AUSTIN, Texas–The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) graduated 107 new troopers who now leave Austin to begin patrolling the highways of Texas. Having successfully completed the twenty-seven week training academy, the new troopers will now span out across the state of Texas. The graduation comes just days after Texas Governor Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, and House Speaker Joe Straus signed a letter to DPS Director, Colonel Steve McCraw, ordering the immediate commencement of a surge of DPS law enforcement assets to secure the border with Mexico.
Col. McCraw introduced the trooper candidates to the audience and challenged them to carry out their new duties and responsibilities efficiently and carefully. “There’s no more important responsibility in government that protecting its citizens,” McCraw began in his speech. “Since 1823, no one has done a better job than we have. First, as the Texas Rangers and since 1935 as the Texas Department of Public Safety. The cornerstone of our success has been, and always will be, our people.”
McCraw saluted all veterans in the audience including the thirty-two military veterans who have now chosen to serve their state after their service to the nation.
“The Texas State Trooper will be combating crime and terrorism, will be enhancing highway safety, will be enhancing public safety,” McCraw continued. “When disaster strikes or there’s a threat to the state, you will be called upon to deploy – it doesn’t matter where it is – that’s what we do.”
“Always remember,” he concluded, “that you are one of the few deemed worthy to protect our great state and through selfless dedication, good judgment and hard work you will make an import difference in communities throughout the state.”
McCraw also praised the family members of the new troopers and reminded them “the future success of your loved one and the safety of Texans depends, in part, on your continued support and understanding of the unique demands required of a Texas State Trooper.”
Texas State Representative Allen Fletcher delivered the commencement address to the graduating troopers. Fletcher is a retired police officer and his son graduated from the DPS Academy two sessions ago and is about to finish his probationary training in the field.
“I am not here to make a speech,” Fletcher began. “I am here to talk to the men and women who are going to be future state police officers and go out there to keep us safe.”
“I know you have a brand new perspective of what mall parking lots are like,” Fletcher told the new troopers. “When I graduated from the police academy, I thought I was going to go out and save the world. It didn’t take me very long to learn that was a sergeant’s job. You represent the entire state. You are police officers everywhere you go. The men and women of this state need you, they need your help.”
Fletcher pointed out that help doesn’t just apply to crime. “That means, when you see some person on the side of the road, possibly a lady that might need some help with a flat tire, or just a smile when you are walking across a parking lot.” He reminded the new troopers that the public “sees you everywhere” including when you are off duty and in civilian clothes.
To the parents and family members in the audience who might be concerned about the safety of their loved one who has chosen this dangerous career, Fletcher said, “They’re trained. They’re ready. And, they’re safer than the average son or daughter of anybody in the state out on the roads because they’re ready to take action.”
The DPS Academy officials recognized several of the new troopers for their individual accomplishments during the exhaustive training program. Trooper Edward Williams, from Carthage, Texas, was recognized for a physical fitness award for breaking the fitness score record, not once, but twice during his training. He is the first and only trooper to score over 500 points on fitness training. Trooper Valerie Lopez from Odessa was recognized as the top female trooper for physical fitness training. She now holds the record for a female trainee at 375 points. The top overall fitness award for all categories of fitness went to Trooper Michael B. Leslie from Schulenburg.
The presentation of the Norman E. Zator award for academic excellence was made to Trooper Joshua C. Becker of Corpus Christi who scored a 97.746 grade point average throughout the academy.
The Mark Jeffrey Phebus award was presented to the trooper candidate who best embodied the leadership, commitment, and service qualities personified by the late Trooper Phebus who was killed in 1990 while off duty. Phebus stopped at what he thought was an auto accident, but was actually a domestic dispute that went very wrong. This award was presented to Trooper Matthew Holley from Franklin.
The “Top Gun” award named in honor of DPS Major James O. Ratliff honors the candidate who excelled in the areas of driving, defensive tactics and firearms. The Ratliff Outstanding Performance Award was presented to Trooper Michael B. Leslie, his second award of the day’s ceremony.
Following the presentation of awards, each trooper was called up individually to receive their commission and badge from Col. Steve McCraw and Representative Allen Fletcher.
After a grueling twenty-seven weeks of training and testing the 107 trooper trainees of class A-2014 were now certified DPS Troopers. They were dismissed to their anxiously waiting families and dispatched to their new assignments. Some of these new troopers will be assigned to help with the Texas border surge to help secure our state’s border and enforce the laws of the state of Texas.
Bob Price is a staff writer and a member of the original Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX.