Shane Orrick is still in uniform

Tom KingOur Town Heroes

He’s a Grainger County guy, East Tennessee through and through, still living in Rutledge. Shane Orrick was an active duty U.S. Marine for four years and today he wears two uniforms. He is in the Marine Reserves, a Sgt. E-5. But the uniform he wears most days is that of the Tennessee Highway Patrol.

He’s a trooper on patrol in Knox and Union counties working the overnight shift as part of Troop A. Orrick joined the THP five years ago without any previous law enforcement experience. After active duty, he worked in construction but knew he both needed and wanted something better.

Trooper Shane Orrick

“One day my wife, Brittany, noticed that the THP was hiring, so I looked into it,” he says. “I put in an application and they called me. I went through the interview process and tests and they offered me a job. I’ll go for it, I said, and if it’s God’s will, it will work out. If not something else good will happen. He has a plan for us.”

There is a connection between his Marine service and the THP. “I was stationed at the Marine Air Corps Station in Cherry Point, North Carolina, and they had me work at the gates, helping the military police. I got to know the MPs and did some ride-along with them and really got interested in law enforcement,” he says. “And I really love it. Brittany says I don’t really work because I love it so much.”

Orrick is 29 and stands 5-6. “We’ve got a few guys who aren’t as tall as I am,” he says. “I’ve never been the John Wayne macho type. But I do know that some guys think they can always take you out since you’re short. But size does not matter.”

During these times of COVID-19, law enforcement is one of our essential needs – be it a THP trooper, city and county officers, firefighters and paramedics, ambulance staff, nurses and doctors.

Has he noticed any changes since the virus hit? “Less traffic of course, for sure, and fewer accidents, but I have seen an increase in DUIs. People laid off and not working are drinking at home more and then go out driving. And from conversations with others in the county, domestic violence calls have increased with people cooped up at home so much,” he said. “This is really affecting people mentally and physically. Many people are stressed and have a lot of tension in their lives.”

What is the most dangerous part of the job? With no hesitation, he said: “The traffic stops. It’s the unknown because you never know what you’re walking into. It may be someone who is normally the nicest person in the world, but then wants to shoot you the moment you get to their car door. I’ve had people get out of their car and act aggressively. So far, I’ve been able to deter them before anything happened. You learn quickly there are no routine traffic stops. Fear keeps you alert and alive.”

So, what about the most challenging part of his work? “For me it’s balancing home life and my work,” he says. Stan and Brittany have two young children – daughter Adalyn, 3, and son Abel, who is 9 months. Brittany works for House Hasson Hardware, and these days she’s working from home.

“I work to use my time management skills to make sure I spend time with the family. My grandmother (Rose Orrick) raised me. Lots of parents don’t spend enough time with their kids,” he said. “Rose lives next door to us and we’re lucky. She keeps our kids now whenever we need her. It’s great and I love it.”

Part of that balancing act is driving an eight-hour round trip a month for a weekend of Marine Reserves duty in Huntsville, Alabama, plus twice in the summer for duty. He is his artillery unit’s operations chief, which means he must certify and train Marines to drive and operate their vehicles and equipment.

Back to that part about loving his job. “I don’t really work. It’s all about being there to help people. At accidents, when people don’t know where to go afterward and giving them a ride. Helping change flat tires, and that’s really stressful for many people with the cars and trucks flying by. People broken down. Getting the drugs off the street. I’ve seen drugs affect so many people, some I know and have known. My approach every day out here is to do anything I can do to help the community and the people.”

Editor’s Note: This is part of a weekly series – Our Town Heroes – highlighting local emergency-service professionals. It you have suggestions about a person to feature, email Tom King or call him at 865-659-3562.

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