Capt. Lori Hodapp is responsible for every new recruit who enters the Minnesota State Patrol academy. As the patrol's training and development director, she hopes to see them all do well. But she admits that she was especially interested in the progress of one cadet in this year's class: her son, Nathan.
"There were a couple of times when I had to turn my head when the drill sergeant was getting after him," she said with a smile.
Nathan Hodapp was among the 50 graduating cadets who received their badges on Tuesday and became state troopers. Nathan's father, Mat, is retired after more than 30 years as a trooper. And Nathan's grandfather, Philip Hodapp, also retired with more than 30 years under his Sam Browne belt.
"It requires excellence, and he lived up to that," Lori Hodapp said of her son. "Service runs in the family."
"He's following a couple of legends of the agency," said Col. Matt Langer, chief of the State Patrol. "It's just a great legacy. I'm very proud to see family generations coming through the State Patrol."
In fact, four other members of the cadet class have family members who are current or former state troopers, including John Kubat, whose great-grandfather, James McClellan, became a trooper in 1937 — only eight years after the agency was founded. More than 500 troopers currently patrol Minnesota's highways.
The 50 troopers who crossed the stage at Mariucci Arena on the University of Minnesota campus were selected from 1,000 who applied to join this year's class. The new troopers trained 15 hours a day for 16 weeks, studying motor vehicle crash investigation, firearms, emergency vehicle operations, leadership, communications and defensive tactics.
They must also have studied close-order drill, because they came marching into the arena at a brisk cadence, chanting in call-and-response fashion with a drill instructor.
"We train to fight, we fight to win," they boomed in unison. "We'll never quit, we'll never die. Nothing in this world is free — a trooper's life is great for me."
Even as they celebrated, they were reminded of the risks they accept every time they don their uniforms. Attending the ceremony was a contingent of Wisconsin state troopers, returning a poignant and fraternal gesture.
Wisconsin trooper Trevor Casper, a recent academy graduate, was killed March 24 in a gun battle with a suspected murderer on his first day of solo patrol. The Minnesota cadet class sent condolences and a gift to his memorial fund. In return, the Wisconsin troopers attended the Minnesota graduation and presented the cadet class with a memorial for its unit flag.
In his address to the graduates, Langer reminded them that their primary duties are to protect and serve the public, recounting a number of incidents in which troopers went the extra mile to render needed aid.
"Leave someone better off than you found them," he said.