Fort McCoy News March 24, 2017

Fort McCoy law-enforcement officer

earns AFGE award

Officer Matt Brigson, a 15-year veteran of the Directorate of Emergency Services Police Department at Fort McCoy, was selected the 2017 American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Law Enforcement Officer of the Year.

Brigson helps train new and existing officers, utilizing his training as a certified instructor in defense and arrest tactics, emergency-vehicle operation and control, vehicle contacts, and professional communication skills. He continues to be a "tremendous resource for newer officers long after the initial training period ends," said AFGE officials.

Brigson also stands out for his contributions to his local community and volunteer work. Since 2010, he has taught karate lessons out of his home at no charge. He currently has 12 students, ages 9 to 63, including his father and three foreign exchange students.

Officer Matthew Brigson with the Directorate of Emergency Services Police Department is shown near the Main Gate area March 14 at Fort McCoy, Wis. Brigson was selected the 2017 American Federation of Government Employees Law Enforcement Officer of the Year.
Officer Matthew Brigson with the Directorate of Emergency Services
Police Department is shown near the Main Gate area March 14 at
Fort McCoy, Wis. Brigson was selected the 2017 American Federation
of Government Employees Law Enforcement Officer of the Year.
Photo
by Scott T. Sturkol

His passion for karate and compassion for others led him to form a nonprofit organization, WMA Productions Inc., to support the karate community. Brigson's charity has put on the Coulee Region Free Tournament for four years.

Most tournaments have at least three events for people can compete in, and the prices range from $25-60 per event, which can get very expensive for Families with multiple martial artists. The Coulee Region Free Tournament is free for both competitors and spectators.

"Our goal is to give kids and adults who love martial arts and wish to compete the opportunity to train and compete in a tournament and do so without worrying about the traditional costs associated with tournaments," Brigson said.

"We also want to encourage people of all ages to come to the tournament and look at the martial arts as a way to keep healthy, active, and exercising their entire life," he said. "You are never too old to start training."

As part of his volunteer work, Brigson will travel to Cite Soleil, a commune in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in October. Brigson is part of Better than Bullets, an after-school program run by Upstream International that gives youth an option to do something else other than joining a gang.

When Brigson learned about the program two years ago, the youths were taking karate lessons, and because they were so poor, they had to train in street clothes. When they competed with other kids in other parts of the city, they would be the only ones who competed in street clothes.

Brigson decided to do something about it. He held a fundraiser and was able to send 50 karate uniforms and various equipment to Cite Soleil.

"You and I both know that when you're doing anything, how you look and feel is a big part of it as well," Brigson said. "As you're going there and seeing other kids in uniform and you don't have one, that could have a big psychological effect on you."
Seeing the pictures of the children in their new uniform for the first time moved him immensely.

"You can't explain the feeling. They said when they got the boxes, they were beside themselves," he said. "That's just great and humbling too. You think of all the things we take for granted."

Brigson continues to do what he can to support the program. He also sent large donations of school supplies to kids when Haiti was devastated by Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

"Matt actively helps the department improve on and maintain a positive image in the community," said Jeff Zuhlke, president of the AFGE Law Enforcement Committee. "He and all of the nominees this year are shining examples of dedicated law-enforcement officers and federal employees. They represent the best of AFGE."

"It's a humbling feeling," Matt said. "I don't really have the word for it."

   (Article prepared by the American Federation of Government Employees, Local 1882, at Fort McCoy.)