Healdton - Today, at a graduation ceremony, officials at the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (DOC) commissioned 43 new correctional officers.
The graduation was the inaugural class to go through the Wilson Training Center under the department's new centralized academy format and training standards.
Although unable to attend, Corrections Director Joe M. Allbaugh congratulated the newly minted officers saying their service to the citizens of the state is needed and greatly appreciated.
"This is not an easy job and it's not for everyone," Allbaugh said. "You and your fellow graduates will put your lives on the line every day to protect the public.
"Myself and Oklahomans across the state cannot thank you enough for the career path you have bravely chosen."
Welcoming family, friends and thanking the cadets for their commitment to the department, Chief of Operations Scott Crow said the life of a correctional officer isn't always easy.
"Your role in public safety is different," Crow said. "Everyone you will come into contact with on a daily basis is a convicted felon. You are now challenged with defending the public against those sent away from society.
"Rely on your training, your fellow officers and your instincts and you will make the facility and state a safer place."
Before reading the oath to officially commission the cadets as officers, DOC Director of Training Ken Klingler welcomed and congratulated cadets for making it through the academy. He said they are joining a family where they will be constantly tested and challenged.
"You are now joining a family where every member would lay down their lives for you," Klingler said. "You will be expected to do the same for them.
"This is a unique position that no one on the outside fully understands but are thankful they don't have to."
Keynote speaker for the graduation was Sgt. John Nichols from Dick Conner Correctional Center in Hominy, who is a nine year veteran of the department.
Nichols told officers they are now part of the keystone of the agency.
"You are important to the department, facility and the state," Nichols said. "You make a difference and you are vital to the justice system. Be proud of this honor and responsibility."
The DOC is still accepting applications for the next academy on March 20.