Lincroft, N.J. - Acting Attorney General John Hoffman and Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, presented badges to New Jersey's newest state troopers during graduation ceremonies at Brookdale Community College on Friday, January 29.
The 156th New Jersey State Police Class started with 200 recruits and graduated 134 troopers. Of this graduating class, more than 70 percent have a Bachelor's Degree or higher, 33 percent played college sports, 32 percent have prior law enforcement experience, and 40 percent have prior military experience (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, National Guard, and Coast Guard), including recipients of a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. Also, among the class are five EMTs, five Eagle Scouts, six firefighters, and eight teachers.
The Class completed 24 weeks of strenuous physical and academic training consisting of classroom lessons and practical training scenarios. The recruits participated in extensive training and role-playing exercises focused on motor vehicle stops, domestic violence situations, and human dignity. In the area of cultural diversity, the trooper recruits received detailed instruction from community and cultural organizations.
The life of a recruit is challenging in many ways. The New Jersey State Police Training Academy is one of the few residential academies in the nation. Recruits report to the academy before dawn on Monday morning, and they do not return home until dismissal on Friday evening. Therefore recruits are away from their families during significant life events. During this academy class, three recruits got engaged, two recruits got married, and four children were born.
In the controlled environment of the academy, it is impossible to prepare troopers for certain situations they may encounter. This class gained firsthand insight into the hazards of law enforcement by attending the funeral of Trooper Eli McCarson, who died in the line of duty in December.
The probationary troopers have been assigned to stations throughout the state, and over the next few months, the new troopers will begin their careers under the watchful eye of their Trooper-Coaches and supervisors.
"Today's graduation of the 156th New Jersey State Police Class continues a proud tradition of leadership and service to New Jersey's citizens," said Governor Chris Christie. "The New Jersey State Police are our most visible symbol of law enforcement in the Garden State, and I am indeed proud this diverse group of graduates will serve the greater New Jersey community with pride, dignity and honor."
"One thing I'm particularly pleased to talk about here today is that the 156th Class, with an overall make-up of more than 33 percent minorities, is diverse," said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. "Why does this matter? Because New Jersey is one of our nation's most richly diverse states, and it encourages public confidence when citizens can look at their State Police force and see themselves."
"Today's ceremony is the culmination of a group of strangers who started their academy training together as individuals from all different walks of life and ended it together as a team, as classmates, and as New Jersey State Troopers," said Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. "Law enforcement is more challenging than ever. Being a New Jersey State Trooper means leading by example. These men and women will be viewed as leaders and role models, and they will be held to a higher standard. "
In addition to honoring all graduates from the 156th class, Colonel Fuentes presented the following awards:
- The winner of the "High Academic Award" is Trooper Zachary Van Fossen, of Marlton, N.J. Throughout the academy training program he achieved an overall average of 94.9%.
- The winner of the "High Marksmanship Award" is Trooper Brian Klecka, of West Orange, N.J. During firearms training, he had 399 hits out of a possible 400 rounds.
- The winner of the "High Physical Award" is Trooper Tramane Miller, of Little Egg Harbor Twp., N.J. During the physical agility testing, he achieved a score of 98.
- The winner of the "Military Service Award" is Trooper Brian Klecka, of West Orange, N.J. This award is presented to the outstanding recruit who is currently serving or who has served in the U.S. military, and demonstrated active support and service to the class, and exemplifies the State Police's service to the citizens of this state.
- The winner of the "Outstanding Recruit Award" is Trooper Matthew Lilley, of Brick Twp., N.J. The outstanding recruit is selected by the academy instructors.
- The winner of the "Lieutenant James Walsh Award" is Trooper Todd Brown, of Southampton, N.J. This award is presented to the person who exhibited dedication, commitment, loyalty, and unselfishness during training.
- The winner of the "Outstanding Recruit Award" is Trooper Brian Klecka, of West Orange, N.J. This award is presented to the person selected by his or her peers.