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November 11, 2011

News

State Patrol Academy training 1st recruit class since 2008

Story & photos by Rob Schuette, Public Affairs Staff

The first class of Wisconsin State Patrol recruits since 2008 now is training at the Wisconsin State Patrol Academy at Fort McCoy. The State Patrol Academy is the oldest tenant activity at Fort McCoy, first opening its doors here in 1955.

Sgt. Tony Green, program director for Class 58, said the class is welcome because the State Patrol currently has many personnel nearing retirement age. The 38 cadets, who include four females, was selected from a field of nearly 1,000 applicants and will train at Fort McCoy through March 2012.
PHOTO: Recruits in a Wisconsin State Patrol trooper/inspector class practice falling techniques. Photo by Rob Schuette
Recruits in a Wisconsin State Patrol trooper/inspector class practice falling techniques during a defense and arrest tactics course at the State Patrol Academy. The recruits are in a 22-week course to become State Patrol employees.

Recruits have a busy, structured schedule. Green said they live at the State Patrol Academy from Monday through Friday during the 22-week training program.

“The recruits are taught how to do things until it’s second nature,” Green said. “That way they’ll learn to do the right things in a stressful situation.”

They go through daily inspections of their appearance and rooms. Training includes physical and mental exercises and a heavy dose of computer training. Much like Soldiers train in their specialties, recruits in a trooper/inspector course at the Wisconsin State Patrol Academy at Fort McCoy are taught that paying attention to detail helps them do their jobs well and could save their lives, Green said. Several recruits have a military background.

“They do everything with their computers,” Green said. “The days when troopers wrote out a citation or warning by hand are nearly gone. These days, they go back to their vehicles, type it into their computers and print it out. The vehicle serves as their office.”

After their regular day, the cadets remain busy — ensuring their rooms are squared away, their appearance meets standards, their high level of physical fitness is maintained, they are prepared for the next class or test, etc., he said.

Class attendees are from a variety of backgrounds. The class represents seven states, including Wisconsin, and one cadet is from Canada. All recruits must have 60 post-secondary-level credits from an accredited college. Some of the cadets have law-enforcement backgrounds although it isn’t required.

PHOTO: A member of State Patrol Class 58 fires a 9 mm pistol at a Fort McCoy range. Photo by Rob Schuette
A member of State Patrol Class 58 fires a 9 mm pistol at a Fort McCoy range.

Recruit Terry Garrett of Milwaukee said he applied for the class because it was something he wanted to do since a young age.

“I was waiting for the opportunity to apply since the last class in 2008,” Garrett said. “In the meantime, I did what I could to get ready by getting the 60 college-level credits you need and a law-enforcement background.”

Garrett was in the Army from 1996-2002 and his experience was in construction and as a vehicle mechanic.

“Going through this training is very similar to being in the Army,” Garrett said. “That’s why I’m taking it.”

Recruit Jennifer Latzig of Merrill, Wis., formerly worked as a dispatcher for the State Patrol in Police Communications Operations and saw taking the course as a means for career advancement.

“I’ve wanted to do this, and later in my college career, I took some corrections and law-enforcement courses as I was studying for a sociology degree,” Latzig said. “I became a dispatcher, which helped me learn the police jargon and what to expect from the State Patrol.”

So far in the training curriculum, Latzig said she enjoys the firearms training, and the defense and arrest tactics. She also likes the interaction with other students.

Recruit Bradley Bires of Mauston said he served in the Marine Corps for eight years as a police officer. Before being accepted for the course, he worked as a part-time police officer and jailer.

“I’m a hands-on person, and I learn better when I can interact with the students and instructors and do things,” Bires said. “This is similar to the Marine Corps boot camp and is helping to prepare me. It’s more military in structure and with more people than the smaller organizations I was working for has a chance for better career advancement.”

All three said being in a class and going through the training with others will help them develop friendships with classmates, who also will serve as their peers and good resource personnel in the field in the future.

The State Patrol work force, including the academy staff, puts in long hours to ensure the cadets successfully complete the training, Green said. Many bring their experience from the field to the class.

Two assistant training officers (ATOs) come directly from the field to support each class. Both ATOs volunteer for the duty and live at the academy so they are away from their Families for the duration of the training, Green said.

“They serve as mentors to the cadets,” he said. “Anytime the cadets do something, they have to report to the ATOs.”

Carrie Johnson, one of the ATOs, works as a trooper in Dunn County (Menomonie) and has been with the State Patrol for 17 years. She was a member of Class 44 in 1994. This is her second ATO tour as she worked with Class 54 in 2004.

“This is a good taste of being in middle management for me,” Johnson said. “I’m not a sergeant, but I learn how to be a sergeant, prioritize what needs to be done, get the paperwork done and teach them how to work as a team.”

ATOs are available to help class members after hours, get them to the correct places on time and participate in the physical fitness training.

Johnson said the ATOs also share their experiences with the recruits.

Although starting the class this late in the year means that much of the outdoor work will be done when it’s cold outside, Johnson said, “Troopers and inspectors don’t stop working outside when it’s cold so this will help them get used to the preparation they will need to do to work in cold weather.”

Recruits will compete in class room, fire arms and physical-fitness training throughout the course, as well.

Johnson said how well they do and their class standing will help determine their future assignments.

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