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Full-time Guardsman volunteers as Pulaski County sheriff's deputy
Full-time Guardsman volunteers as Pulaski County sheriff's deputy

Reserve Deputy Nathan Looper, a canine officer with the Pulaski County Sheriff's Department, poses with his dog, Uli, outside a sheriff's cruiser. Looper also is a member of the Missouri National Guard's 7th Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team.
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (July 30, 2009) — Assisting others is a way of life for 1st Lt. Nathan Looper.

As a member of the Missouri Air National Guard, Looper, 31, has served on the 7th Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team on post for more than seven years. In that same span, he has spent his spare time volunteering as a reserve deputy/K-9 officer with the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department.

“I enjoy helping other people and that’s the biggest reason that I’m in the military doing this job or my civilian law-enforcement life,” said Looper, a Lynchburg resident. “Public safety has pretty-much always been part of my life.”

Looper began a career in public service at age 15 when he became a junior volunteer firefighter in his hometown of Mountain Grove. Three years later, he became a full-fledged firefighter.

On Oct. 22, 1994, Looper enlisted in the Air Guard as a high school senior, and he said that decision has paid vast dividends.

“I don’t think I would have excelled in my education and training if it hadn’t been for the Guard,” Looper said. “It has also boosted my training and leadership in my civilian career, as well as the military.”

As a member of the Air Guard, he has worn many different hats and been able to emulate those jobs on the civilian side of his life.

“My military career has always mirrored what I did in the civilian world, so that it was like going to the exact same job and just wearing a different uniform,” said Looper, who has worked as a firefighter, emergency medical technician and sheriff’s deputy.

In 2001, Looper saw an opening as a reconnaissance team member with the 7th Civil Support Team — a unit he was familiar with because his cousin, Master Sgt. William Heikilla, was a team member — and applied.

On Sept. 1, 2001, then-Staff Sgt. Looper began his career with the 7th Civil Support Team. Ten days later, the 9/11 terrorist attacks reenergized the nation’s commitment to service. For Looper, the attacks confirmed that he was exactly where he should be.

“I felt like the timing was right, like I got that job at that time for a reason,” Looper said.

In December of that year, Looper received permission through his chain of command to volunteer with the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department.

“I was a full-time deputy in Webster County prior to becoming active-Guard Reserve and I wanted to keep my certifications up as a deputy,” Looper said. “It is a career to fall back on upon retirement.”

Looper donates all the time he is allowed, volunteering the maximum 40 hours a month set by Guard standards. He also serves as a member of the Pulaski County Emergency Response Team.

A father of three, Looper found time to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice from Drury University and earned his National Guard officer’s commission in February 2007. He then moved into his current position as medical operations officer.

As a member of the 7th Civil Support Team, Looper has gone to Louisiana in response to hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Gustav. As a member of the unit, he’s also provided support in 2006 during the World Series, during a white powder incident in Rolla, when suspicious packages arrived in Lee’s Summit and when a F-15 crashed in the Missouri community of Boss, all in 2007, and in 2008 when a chemical caused illness in Lebanon.

“He does an outstanding job, especially during deployed situations,” said Maj. Bryan Davis, the 7th Civil Support Team’s former physician assistant and medical team chief. “He has a great knowledge of how the civilian side of things work, which gives him a great benefit when we go to a scene. He can be the perfect liaison, especially between the medical community on the military side and the civilian side. He knows how law enforcement works, he knows how fire departments work, so he’s a great asset to us.”

For the Pulaski County Sherriff’s Department, Looper has assisted in drug searches and patrolled the community with his dog, Uli, a 5-year-old female German shepherd. The two took a course in narcotics detection in Illinois and earned a National Narcotics Detection Dog Association certification.

“The level of experience and the expertise he possesses has greatly enhanced our ability to serve and protect the citizens of Pulaski County,” said Capt. William Anderson, the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department chief of operations. “In the fact that he has adopted us as his home, he acts as though he’s protecting and serving the members of his extended family here.”

Anderson said Looper’s Guard experience and values are invaluable to his service to the community.

“We are in a unique environment here that our population is retired military and active-duty military,” Anderson said. “He blends well in that environment bringing all those expertise into this arena.

“We’re proud to have him serving with us.”

As a deputy, Looper has participated in serving search warrants that resulted in the confiscation of drugs and generated arrests.

“Any amount of drugs that we take off the street, from a small baggie to a semi-truck, is, in my eyes, a big deal,” Looper said. “You are preventing those drugs from potentially getting to children.”

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