From smokejumping to the Marines, Missoula deputy leads busy career

Posted at 2:03 PM, Apr 14, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-14 16:03:55-04

MISSOULA – You need to take a lot of notes to keep up with the career of Missoula County Sheriff’s deputy Bob Parcell.

Even he needs a lot of photo albums to document it all.

It’s been quite an adventure so far, which started as a U.S. Forest Service smokejumper, something he still did after he became a deputy.

“I also continued to jump at that time as a jumping deputy," Parcell said. "They wanted to have an affiliation with the smokejumpers in case of a plane crash in the wilderness or something like that and wanted to have sheriff’s office representation."

Then came the Marines where Parcell was a commissioned officer serving five years later and earning the rank of colonel in the Marine Reserves. He was called to serve in support of overseas operations after the Gulf War.

He was then called to oversee the training of police officers in Iraq after the September 11 attacks.

“It was interesting and it was necessary and it was satisfying that we were assisting. A lot of good people died. We got attacked all the time.”

And where he flirted with death while serving in the Corps. It was an attack here that could have doomed him.

On a stormy night in June of 1992, while attempting to question a witness to a crime in the Condon area,  that witness shot him in the chest with a  .41 magnum. 

A completely unexpected attack, his police vest took the brunt of the shot to the chest and saved his life.

“So I began to hear the ‘pops pop pop pop’ and by the second pop I realized I was under fire,” he said back in 1992. “I didn’t know how badly I was hit until I felt the blood and thought, ‘ohhhhh.’”

Parcell’s courage under fire earned him praise from then president Bill Clinton, another chapter in a very busy life.

Right now, he’s the only deputy in Seeley Lake. It’s a unique position he loves.

“Working up there, you get a proprietary sense of things. You actually own this and when something happens, I want to take care of it. Every time I get into a call, I want to provide them with services one way or another, good or bad.”

He’s a high-energy man with a lot of confidence in those coming up the ranks behind him while also offering sage advice for us all.

“The biggest thing, and I tell the young guys this all the time and they look at me kind of weird and I say, ‘You know, as long as you’re having fun doing what you’re doing then continue to do it.’ It’s the same thing in the Corps, smokejumping, just so you’re doing it because you really want to do it and it’s fun.” 

Although Parcel ran for sheriff four years ago, he’s not running this time. He hasn’t ruled it out in the future, however.

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