On May 22, 2013 a group of thirty adults quietly graduated from an eleven-week academy. There was no fanfare, no news write-up. There were graduations aplenty all around the peninsula that week, and this small affair wasn’t newsworthy. Except that it was.
It was newsworthy because it was the first ever academy of its kind on the Kenai Peninsula and opened the door to understanding and appreciation of an organization to which many may have little or no exposure, the Alaska State Troopers.
The small graduation ceremony, complete with decorations and food, words of thanks and encouragement saw local Troopers and ordinary citizens sharing stories and smiles in a comfortable atmosphere brought by eleven weeks of learning about one another. It was an ordinary event in extraordinary circumstances.
For many years there has been an attempt to bring this valuable opportunity to the peninsula, but the wheels of bureaucracy turn slowly. Finally in 2013 it was put together, the Alaska State Trooper Citizen Academy. We citizens who apply and are granted the privilege of attending the academy are not trained to become law enforcement ourselves (there is a real academy for that in Sitka), but to learn the history, the requirements, the responsibilities and the hard work involved in being an Alaska State Trooper (AST). There were many involved in the success of this academy, including not only all branches of AST, but also Kenai Police, Soldotna Police, Central Emergency Services, and more.
As a member of this inaugural class, I found the information presented to be excellent, intriguing, and helpful in understanding. I began the class with no knowledge, no comprehension of the AST as a body or as individuals, only as a mysterious, elite class of probably arrogant people with guns who are to be avoided at all costs. I knew nothing of AST. Nothing. Why do they do what they do, or don’t do? What are the duties and responsibilities? How hard is it to be a Trooper? What makes them tick?
All those questions were answered, and more, much more. As much as I appreciate the instruction, the tours, the ride-along, and everything else offered in this venture, the one thing that matters most to me is coming away with the realization that Alaska State Troopers, and indeed all of those in law enforcement are people. That’s it. They are people, with loved ones, interests, and personal stories of all sorts. They have chosen a career that is not for the fainthearted, or for those with weak character. Every AST I have met through this class loves his/her job. This is a group dedicated to our community, and I am thankful to have learned that.
For anyone interested in all the interesting and useful things to be learned in the AST Citizen Academy, please consider applying for the next one. If you are accepted, you will not be disappointed.