Last updated: October 6, 2014
When people see me in uniform I'm immediately recognized as a park ranger - from the Smokey Bear hat, badge, name plate, and patch, to the green and grey shirt and pants and hiking boots - it's a uniform that nearly everyone in the United States is familiar with.
What people can't tell just by looking is that I'm a Visitor Use Assistant. That's my official title and defines which department I belong to. My division is one of five that run and operate the monument. Day-to-day I do whatever is needed: some days I sell tickets or answer phones in the visitor center, and other days I hike the trail and make sure the visitors are hydrated and doing well.
Other departments fill additional integral roles. Interpreters spend their days providing cave tours and other programs, as well as developing material to share with the public. Those in Facility Management are in charge of general upkeep, cleaning, and repairing the buildings and cave trail as necessary. Resource Management studies the cave and surrounding areas with the goal of keeping it as close to the natural environment as possible. Finally, our administrative rangers do all of the desk work to keep the monument running. They create schedules, deal with budget issues, make sure we all get paychecks, communicate with the press, and a litany of other tasks needed to ensure things run smoothly all around.
Here, like the rest of the world, we sometimes get stuck on titles, defining ourselves by department, fulfilling our job specifications and not bothering to learn much about others. We see this in life, when people categorize others by their race, where they live, their politics, or their beliefs. When we don’t try to understand each other, we as a monument (or, on a larger scale, as Americans) struggle. We are at our best when we commit to all work together in a cohesive team, and at our best as a nation when we seek to understand and come together instead of to divide and come apart.
At Timpanogos Cave, we work in a very fast paced environment, with about 600 visitors a day walking through the caves and another several hundred who hike the trail, use our picnic facilities, or participate in Junior Ranger and evening programs. While visiting, each of these people will encounter employees from many divisions. Departmental differences are rarely, if ever, noticed by the visitor. We are all just “rangers”.
Perhaps we can all take a lesson from this. No matter how different our day-to-day activities, we are all park rangers. No matter our differences, we are all Americans. Our country’s motto is "E pluribus Unum" which translates loosely to "out of many, one." Like our country, many of the strengths of this monument come through the diversity within. Everyone has a series of unique strengths and weaknesses. When we embrace these differences we are better able to fulfill the National Park Mission of protecting the land while simultaneously providing enjoyment and education to the public. When we embrace and accept differences in our nation, we are better able to stand together, united as Americans.