October 8, 2007

HL girl gets a taste of state trooper cadet training

By Jennifer Gallus
Staff Writer

When Kayla Hofer, 16, of Howard Lake is asked, “So, what did you do over the summer?” she has a unique answer that is sure to draw attention.

That’s because she was one of only 29 kids who participated in the Minnesota State Patrol High School Summer Camp Aug. 5-11 at Camp Ripley.

Although the words “summer camp” usually evoke thoughts of kids jumping into lakes during careless summer days, that is not the kind of camp Hofer experienced, and she wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Hofer’s days were spent learning state trooper tactics, skills, and procedures because, after all, kids who apply to this camp are very interested in pursuing a future in law enforcement.

“Basically all the parts of the State Patrol came to talk to us. We learned about the State Patrol’s history, flight section, traffic law, defensive tactics, firearms, first aid, defensive driving programs, and more,” Hofer explained.

The campers were ages 16 to 19, and of the 29 kids, only seven were girls. “We (the girls) got close very fast,” Hofer said.

Camp participants stayed in the same rooms that the State Patrol cadets stay in when they are trained at Camp Ripley.

The week-long summer camp is a scaled-down, condensed version of what state trooper cadets experience.

“I did conquer quite a few fears during that week, like repelling down a three-story building, flying in a small engine plane, and being away from home for a week with no one I knew,” Hofer said.

The State Patrol’s Special Response Team helped the campers repel down the three-story tower.

“Your back is to the ground and you walk backwards down the side of the tower,” Hofer said.

“I guess no one could duplicate the noise I was making as I went down,” she laughed. In fact, Hofer needed all the supportive chatter from those at the bottom of the tower that she could get because she was terrified.

During the week at camp, Hofer described every aspect of daily activities as being very military style.

“Everything was very disciplined. If we were seven minutes early for lunch, our rooms would be thrown to pieces. The sheets would be torn off the beds, the desks turned around, chairs in the hallway, fans on the floor, and we’d have to work as a team to put it all back together before we’d get phone time at night,” Hofer explained.

The campers had to walk military style, as a group, and shout a cadence, as well. They had to finish their meals as a group, and even dump their trays as a group.

“It was a strict eating schedule. It actually broke my caffeine habit. Now I drink a lot more milk and water,” Hofer laughed.

Beds were made military style, and the campers had to move to a new room every other night, luggage and all.

Because of the camp’s location, helicopters were flying at regular intervals throughout the night, “so sleeping was a little bit of an issue,” Hofer said.

The camp was a mix of classroom time and field training.

“We were first-aid certified. We did the same obstacle course as the State Patrol does. We got to shoot the Glock .45, which is the same handgun the State Patrol carries, and we shot M16s, M4s, and some rifles,” Hofer said.

The campers were allowed to sit on one of the State Patrol motorcycles, and were given a drunk driving lesson that involved fatal vision goggles and golf carts.

“One cadet broke the cones while driving the golf cart with the goggles on. I don’t know how people can drive drunk,” Hofer said.

“It was a lot of team work. There’s no way you’d survive this camp if you couldn’t work as a team,” she added.

“I remember thinking ‘What did I get myself into?’ on Monday night, but by Friday night I didn’t want to go home,” Hofer said.

In the end, all campers received a diploma during a graduation ceremony. Even though campers can not return as a camper, they can return as a counselor, which is something Hofer is considering.

Hofer also continues her interest in law enforcement with the assistance of the Howard Lake Police Department.

“I’ve gone on some ride-alongs with Officer Darek Szczepanik. I get to see what it’s like – what they do. I really appreciate the opportunity,” Hofer said.

“As of right now, I want to go to college to get my peace officer’s license and work for a county or a city. After I have some experience under my belt, I may possibly try the State Patrol,” Hofer explained.

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