Trooper Romulus Gregory is prepared to miss a lot of life's significant moments.
As brand-new state troopers lined up Friday in the sanctuary of True Vine Baptist Church and pins were fastened to brown uniforms, a sense of responsibility seemed to be passed to the 60th cadet class of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.
“Today is probably the proudest moment of my life,” Gregory said. “This is definitely a brotherhood, and there are 30 brothers who stood strong and didn't quit and stuck together and grew closer and shared blood and sweat together every day to achieve this goal as a state trooper.”
The training began in March with 40 aspiring troopers. Thirty lasted the full five months.
“You told us you could do this and you didn't let us down,” Public Safety Department Commissioner Mike Thompson said as he addressed graduates.
Thompson then spoke to the rest of the audience, reminding family members their trooper would not be there for every important event.
“You don't get paid for what you do. You get paid for what you're willing to do,” Thompson said. “You might miss a first T-ball game, or the birth of a child or your mother's last breath. You are asked to lay down your life for this state and nation. Why? Because you swore an oath do it.”
Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb expressed gratitude for their service.
“On behalf of a grateful state, I thank you. Because of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol and Department of Safety we live in a safer state. Others work 8 to 5, not the highway patrol.”
Patrol Capt. Gary Vinson said the state is in need of more troopers and said he estimates the number of troopers at about 550, down from more than 800 a few years ago.
“If we could run back-to-back academies and start another one on Monday, we would still be behind,” Vinson said.
“We would need to do that for about a period of three years for us to get caught up and to where the manpower could be on an even keel to serve the citizens more efficiently. We are carrying the load, but we have troopers out there covering three and four counties right now, and that's just the way it is.”
Vinson said state legislators have provided funds for more training. He said testing for the 61st academy starts Monday with a start date tentatively set for February.
‘It's an evolution'
Trooper Daniel Mossberg was chosen as the spokesman for his class and described how strenuous the training was.
“Prior to the academy, all of the 30 soon-to-be troopers thought that our best was good enough,” Mossberg said. “We thought we were good shots, fast drivers and good grapplers. Whatever the case may be, we all found a limit to our ability in the academy. Our best was not good enough. If we wanted to stay, we knew that something more than our best was needed.”
The new troopers will start next week after a few days of catching up with their families. Gregory has been assigned to Osage County and said he can't wait to get to work.
“From start to finish it's an evolution of what it takes to become an Oklahoma state trooper,” he said. “We are ready. All 30 of us are ready to hit the road and begin serving the state of Oklahoma.”