By Mary Catherine Brooks
Instinct and attention to detail have served Greg Bishop well in both his military career and his law enforcement vocation, often safeguarding his life and helping him put away the bad guys. Not only is he a West Virginia State Police commander, he has served in Desert Shield, Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
In his own eyes, however, any success has come from the early lessons his father, Lacy Bishop Jr., taught him.
“He used to tell me, ‘If you’re going to dig ditches, be the best ditch digger.’ Sometimes when you’re young, you think someone is just being hard on you, but those are the lessons you take with you. Any success I’ve had came from lessons from him.
“We all have to do things we don’t want to do or don’t enjoy, but I was taught you get into it and do your best. Whatever it is, give it your best. Looking back on it, everyone would be a lot happier if they did that,” he said.
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Bishop grew up in Baileysville. When he was in elementary school, he wanted to be a policeman. By the time he moved on to middle school, the Marine Corps seemed a more compelling choice.
It was after college, however, that both career choices were made.
He makes no bones about the fact he went to Marshall University to play football. Bishop loved football when he played for Baileysville High.
“When I graduated, I wasn’t done yet. I wanted to play more football; that was my sole purpose in going to college,” he recalled.
He walked onto the Marshall field and made the team. His problem came when he had to select his courses. The only thing that appealed to him was criminal justice.
“At the time, I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” he said, but a criminal justice degree offered several options, including working for the federal government.
After his college graduation, he indeed became a federal employee of sorts. He joined the Marines.
“At the time, I thought I might stay in and make it my career,” he said. However, with each trip home, he found himself more reluctant to return to the military base. He wanted to come home.
The State Police seemed the perfect choice to use both his military experience and his criminal justice degree.
He did continue his service in the Marine Reserves, retiring in June as a lieutenant colonel select.
Just prior to his retirement, he served in Iraq for seven months, then did five additional months of active duty at the Pentagon.
Bishop earned a Bronze Star for his service.
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It was during his time in Iraq last year that those survival instincts served him best.
“My experience in Iraq is like you see on the news times 1,000,” he said.
“It’s even more dangerous than it looks. That is the most dangerous place I’ve ever been in.”
He was the field team leader of a Marine unit that was helping gather tactical information and observe procedures used by the insurgency.
“We were like storm chasers. We went to the units that had the most activity with the insurgents,” Bishop explained.
No matter their location, Bishop said, personnel were vulnerable to attack by mortar fire, by ambush, and by the IED (improvised explosive device), or a combination of all three.
IEDs cause nearly 50 percent of all the deaths to U.S. personnel in Iraq, he noted.
“You could always hear it — the mortar fire, the IEDs — it was always close by,” he recalled.
“When you’re trying to take care of your wounded and killed, and you start taking mortar rounds, it’s easy to focus on what you’re trying to do and forget about your own safety,” he emphasized.
“The first time I got shot at, my survival instinct kicked in and I did what I needed to do to survive. I’m able to snap into that frame of mind.”
The tactical information collected by Bishop’s unit, as well as others, has been used to predict future attacks and methods of aggression, assisting U.S. forces in their fight against the insurgents.
Often, Bishop and his unit could act as advisers to the combat units, using their observations of the insurgents to predict the current migration of attack methods.
“We could actually predict, or offer the best guess we had, about what they had to expect,” he explained.
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Bishop is now the commander of the State Police’s Welch detachment.
His administrative job keeps him busy, but allows less hands-on involvement in investigative work.
“My biggest enjoyment was working the investigations — in a way that the investigation is successful and can be successfully prosecuted and hold up to all the suppression hearings and appeals,” Bishop said.
“The defense pulls out all the stops in these cases — that’s their job.
“A good investigation leads to a good, solid conviction and a prison sentence.”
Bishop knows every crime has a victim and when the criminal goes to prison, the victim and/or the victim’s family and friends feel like they’ve gotten justice. That’s the result he likes to see.
As the detachment commander, however, he now oversees other troopers’ investigations.
“I have to make sure the investigations are foolproof. I have a greater impact, but I’ve lost that hands-on involvement.”
He is still a member of the State Police Special Response Team, which he describes as the agency’s equivalent of a SWAT team.
Team members participate in regular training sessions and are called in to serve high-risk warrants and to deal with hostage situations and other special details that need highly trained officers.
His frustration comes from the fact that 99 percent of the time, he deals with people when they are involved in a negative situation.
And 99 percent of these people will not get the result that is satisfactory to them, he noted.
“That is frustrating,” he emphasized.
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With his stressful career choices, it is Bishop’s family that helps him relax.
He’s always been active — running, working out and mountain biking. Now he does those things with his sons.
“I’m doing something I enjoy and I’m spending quality time with my boys,” he said.
Though physical courage comes easy to Bishop, it is moral courage that he believes should be recognized with awards and is the most difficult to maintain.
“Moral courage is a lot harder to come by than physical courage. Physical courage is doing your job in the face of danger, that’s pretty easy.
“Moral courage is doing what’s right all the time, even in the face of pressure — from peers, sometimes from employers and others. It’s toughest when you think nobody will find out about it.
“Those who are most courageous are the ones who do what is morally right all the time. That’s courage. That’s being brave,” Bishop emphasized.
It is that sense of courage and the work ethic his father instilled in him that Bishop hopes to pass along to his own sons.
“The example that he (his father) set — if I live to be half the man he is, I’ll be successful,” Bishop said.
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