New faces: Dedicated to serving country, community

Benny Westcott

A conversation with Garritt Bolkcom about priorities kept returning to a central concept: service. First, he served his country in the United States Marine Corps. Now, he’s serving his community as the Sweet Home Police Department’s newest officer. (June 21 was his first day.)

“I really love to serve, and I wanted to serve a great community and be a part of it and give back,” he said. “I want to serve and help people – that’s just who I am. That’s what really draws me to it.”

Born in Medford, the 26-year-old Bolkcom grew up in Grenada, Calif. He joined the Marines not long after his 2014 graduation from Yreka Union High School, serving for four years. He “wanted to serve our country and give back,” he said. “I wanted to join the greatest fighting organization in the world, which is the United States Marine Corps. If I was going to serve, I wanted to serve with the best.

“What drew me was the challenge, the history and the culture,” he continued. “Everything about it. And their values, ethics and morals – honor, courage, commitment – that’s me. If I was going to serve my country, I wanted to do it the best that I could, in my mind.”

After attending boot camp in San Diego, Bolkcom moved to Camp Pendleton and Twentynine Palms, both in California. Then he served in Okinawa, Japan, for two years, and Camp Lejeune, N.C., for two more.

After his time as a Marine, he worked for a few months in construction for M. Peters, Inc. in Montague, Calif., and enrolled in trade school to become a wind turbine technician, graduating from Airstream Renewables, Inc. in Tehachapi, Calif., in 2018. He then spent two years as a lead wind turbine technician with Green Energy Maintenance Corp in Fairfield, Mont.

At that point, Bolkcom and his wife, Taylor, moved to Sweet Home to be closer to Taylor’s parents. When they first moved, he worked as a telecom lineman for Texstar Enterprises in Millersburg for a little more than a year but found that it wasn’t for him in the long term.

“I was working out of Millersburg, but I was commuting all over the place,” he said. “I want to work an organized job and know my responsibilities.”

Then one day, Taylor, knowing that her husband was looking for a more local job, told him, “They’ve got openings here in Sweet Home, and I think you’d do really great as a police officer.”

So Bolkcom applied.

“The whole point was to serve a community that I want to be a part of,” he said. “I want to know the people, talk to people, interact with them and set a good example. I want to be helping kids out. You build that rapport with the public, and they know you. You’re a part of the community. You’re a part of it, and you’re actually doing something.”

“If I was going to do it, I want to do it for Sweet Home,” he continued, “the community that I personally chose to live in. I really do like this city. It reminds me a lot of Yreka in a sense: small. And it’s kind of like a touristy town, too, which is neat. It’s nice having the lake literally five minutes down the road.”

In his free time, Bolkcom enjoys dirt-biking and four-wheeling, embarking on hikes, playing with his dogs and spending time with his family, which now includes his four-month-old son, William.

He’s still active in the Marine Corps as a platoon sergeant for the communications platoon in the Headquarters and Services Company at the Marine Corps 6th Engineer Support Battalion in Portland. He said that lessons from his hard-earned experiences in the armed forces, where he was taught to “learn and pick things up, listen, be vigilant and observant and not be complacent,” will help him as a police officer.

“I deal with a lot of the Marines’ problems, and I’m 26 years old in an important leadership role,” he said. “It kind of happens to you quickly, especially when you’re in active duty. You’ve got to learn how to deal with people. You’re a people-manager in the Marine Corps.

“They take a lot of pride in how they teach and build their leaders in the Marine Corps,” he noted. “I learned how to deal with people pretty well; how to stay cool, calm and collected and handle stressful situations. Because Marines can get into some pretty crazy trouble. A lot of the things that I did in the Marine Corps really apply [to being a police officer].

“All life experience, you’ve got to take it as learning curves and learning points,” he added. “You learn something new every day. You’ve got to apply it.”

Bolkcom was appreciative of the Sweet Home Police Department staff’s support.

“They’ve been great, super-helpful and informative,” he said. “They’re able to answer questions if I’ve got them. It’s a great environment. When you surround yourself with great people, it’s usually a great time. I want to be surrounded with other great people and other positive, motivating individuals, because it tends to trend you to be more positive and motivated.”

What does he think would fulfill him most about being an officer?

“Coming home every night and knowing that I did the best job that I could,” he said. “Mistakes are made, things happen all the time, nothing ever goes perfectly. But at the end of the day, all you can say to yourself is ‘I still did a great job – I did the best I could’ [and] come home to a family that appreciates the hard work that I put in for them and the community.”