People crowded the streets surrounding the World War II Memorial on the Capitol Campus on Friday morning, waiting for the first sign of a flashing light bar.
It was a moment months in the making.
Just minutes past 9 a.m., the red and blue lights of 37 Washington State Patrol cars began driving down the diagonal street toward the cheering crowd.
Inside were the 37 cadets of the 100th Basic Training Academy class, ready to graduate.
The cadets climbed out of their cars and stood at the ready until they were ordered to march up the Capitol steps and into the Rotunda, where they became troopers after a short ceremony capping their 26 weeks of training.
“Those 37 cadets just finished the best training a law enforcement officer can get,” said State Patrol spokesman Trooper Guy Gill.
Since the State Patrol began in 1921 with six troopers and a supervisor equipped with motorcycles and revolvers, more than 3,000 have received a badge.
One of the newest graduates is assigned to patrol the Olympia area, while six are being sent to Tacoma. Seven will be sent to Bellevue, six more to Burlington and four to Chehalis. The rest are scattered throughout the state, including two to Yakima.
The cadets visited with family members and friends in the Rotunda before the ceremony, snapping photos and showing off their new uniforms.
Twenty-five-year-old Trooper Jessica Dizon of Olympia and her mother, Gale, shed tears moments before the ceremony.
Dizon’s father, a huge supporter of her decision to pursue a law enforcement career, died a month and a half ago in a hunting accident while she was in training.
“Every step of the way, he was so proud of her with everything she had done,” Gale Dizon said. “I know he is here smiling down, looking at her, and is so extremely proud of her.”
Dizon said the death brought her family closer, and showed her how much support her new law enforcement family could give her and her relatives.
“Your loved ones are part of the Washington State Patrol family, and thus you are part of the Washington State Patrol family,” said State Patrol Chief John Batiste, addressing the troopers’ families. “We hold you close because we owe you. … I know we are nothing without family.”
Thousands looked on from balconies as the national anthem was sung and colors were presented. The cadets marched into the Rotunda, where veteran troopers sat across the way to welcome them into the agency.
The troopers were sworn in by State Supreme Court Justice James Johnson before hearing words from Batiste and Gov. Chris Gregoire.
Gregoire had hoped to witness the 100th graduation ceremony before leaving office.
“Remember, there is no better training than your own good judgment, which I know you will use,” Gregoire told the graduates. “Nothing in what you do is routine. The Washington State Patrol puts service above self.”
New Trooper Kyle Dahl of Silverdale was aware of the commitment he was making. That’s why he and his wife, Lindsey, didn’t mind squeezing in their wedding one weekend during training in September. Dahl came home on a Friday night, the pair wed the following day, and he had to be back for academy classes Monday morning.
“At least we had a full weekend,” Lindsey said with a laugh.
A graduate of Central Washington University, Dahl, 25, said he was attracted to the State Patrol after taking a course taught by a former trooper.
The hardest part of training was not having his own family and support close, he said.
“Being away from home and loved ones is a constant hardship when you are being pushed to your limits,” Dahl said.
Dahl will be assigned to patrol in the Bremerton area, putting him close to family — including his nephew Jack, who refers to Dahl as “Uncle Troops.” Jack was latched around Dahl’s neck before the ceremony.
The time away was worth it, Dahl said.
“I knew I wanted to go into law enforcement, and I knew I didn’t want to be mediocre,” he said. “We are the best, and the best-dressed, in the country, and I wanted to be a part of that.”
The next academy class, the 101st Basic Training, starts Monday in Shelton.