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By GREGORY HASMAN, Gillette News Record

GILLETTE, Wyo. (AP) — It’s not often civilians can ride in a military-style armored vehicle, but 12-year-old Anna Faldalen recently had that opportunity.

“Oh my God,” she said as she saw members of the Campbell County Sheriff’s Office’s Special Response Unit park a Caiman in front of her Gillette home Tuesday afternoon.

The vehicle was larger than what Faldalen imagined.

It’s a large six-by-six armored vehicle that can carry a team of 10 soldiers on a mission. When fully fueled, it weighs in at more than 15 tons, the Gillette News Record reported.

“I thought it was just going to be like an SUV or something,” she said.

Faldalen was able to do more than stand in awe, however. She got a tour of the vehicle and was taken for a spin around the block in the behemoth.

“It was epic,” she said about the ride.

Afterward, she helped put decals on the vehicle that read “Boomer,” the new name of that particular armored vehicle.

Faldalen’s ride was her reward for winning a local SWAT (Students Without Alcohol and Tobacco) Team contest where she was one of many students who submitted names for the Caiman.

Campbell County Sheriff Scott Matheny and members of his department’s Special Response Unit picked the winning name from the entries.

With the negative attention on law enforcement nationally lately, the Sheriff’s Office wants to find different ways to bridge any gaps that may exist between residents and local law enforcement.

The naming contest worked to “help show students we’re just members of the community trying to help,” said Deputy Ed Holden, who’s also a DARE officer.

“We liked the name, it fits the larger vehicle,” he said.

The SWAT Team program is for fifth and sixth grade students who are committed to living their lives without tobacco or underage drinking.

The program is important because some kids don’t understand how bad drugs and alcohol are, Faldalen said.

She won the contest as a sixth grade student at Conestoga Elementary School and the ride was originally supposed to happen in the spring, but was postponed until this week because of the coronavirus.

“It’s great to be included in this moment,” said Anna’s mom, Julie Faldalen, who also got to ride in the armored vehicle. “We just want to say thank you to all of the officers and we appreciate all of their services especially through this hard time.”

In 2015, the Sheriff’s Office acquired “Boomer” from the Natrona County Sheriff’s Office, which had received it from the military via its 1033 program.

The 1033 program refers to the numbered section of the 1997 National Defense Authorization Act that granted permanent authority to the U.S. Secretary of Defense to transfer defense equipment to federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.

Since joining the Campbell County Sheriff’s Office, “Boomer” has been used more than a dozen times to protect deputies and the community, and has responded to emergencies in Campbell, Crook, Sheridan and Weston counties.

The Sheriff’s Office will announce the winner of another competition to name its other armored vehicle sometime during the upcoming school year.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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