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Marco Island Police Department officer Josh Ferris has been chosen as the officer of the year.

Ferris was honored at a lunch with the chief, sponsored by Marco Police Foundation.

“Josh is one of those officers that is both enthusiastic and committed to excellence,” said Marco Police Chief Al Schettino.

Ferris grew up in Cocoa, Fla., relocating here with his parents after his dad retired and moved the family from Farmville, Va.

Ferris had always aspired to a career in law enforcement and put himself through the law enforcement academy at Valencia College in Brevard County. Upon graduation, one of his instructors had told him that Marco Island was interviewing candidates, and in February 2012 made the move to Marco Island.

Ferris is assigned to the Marine Patrol Unit on Marco and loves being out on the water.

“This is a dream come true for me,” said Ferris when interviewed about his job on the water. “I’m fortunate, though, that I’ve had such a great mentor in Bob Marvin. He’s made learning this part of the job so interesting and rewarding.”

‘Black Hawk Down’

At the lunch, attendees also heard from a young war hero, Retired Lt. Col. Tom Di Tomasso.

The Battle of Mogadishu occurred more than 22 years ago, but for Di Tomasso – a young Army ranger lieutenant in charge of a squad of men who were tasked to retrieve survivors of a downed Black Hawk helicopter – the memories are still fresh.

Their primary mission was the apprehension of key aides to the notorious warlord Gen. Mohamed Farrah Aidid within the war-torn city of Mogadishu, Somalia. That mission was successfully accomplished, but in the course of that operation two Black Hawk choppers assigned to Task Force Ranger were brought down by enemy fire. Other members of that mission began an operation to rescue those onboard the two downed helicopters.

Di Tomasso related the events of that day to a riveted audience.

Di Tomasso was a lieutenant at the time and led a squad during that mission that would last 18 hours and cost 18 American lives. Those events would be depicted in the movie, “Black Hawk Down” in 2001.

Di Tomasso is now engaged in training first responders in how to plan, prepare and train for emergency incidents on the home front.

“Our law enforcement, fire and rescue personnel must be prepared for the worst case scenarios that may or may not occur here in the homeland,” he said. “Agencies such as Collier County and Marco Island cannot be too prepared, trained or equipped.”

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