Press Release

Release Date: May 29, 2024
by Chickasaw Nation Media Relations Office

Diving into murky waters, consoling family members, controlling a robot, working with a K-9, encouraging fellow officers, and honoring the fallen are part of the job for Chickasaw Lighthorse special team members.

Lighthorse officers who participate in the dive team, SWAT team, K-9 team, wellness team, or honor guard do so in addition to their regular or administrative duties.

Dive Team

The way in which Sgt. Ryan Massengale of the Chickasaw Lighthorse dive team expresses his motivation is an appropriate general reflection of other special teams’ members. 

“Giving back to the community, doing something bigger than myself, that’s what my purpose was in joining the dive team,” Massengale said.

Dive team member officer Jon Edwards said delivering resolution to families, a consummately sad, but necessary element of service, is what motivates him.

“It’s definitely a humbling job,” Edwards said. “When we do have to make those unfortunate calls, having the family there and giving them some reassurance their loved one has been found, it helps bring closure to people.” 

There are currently nine Chickasaw Lighthorse dive team members.

To qualify to become a dive team member, officers must be on active patrol for at least two years and receive a recommendation from their supervisor. A physical test involves swimming 500 meters. They must also be able to retrieve an item from a certain water depth and be able to find their equipment wearing a blacked-out face mask while under water.

Lake and river water in Oklahoma is well known for being murky and an environment in which it is nearly impossible to see even with lights. Massengale said it takes a certain amount of mental agility and fortitude.

“It’s definitely a mind game you play with yourself,” he said. “I think the best way I can describe it is you have to make yourself comfortable being uncomfortable in places you can’t see.”


Capt. Keaton Alexander is the team leader for the department’s SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) team, comprised of a 22-member squad. Although all members are trained in entry, all have specific responsibilities, including entry, containment, sniper, K-9 coordination, breaching and technology.

The technology team coordinates a robot, when needed, to breach a residence or other structure to gather information on threats or injured parties.

Dana, the team’s canine, can be utilized in locating narcotics or to clear rooms within a structure.

“She can move ahead of us and clear what we call ‘sneaky spots,’ places we don’t necessarily feel comfortable moving into,” Alexander said.

Alexander said bravado and ability with firearms are not the most important talents he looks for in new members.

“The most important thing a SWAT operator can bring to the team is being able to think outside the box,” he said. “When we look at putting people on the team, that’s what we focus on the most, being intelligent. We can teach the other aspects of the job, what we can’t teach is to be a thinker.”

Alexander said being able to remain calm under pressure is also a critical component.

“We have high intensity simulation trainings in which we put sim rounds in our guns. It’s not like a paintball, but that concept, in that it stings when hit with the round. That really intensifies the pressure and speeds everything up. It gets our heart rates up. Your mind is racing. We do that enough to the point we can operate calmly under pressure.”

K-9 Team

Capt. Chad Hillis, Chickasaw Lighthorse K-9 supervisor, is also a part of the SWAT team. Hillis supervises four officers who handle K-9s consisting of Dana, the aforementioned Belgian Malinois, two German shepherds and a Dutch shepherd.

Hillis said the dogs bring a multitude of helpful skills to the force.

“They’re trained in narcotics searches, whether it be in a building, open field, a vehicle or individual articles. They are also trained in apprehension and handler protection,” he said.

Hillis said dogs’ ability to detect odors is a great asset.

“If we’re moving through a field, the dog is out in front of us, we can get him to lie down and stay for us to move up to where he has already cleared an area for safety.” 

Hillis said the average length of service for a dog is eight to nine years. He said at that age it is not unusual for the animal to start developing injuries. 

“That way we can retire them, and they still have some quality of life. They can live out the rest of their lives before they start developing real health problems.”

Wellness Team

For the Chickasaw Lighthorse Police Department, the days are long gone in which officers were expected to “John Wayne” it, acting as if they were immune to the negative psychological impact of such experiences.  

Chickasaw Lighthorse Police Lt. Michael Huff is a member of the department’s peer support team, whose mission is to ensure officers get the help they need when grappling with the aftermath of a trauma-producing episode. 

“As a peer team, what we’re doing is being proactive and not reactive when it comes to mental health of our first responders,” Huff said. 

“We’re trying to change the mindset of our officers when they’re getting into this profession and let them know it’s OK not to be OK. It’s OK to reach out for help. If we change that mindset when they’re new, it’s going to affect them, their family and their career in a positive way.” 

Chickasaw Lighthorse Police Department has 12 peer support team members, four for each of its three precincts. 

Physical well-being also plays a key role in maintaining a healthy police force. Lighthorse police officer Hunter Nickell, another peer team member, is a personal trainer and the department’s certified fitness specialist. Nickell is responsible for overseeing this key component to overall fitness.    

“Recruits must pass a physical fitness test when trying to become a Lighthorse police officer,” Nickell said. 

“We put the candidates through that to see if they pass or fail. Because of the physical demands of our job, it gives us a good idea if they can physically handle the stressors of this work,” he said. 

“It requires a lot mentally and physically. We’re just trying to do our part to make sure our officers can handle the stress. We also have to take an annual physical test. We want to make sure our officers maintain that fitness. It’s not just a one-time thing. The public is relying on us to be able to do our duties and to do them well,” he said.

“It will help extend not only the lives of our officers, but their careers. This career has a lot of stressors and can take a toll on the body. But if we maintain our physical fitness, it will help us be better police officers and have a better quality of life.”

Emphasis on being and staying in shape begins when prospects apply for the job and continues throughout their tenure with the department.

Honor Guard

Capt. Aaron Glenn oversees the Chickasaw Lighthorse Police Department’s honor guard team, whose 10-member squad has, among other duties, the somber and profound reverential responsibility of honoring fallen fellow officers at their funerals.   

“The honor guard is formed to show appreciation for the sacrifices officers have made who were killed in the line of duty, as well as to police retirees, for their service to the communities in which they served,” Glenn said.

Glenn said four Lighthorse honor guard members were in Washington, D.C., in mid-May to join other police officers around the country in celebration of National Police Week. May 15 is National Police Officer Memorial Day which is designed to honor those who have died in the line of service.

Lighthorse Police Special Agent Patrick Flickinger was 37 years old when he was killed in an automobile accident in 2008 while on duty in Marshall County, Oklahoma. His name is inscribed along with more than 20,000 others on the National Police Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.

Honor guard training from the National Honor Guard Academy is rigorous in its detail. Glenn said team members were instructed on proper ceremonial knowledge which included all honor guard traditions with precise attention to detail. The honor guard team trains in basic drill and ceremonial movements, church and casket protocol, flag etiquette and a three-round volley.

“With every salute, we express our deep gratitude to those who have selflessly served. Serving on the honor guard team is more than a duty, it is an esteemed privilege to honor fallen first responders,” he said.

The honor guard uniform is distinct, setting the team apart for the standard patrol officer. Their attire embodies a unified and polished presentation, serving as a dignified representation of the Chickasaw Lighthorse Police Department.

Glenn said, “This attire is designed to convey the utmost respect for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice or have heroically served as a first responder in their communities.”

About Lighthorse

The Chickasaw Lighthorse Police Department has served Chickasaw Nation communities for 20 years. Reestablished in 2004, its officers strive to protect the lives and property of the people served, reduce crime, preserve peace and provide a safe environment while working in partnership with local communities to enhance their quality of life.

Chickasaw Lighthorse police use innovative methods and state-of-the-art technology to provide exceptional law enforcement services to people residing within the Chickasaw Nation treaty territory, which encompasses 7,648 square miles and includes all or parts of 13 counties in south-central Oklahoma.

The Chickasaw Lighthorse Police Department has three precincts. They are located in Ada, Newcastle and Thackerville. The department has 105 full-time sworn law enforcement officers serving the Chickasaw Nation.

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