More than 5,000 candidates applied to become part of the Texas Department of Public Safety Highway Patrol Troopers’ B-2018 class.
92 made it through training, graduating from the 164th recruit school in a Nov. 30 ceremony in Austin.
Two were from right here in Kilgore.
Dakota Keenon is proud to wear the DPS Trooper uniform and is thankful for the skills he learned in training, which is over at last.
“It feels good. It feels like a great accomplishment,” Keenon said. “I’m married and I have a two-and-a-half year old daughter. Being away from them for six months is a challenge in itself so I’m glad to have it done with. It was great training, it was very useful.”
According to a DPS press release, training for the graduates began in June and consisted of a 26-week academy. During that time, trainees must study, practice and become proficient in over 100 subjects. Some of the training includes driving and firearms skills, the study of criminal and traffic law, physical fitness, communication and cultural diversity.
For Keenon, graduation marked the achievement of a longtime dream.
“I was a Gregg County Sheriff’s Deputy for five years and I loved working for Sheriff Maxey Cerliano. I always wanted to become a trooper. My neighbor was a trooper and ever since I saw them, I wanted to become a trooper, ever since I was a little kid,” he said.
Keenon was one of 20 law enforcement veterans in the graduating class, which also included 11 women and 29 military veterans. Graduates ranged in age from 21 years old to 51 years old.
Following graduation, the new troopers will be assigned to posts across Texas for six more months of on-the-job training. Keenon hopes to be of service to the people of Texas as he completes training and begins a career with the Highway Patrol.
“It’s more of looking forward to helping people. We’re from Kilgore and I’ll be stationed in Raymondville but I look forward to working my way back to Kilgore. As big an agency as it is, I’m just looking forward to what I can do.”
Fidel Cedillo was also one of the 92 graduates and agreed training was long and tough but rewarding.
“The experience at the academy was pretty challenging,” Cedillo said. “It was challenging in all aspects, physically, mentally and emotionally but it was well worth it. We had a lot of early mornings and a lot of late nights.”
Cedillo said he had a desire to become a trooper for several years but his drive to help people, enforce the law and keep drivers safe first began with a painful experience in his youth.
“When I was 11 or 12, my sister was killed by a drunk driver. I wanted to do something but I didn’t know what. I met a trooper at one of my old jobs and I did a couple of ride-alongs. I learned that being a trooper is not just writing speeding tickets, it’s a lot more than that,” he said.
After learning more about the Highway Patrol from the trooper, Cedillo decided this career was right for him.
During the graduation ceremony, DPS Director Steven McCraw congratulated the new troopers and reminded them of the challenges of their profession.
“Today you join an elite group of law enforcement professionals, and we are confident that you will uphold the traditions and values of both DPS and the Texas Highway Patrol. It takes extreme courage to risk your own safety in order to protect the safety of others. We thank you all for answering the call to serve and protect your fellow Texans, and we are proud to be welcoming each of you to the DPS family,” McCraw said.