Sometimes the most valuable part of training is learning the trade from a seasoned veteran.
Cadet James Stairet was issuing a warning to a driver caught speeding on northbound Interstate 5 between the Marvin Road and Martin Way exits in Thurston County on Thursday morning.
Even though the driver wasn’t ticketed, the State Patrol tracks every stop, meaning Stairet had to collect the driver’s information.
“I was explaining to him to collect that information while we are there, next to the vehicle,” Trooper Guy Gill said. “That way we are not continuously having to make trips back and forth between the car and vehicle … when you get back into your car, you are done with the call.”
Stairet is absorbing all he can before possibly joining the 101st Basic Training academy in December. Having completed some basic training during the seven-week cadet arming class, he is now pulling shifts on the Capitol Campus.
There are 24 armed cadets working at the Capitol Campus, in homeland security for the ferry systems and at the Department of Labor and Industries.
An additional 38 cadets from the 100th Basic Class are just getting started on their eight-week coaching trip in which the future troopers finally put all the skills they learned through academy to practical use.
Of those 38 cadets being coached statewide, nine are learning alongside field training officers in Thurston and Pierce counties.
The cadets will be behind the wheel of patrol cars while veteran officers ride shotgun.
Cadets are evaluated daily and work with two field training officers.
“The cadets are dealing with the calls,” Gill said. “The field training officers help them through any hurdles and rough spots so they can graduate and become a trooper.”
Gill recently became a recruiter as part of the State Patrol’s “decentralized recruiter plan,” which involve selecting a recruiter for each of the state’s eight geographical districts. He is the recruiter for district one, which includes Thurston and Pierce counties. He has coached seven cadets as a field training officer through a post-academy coaching program.
Cadets who complete the coaching training will head back to the academy Dec. 10 for the final days of classes before graduating Dec. 14.
Though it’s rare, some cadets don’t pass field training, Gill said.
“I’ve seen some cadets come to very intense situations, and once they do that, they realize maybe this isn’t the job for them,” he said.
Stairet is getting a head start while he waits for his academy to start in December. Until then, he can’t be behind the wheel of a cruiser, but he can spend up to 16 hours a month shadowing a field training officer.
The 22-year-old Tri-Cities native was inspired to join the State Patrol by his father, who has a background in law enforcement.
His family has been supportive.
“My mom is happy I’m doing what I want to do, but she has mom-reservations about the dangerous side,” Stairet said.
Stairet, who doesn’t have military experience, said the arms training was eye-opening and a good preview of what to expect at the academy.
“On day one, they got on you,” he said. “It’s a wake-up call.”
The wake-up call is necessary, Stairet said, so cadets understand the seriousness of their career choice.
“If something goes bad out here, you don’t go home,” he said.
Not everyone who applies makes the cut. When Stairet attended phase one training in Eastern Washington, nearly half the nine people who applied failed to pass the physical test.
Applicants must pass a written and physical test. The physical test involves timed sit-ups and push-ups, as well as a 1.5-mile run.
“That becomes an issue for a lot of our candidates,” Gill said. “They need to know the minimum requirements before coming in.”
Gill is working on recruiting cadets for the 102nd Basic Training next September. Phase one testing is set for Jan. 12 at the academy in Shelton and Feb. 9 at the General Administration Building auditorium on the Capitol Campus.
Having more recruiters on the ground is aimed at helping to find the best candidates, Gill said.
“We want people to be career-minded in this,” he said.
The State Patrol is projecting to hire 67 cadets for the 101st and 102nd Basic Academy classes because of attrition.
Gill said that as of Wednesday, 88 troopers were eligible for retirement. That number will grow to 92 by the end of 2012, 216 by 2015 and 321 by 2017.
“Twenty-five years ago, they ran more classes,” Gill said. “Now, 25 years later, we are seeing the retirements, and that is why we are recruiting – to fill those spots.”