Tahlequah Daily Press

September 26, 2013

New troopers hit roads

By JOSH NEWTON
Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — After 20 challenging weeks at the state’s 61st Oklahoma Highway Patrol academy, four rookie troopers are patrolling the roads of Cherokee and Adair counties.

OHP Lt. Chris Arnall said 40 cadets graduated on July 18 and are now in field-training across the state.

“The reason we had so many new troopers in this area is because we lost three troopers just in Adair and Cherokee counties who got transferred to the lake patrol,” said Arnall.

New troopers Cody Cox, John-Michael Moore and Aaron Wall reside in Cherokee County, while Trooper Matthew Williams now calls Adair County his home.

“The cadets were given a wishlist and got to pick three places, three counties they’d like to try to go to, and the chief does his best to try to give them one of their picks,” said Arnall.

The latest OHP academy began with 54 cadets, but 14 dropped out before graduation.

“People who have been in the military say the academy is similar to a boot camp, which is pretty tough. It’s physically and mentally challenging,” said Arnall.

Cadets spent the first four weeks of the academy on-site in Oklahoma City, and after the first month were allowed to go home on weekends.

“When you have family, kids, it makes it tough,” said Arnall, who was on the training staff for the 61st academy.

The area’s four new troopers have now been on the roads for approximately two months riding with other troopers. They’ll begin to fly solo as a trooper sometime in October.

Trooper Cody Cox

Cox grew up in Heavener and lived in Wister, south of Poteau.

“I was working at a chicken poultry factory and had worked there for about five years doing human re- sources,” said Cox. “After sitting in the office for a while, I decided that I wanted to do something that would actually make a difference and help the area I lived in, versus an office job.”

Cox, 27, said his wife’s friend married a state trooper, and after a few ride-alongs, Cox began to take an interest in law enforcement.

Then it came time for the academy.

“Everybody can tell you how hard and how mentally and physically challenging it is, but until you get there and actually do it, you can’t really understand. It’s not something you can explain.”

Cox said his first request was to work the Cherokee County area.

“I’m really excited to be coming to this area,” said Cox. “I hadn’t been up here a whole lot, not nearly as much as some others, but I’d driven through several times and really like the scenery here. All the people seem really nice – even the people I’ve dealt with through work. The majority are very polite and considerate.”

Trooper John-Michael Moore

At age 23, Moore is the youngest trooper in the area.

“I’ve always figured being a state trooper was the best, and that’s why I wanted to be part of the elite program in the state,” said Moore. “I really like the fact that we get freedom, but yet we have so much responsibility at the same time.”

His decision to be a trooper, and his success at completing the academy, was also partly in -spired by his late uncle, Leon Bench, who joined the OHP in 1982 and was killed during a traffic stop the following year.

“The thought of him going through the same thing I did helped me get through the academy,” said Moore.

He described the training process as “rough” and “very intense.”

“How do you eat an elephant? You’ve got to take it one bite at a time,” said Moore, who moved to Cherokee County from Broken Arrow. “That’s how they explained it to us; that’s how you handle the academy. It’s one hour at a time, one day at a time. After one week on the road, I realized it was worth it to me.”

Trooper Aaron Wall

Wall is a Locust Grove native and hoped to work in the Cherokee County area because of its familiarity.

“There’s not a better place to be than northeastern Oklahoma,” said Wall, 27.

Wall was an apprentice electrician and also worked with heat and air before he chose to pursue a life as a state trooper.

“Being a trooper is a career,” said Wall. “I plan on doing this until I retire; it’s a great organization. I hated doing the same stuff over and over again, and wanted a job I loved. As a trooper, everything is different; you’re going to deal with something different every day.”

Wall wasn’t entirely prepared for what the academy threw at him, he said.

“No words can describe exactly what goes on inside the academy,” he said. “You always have that inkling to quit because it’s such a tough academy, so you need all the support you can get. I couldn’t have done it without my family.”

And now, Wall understands why he and the other cadets were put through such stressful situations.

“If you lose your head, it could be the last day you go out there,” said Wall.

Trooper Matthew Williams

Williams moved from Okmulgee to Stilwell for his assignment as a new trooper. He was already familiar with the area, and graduated from Northeastern State University in 2008.

“I’ve got a brother in law enforcement, and he kind of got me interested in it,” said Williams.

“The highway patrol just kind of appealed to me. It’s going to be a career; it’s a great job.”

Williams enjoys the freedom of his job and the variety of issues he runs across on a daily basis.

“A lot of times you get to help people with things like motorist assists,” he said. “You’re not always the ‘bad guy.’ You might help change a tire, or help someone who ran out of gas.”

Williams believes success as a trooper hinges on how others are treated.

“You treat people well, you respect people,” Williams said. “They’re human, too, and everybody makes mistakes. Just because they are speeding doesn’t make them a bad person. If you treat them with respect, they’re going to treat you the same way.”

ONLINE EXCLUSIVE

Log on to TahlequahTDP.com for an exclusive slideshow of the area’s four new Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers and the 61st state trooper academy.

jnewton@tahlequahdailypress.com