Courier staff writer
ALAMOSA — They are now prepared to protect and serve.
On Friday, Trinidad State Junior College (TSJC) held its largest Law Enforcement Academy Training graduation in its history at Adams State University's (ASU) Carson Auditorium. Since August, the 21 students overcame all training obstacles, met all goals and realized the importance of their commitment to their communities, families and one another.
"These are not just law enforcement officers," said keynote speaker Monte Vista Police Chief James Grayson who likened today's force to a band of urban warriors. "They are problem solvers and peace keepers."
He added, "They are the only line of defense keeping all of us safe."
Most of the 2013 graduates will begin their careers in the Valley, which the 33-year Chief commended with a warning.
"It is hard work, guys," Grayson said about enforcing the law in rural communities. "It is the norm; the average and the heartbeat of policing in America... You have had a lot of training so far and you have a lot more in front of you."
Recognized for his superb driving skills and for top of the class academic achievement, Billy Calder applauded his class for completing the hundreds of hours of training.
"It has all paid off and now we are here," Calder said. "We are about to become members of an elite group, a brotherhood. It is law enforcement."
Alongside Calder, both William Pena and Michael Pino were recognized for their first-rate efforts. Pena took home a class award for arrest control and Pino for firearms.
Their classmate, Richard Drewes, also stepped to the podium to share his feelings about his much younger comrades.
"You are the protectors of the weak and the angels of darkness to those who want to harm them," Drewes said. "You will be good cops. You will be honest cops... I will never forget any of you."
TSJC Law Enforcement Academy Director and Alamosa Police Department Lt. Duane Oakes only reinforced the class's many achievements.
"Their dedication and commitment to the program has been incredible," Oakes said. "They have reached a goal today."
The academy has been running strong for 10 years, and is a collaboration of several Valley entities. Instructional partners include the Colorado State Patrol, the Colorado Department of Corrections, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Monte Vista Police Department, the Alamosa Police Department, the Alamosa County Sheriff's Office, the Del Norte Police Department, the 12th Judicial District Attorney's Office, ASU and the Rio Grande Sheriff's Office.
"Their guidance and insight is invaluable," Oakes said.
In addition, the Alamosa School District, the Del Norte School District and the City of Alamosa provided training locations and additional support.