Thirteen deputies from six different agencies will soon be on patrol. The 13 were in the first graduation class of the Blount County Sheriff’s office training academy.
The graduation ceremony for the first class of the training academy was held at First Baptist Church of Maryville on Friday morning, Nov. 16. The large sanctuary was half full and dignitaries from throughout the area were on hand for the ceremony.
The academy was an 11-week course held at the sheriff’s office, in empty classrooms at Eagleton Middle School and at the driving and firing range on Honeysuckle Road. It took three years to get the program up and running.
Sheriff James Berrong said the cadets endured weeks of hard work and mental and physical stress. “This has been a goal and dream of the Blount County Sheriff’s Office,” Berrong said. “Three years ago we finally decided to have a training academy. I’d like to thank the training staff for their work.”
Berrong praised the cadets who were becoming deputies. “These 13 people are getting ready to enter a job that is physically tolling and mentally stressing,” he said.
The sheriff asked that the families of the individual deputies be patient with them. “They’ll see things men or women should not see and then have to go home and live with it,” he said.
Blount County Sheriff’s deputy Justin McClure spoke to the audience about the academy’s first class. “We began together with 13 and ended with 13. It’s hard to believe we knew each other only by our name tags. We learned to work together as a team,” he said.
McClure said the cadets were anxious to pick up the task started by those who had paid the ultimate sacrifice. “It’s an honor to get behind our fallen brothers and begin our tour of duty,” he said.
McClure said the new deputies and officers needed to have courage and dedication. “Courage is probably the most important virtue. Without courage, you can not have dedication. Without courage and dedication, you can not have pride,” he said. “Nothing we do will be easy, but it will always be rewarding. Today, we are now the elite. The 'thin blue line' just got a little deeper.”
Actor, University of Tennessee graduate and Knoxville resident David Keith was the keynote speaker. He spoke about the major role law enforcement now plays in society. Keith said that during the Cold War, the threats to American society were considered to be "without," and local law enforcement was considered to be the last line of defense.
Today, especially after the attacks on Sept. 11, Keith said, “The most dangerous enemy of the United States can be living next door. These young men and women (the cadets) become our first line of defense.”
Keith compared the individual cadets choice to serve to how Christ chose to humble himself. To serve others, Keith said, “is a righteous choice. There is power, and it has to be wielded with grace. Carry that power with respect and courtesy.
“When it comes down to it, these young men and women have made a choice to protect me, my wife, my daughter and everyone of you,” he said.
Five awards were presented to cadets during the ceremony. Deputy Andrew Baumann was honored as Top Gun for his prowess on the firing range. He also was honored with the Physical Fitness award.
The Top Driver award went to deputy Darrell Cook from the Roane County Sheriff’s Office. Blount County deputy Janice Postel was honored as the valedictorian of the first class of the Blount County Sheriff’s Office training academy.
When Postel heard about the training academy’s first class, she knew she wanted to be part of it. “It seemed like it took a long time, but it also felt like it flew by,” she said.
For photos and more on the graduation, see next Thursday's edition of Blount Today.