It was 18 years ago when Scott Ouillette got his start at the Chaves County Sheriff’s Office as a deputy, but even before then, his experience with law enforcement began with the military.
At 17 years old, Ouillette was determined to join the Army as an infantryman. While his veteran parents thought otherwise, he managed to find a way.
“(I) wanted to sign up as airborne infantry, but needing my parents’ approval, my mother absolutely refused to sign the papers for anything having to do with the infantry,” Ouillette said. “Mom and Dad really knew the infantry life. So, we settled on military police.”
Scott comes from a military family. His father was an OCS instructor in the Army at Fort Benning for a short period and his grandfather both guarded lumber trains in Canada with military police and served during the attack on Pearl Harbor.
“He had a real interesting career,” Ouillette said. “But as far as a full-time law-enforcement officer? I’m the first one in the family.”
Ouillette said after he left his hometown of Pinconning, Michigan, life got a little more interesting.
“I left home at 18 with the Army, spent about eight years active duty with the Army,” he said. “Once completing my contract, I stayed in the Army Reserve, but moved to Seattle, Washington.”
Ouillette said he left Michigan for the job and life experience. He stayed in the Army Reserves a little over 14 years.
“I had every intention of moving back to Michigan after my first contract with the Army, but I found that I liked being in the military, so I stayed,” he said. “Once leaving active duty, I stayed in the Reserves, then I moved here to Roswell, my unit of assignment was a MPD (Military Police Detachment) in El Paso at Fort Bliss. I stayed there from ’97 ’til 2003.”
During that time from 2001 to 2003, Ouillette’s unit was activated. The detachment assisted with security operations in Texas following the 9/11 attacks.
“So for two years, I was at Fort Bliss as a military police officer,” he said. “I then transferred to the Texas Air National Guard to the 204th Security Forces Squadron, brought as a heavy weapons gunner. With the 204th, I was deployed to the Middle East twice and in response to hurricanes twice.”
Ouillette said after six years with the Texas Air National Guard, he transferred to the New Mexico Air National Guard out of Albuquerque. Throughout this period, he was deployed to eastern New Mexico twice in response to wildfires.
In Arizona, Ouillette said he later tested for different law enforcement agencies. It was then when his family offered him a tip.
“I had relatives here in Roswell and they told me that the sheriff’s department was hiring and suggested I apply,” he said. “They wanted me to be closer to family, so I did.”
Around 1999, Ouillette applied and tested to be a deputy at the Chaves County Sheriff’s Office. He was hired.
Sheriff Britt Snyder said as long as he’s known Ouillette, he’s been involved with the military.
“That’s one of the things that makes the quality of person he is, because his experience is — he’s got a lifetime of experience. Not only with the military, but in law enforcement, too,” Snyder said. “I think that’s what made him rise to the top in the process, his experience is second to none.”
Serving a total of 26 years and 4 months in the military, Snyder said Ouillette has served more time than anyone at the Sheriff’s Office.
Now at 46, the deputy says he still loves the job that he does, and where he does it. He sees the Sheriff’s Office as another home.
“(I) wouldn’t want to do anything else. Actually, I wouldn’t want to do it anywhere else,” Ouillette said. “This has turned out to be not just a great department — it’s also a family.”
Ouillette said both his family and co-workers helped shape him into the person he is today.
“I had two families. My biological family, which gave me tons of support and sometimes lots of headaches, and then I had my sheriff’s department family who also gave me tons of support — and sometimes headaches,” he smiled. “The things that I’ve seen from my higher-ups, I look back to the mentorship that they provided — they molded me. I give them the credit for getting me to where I am right now, and making me who I am.”
Ouillette said Snyder has been at the Sheriff’s Office since he started 18 years ago.
“Britt’s been here in the beginning,” he said. “There may be one deputy left, I think Todd Clark was here before I got here.”
Lt. Daniel Ornelas was Ouillette’s field training officer when he joined the department.
“I’ve made him aware of that,” Ouillette said. “I considered him to be one of my greatest mentors here in the department. I’m very appreciative to him for everything that he’s taught me.”
On July 3, Ouillette was promoted to lieutenant at the Chaves County Sheriff’s Office. Ouillette said he hopes to continue the cycle.
“I really just think of what I needed when I was a patrolman,” Ouillette said. “Now, things that were popular in the crime world when I first started are not necessarily the same things that are popular now. We now have a lot of online criminal activity, child exploitation, human trafficking, but the basic need is still the same — and that is training.
“The deputies need that, too. That’s probably their number one tool in criminal patrol, so my goal as a lieutenant is to give them the best training and best equipment that I can.”
Ouillette said his new day-to-day challenges are just that — new.
“I don’t even know what’s going to challenge me the next day, because I haven’t really learned everything I’m supposed to be doing in my new job,” he said. “The sheriff, the chief and Lt. Ornelas have been extremely helpful with that. Very supportive.”
The lieutenant said it’s unusual to see himself in a position where Snyder once was.
“And now, he’s the sheriff,” Ouillette said. “And he’s chosen me to be one of his lieutenants. It’s — it’s an honor.”
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Though Ouillette retired from the military in December, he continues to see how the Armed Forces and law enforcement mirror each other.
“There’s so many similarities between how the military is run and how a law enforcement agency is run,” he said. “There’s a chain of command in both. Of course, the majority of your people are going to be the younger, lower-ranking folks that go out every day and gets things done.
“And let’s face it, like with any organization, those are the people who give everyone else their jobs. If they weren’t there, there’d be no need for anyone else. You wouldn’t need your sergeants, lieutenants or chiefs.”
Ouillette said another area where the two resemble one another is during times of dynamic action.
“With the military, we would have our room-clearing and assault to an objective,” he said. “With the Sheriff’s department, we have high-risk warrants or felony traffic stops. Occasionally, a car chase.
“They say that law enforcement is 95 percent boredom, 5 percent sheer terror — same thing with the military. We would spend our days doing physical training, weapons training, field tactics, joking around, eating, whatever, but then that 5 percent time comes around, and that’s when you really see who’s trained and who didn’t pay attention.
“You can overcome a lot of the terror and a lot of the fear with training, and a positive mental outlook. Just another way that the military and law enforcement really mirror each other.”
However, there is a difference. Ouillette has been able to settle in Chaves County, and as a result, grow with the city of Roswell.
“(In) a military community, it’s always temporary for somebody,” he said. “You know you’re going to be transferred in two or three years. The ties that you make there, you’re going to remake it your next duty station. Here in a civilian community, especially one as small and as close-knit at Roswell, the relationships that you make are going to last for decades.
“Some of the people I met when I first moved here who were wild and crazy 20-something-year-olds are now the fathers, grandfathers, the business owners, church leaders, so I didn’t just get the opportunity to see Roswell as town grow up — I got the opportunity to see its citizens grow up.”
In two years, Ouillette said he will have the opportunity to retire from the Chaves County Sheriff’s Office.
“The sheriff and I have had this conversation several times. Over the past 18 years, I’ve had plans to leave and try new things about once every three years — I’m still here,” Ouillette said. “Will I be here in two years, when I have enough time? I want to say likely not. Not that I — I love this place, and I would do 40 years if I could, but (Snyder) understands that my parents are in Michigan, getting older.
“They’re gonna need a little bit of help, that’s my goal right now; to reach 20, so I can go and help my parents. That being said, there were other plans in the past to maybe try different things and move on, and something always kept me here at the Sheriff’s Office.”
Ouillette looked to Snyder and asked, “What’s going to happen in two years, Sheriff? Do you have any idea?”
Snyder replied, “I have no idea.”
“I’m going to be happy either way,” the lieutenant said.
Lt. Ouillette said it makes him happy to know that both Chaves County and the military would have him for so long. He said he sees it as a, “Hey, you’re doing a good enough job, we want to keep you around.”
“It’s more of an honor,” Ouillette said. “None of it is a personal accomplishment. It’s all been done with teams. With family.
“I’d like to thank Roswell and Chaves County for allowing me to make this my home for the past 18 years.”
Multimedia-Crime reporter Trevier Gonzalez can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at email@example.com.