(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.)— Well, it finally happened. I'm now officially a graduate of the Missouri State Highway Patrol Troop H's Community Alliance Program. Over the last month, myself and 20 others took part in this journey to have a much better idea of what these brave men and women do everyday. But everyone did the program for different reasons.
Gracia Pinzino wanted to take the program after doing the St. Joseph Police Academy last spring and wanted to see how things are done through the patrol's perspective. She said this experience was more than she could have imagined.
"I think what I took away from this is how noble and respectful and dedicated these men and women are to the profession and what they do," Pinzino said. "I enjoyed the shooting range. I'm really grateful on that."
Carlos Hughes has been interested in a career with the Missouri State Highway Patrol for quiet sometime. He said participating in the program taught him more about the various departments within the patrol.
"All that is out there. I want to learn more how they do that," Hughes said. "There's more to it than just bad guys and cops and just stopping the vehicle. There's a whole lot more to it like the S.W.A.T. Team came in. I didn't know they had a water patrol division and how they combined together."
For instructor Sgt. Jake Angle, he enjoyed instructing this group about his awesome team and hopes it will be an experience that will stay with all of us for years to come.
"It was a great group. I had a lot of fun with them," Sgt. Angle said. "You always get a different group with different personalities. It's just fun to watch everyone interact with each other and with the troopers. This was a great group."
For myself personally, the Community Alliance Program was such an amazing experience overall from learning how to properly shoot a gun and letting out the inner voice I never thought I had through my stimulated traffic stop. It also taught me to think about being in a trooper's shoes the next time I see that well known patrol car pulled over off the side of the highway or giving a safe driving presentation at a school.
But most of all, this experience allowed me to meet new people and make new friends, knowing that we went through this whole experience together as a team.
The next community program for the Missouri State Highway Patrol will be targeting students. The patrol will be teaching criminology students at Northwest Missouri State University in the spring.