Minnesota State Patrol Sgt. Eric Barthel is a behind-the-scenes kind of hero. He has taught active shooter classes to more than 500 employees. He travels the roads to protect Minnesota drivers in bad weather. He teaches fellow officers about workplace safety through an online program he designed.
This do-it-all manner led 43-year-old Barthel to receive the "Trooper of the Year" award at the Minnesota State Patrol Annual Awards Ceremony for 2013 on Monday afternoon.
Capt. Lori Hodapp nominated the technology coordinator because he "touches every employee every day," she said.
"What Sgt. Barthel does … is immensely important in advancing our technological skills and piloting change that positively impacts the State Patrol's ability to serve the people of Minnesota," Lt. Eric Roeske said.
Barthel, of Monticello, was among a number of officers and citizens to receive awards Monday. Among those honored included officers involved in rescue efforts, including the New Year's Day Cedar-Riverside neighborhood apartment explosion, a fatal mudslide at Lilydale Regional Park and a vehicle submerged with trapped children in a holding pond at Hwys. 7 and 100 in St. Louis Park.
Barthel travels the state to teach the Department of Public Safety employees. His colleagues note he's available to help at all hours of the day with even the most mundane computer questions, Hodapp said.
He's even had someone show up at his doorstep late at night, Barthel said.
Starting off as a field trooper, he knows that giving five minutes of his time can save a trooper struggling with technology "a weekend of heartache."
Barthel said he simply wants to provide the best training possible and to get more innovative as money for certain programs gets tighter. Barthel has been with the State Patrol for almost 15 years and loves being a trooper, he said.
Barthel implemented an e-learning system that teaches officers anything from computer programs to first aid, Roeske said. He helped implement a similar program for the Iowa State Patrol. These programs cut down on travel costs and time, Roeske said.
"It's hard to quantify what he does," Roeske said. But what Barthel has "brought to the agency saves us a considerable amount of time and resources," which Roeske said translates into more time on the road for troopers to protect Minnesota drivers.
Danielle Dullinger is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune.