scouts Winterfest last weekend in Gatlinburg. From left, front row, are Adviser Deputy Andy Pugh, Sgt. Arielle Cooper, Cpl. Louann Braunwalder, Capt. Malia Xayachack and Explorers Iziah Maxwell and Hannah Bowman and Adviser Kaitlyn West; back row, Sgt. Jimmy Cassidy, Explorer Brian Shockey, Cpl. Evan Myers, Lt. Patrick Burns, Explorer Caleb Jones and Adviser Deputy James Morton.


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