ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Think you have what it takes to protect the Last Frontier? The Alaska State Troopers are seeking new recruits.
Last year, Alaska State Troopers saw historically low staffing levels in the face of state budget cuts, and an abundance of retirees, but just in the past six months recruiters say they've hired their largest group in over a decade, and they aren't finished.
"It's definitely a different picture, much more positive," said Recruitment Supervisor, Lt. Derek DeGraaf. "Our troopers know that help is on the way. Help is coming. People are interested. The public is interested in public safety. The Legislature is interested in public safety, but it just takes a significant amount of time to find those right people, train them up and then get them out on the road working."
Recruiters say they're looking for hardworking, honest recruits with a heart for public service. You don't even need law enforcement experience to apply.
"Nobody knows how to be an Alaska State Trooper, no matter what job they've been doing currently," said Sgt. David Willson. "We have to teach them. So that's why we have an academy and a field training program."
The training program lasts about 33 weeks. Over the next few months, they'll be accepting applications, and going through the testing process for new applicants. Currently, there are about 40 vacancies for new recruits, and after facing critically low staffing levels last year, they say things are looking up.
"About two years ago we really started aggressively recruiting, and really it's taken about a year and a half to get to where we are now," said DeGraff. "We're starting to gain positions and troopers by recruitment efforts."
Recruiters say it takes a special kind of person to be an Alaska State Trooper, as it's a very different job from municipal police, and is even unlike any other trooper agency in the country.
"We're a different kind of cops, that's for sure," said Sgt. Willson. "We don't have Deputy Sheriffs covering the rural areas in Alaska, like you do in many of the places in the lower 48. Alaska State Troopers, we do it all, from highway safety to statewide training, search and rescue, criminal investigations, property crime investigations. It's all on us when you get outside of a municipal agency that has it's own police department."
They're also focusing on diversity this year, looking to hire more people from rural areas as well, like Nasruk Nay, an Alaska State Trooper of 20 years from the village of Noorvik.
"I focus on providing a good example for the youth in the villages," said Nay. "Letting them see somebody who came from where they come from. Letting them see somebody who looks like them and who has the same experiences that they're having, who's aspired to become an Alaska State Trooper. I believe the demographics of our department should reflect the demographics of our state, and sadly it doesn't at this point."
They want potential hopefuls to keep in mind: this is nowhere near an easy job, but it is a rewarding experience.
"Some of the things that you get to do in this job, they're just amazing," said Sgt. Willson. "The opportunities that we have to make a real impact on people's lives. I wouldn't trade that for anything in the world."
According to the governor's proposed budget, Alaska State Troopers will receive funding for increased salaries for all levels of troopers in an effort to improve retention and recruitment rates.
For information on the application process visit the Alaska State Troopers website.
Editor's Note: The names in the video version of this story are swapped. Lt. Derek DeGraff is labeled as Sgt. David Willson, and vice versa. Our apologies.