TOBYHANNA ARMY DEPOT, Pa. - Two police officers earned honors recognition at Aberdeen Proving Ground Police Academy, Md.

Officers Mario Gonzalez and Jesse Van Orden completed 9 A,A1/2 weeks of police academy training. The officers were presented with three of the four awards available to graduates, during their graduation ceremony on Dec. 10.

Gonzalez received the Distinguished Honor Graduate and Physical Fitness awards and Van Orden earned the Academic Honor Graduate Award. They trained with 24 officers from various military bases, including forts Meade, Md.; Monmouth, N.J.; Wainwright, Alaska and Kaiserslautern, Germany.

Both officers attended the training at the academy in order to fulfill one of the job requirements of becoming a police officer.

Van Orden, who began working at the depot in 2005, and Gonzalez, who began in June 2008, were initially hired as security guards. Both studied criminal justice in college and decided to apply for police officer positions during last summer.

Van Orden says he applied for an officer's position because he wants to obtain as much training as possible, and then decided to volunteer to attend training at the academy. "Learning more information makes me feel safe by knowing that I have the knowledge to respond to different situations."

The Academic Honor Graduate Award is determined through classroom and practical situation tests focused on the course material presented. The course contained classroom and hand-on instruction, and materials covered included the 4th and 5th amendment, how to write reports, traffic stop procedures, building and vehicle searches, and simulations.

The Distinguished Honor Graduate Award is determined by combining points earned for academic, physical fitness and top gun (shooting portion) performance.
There are four aspects of the physical fitness portion of the training, which include push-ups and sit-ups, and a 300-meter and 1 A,A1/2 mile run. Points are added up to help determine which graduate earns the Physical Fitness Award.

"I believe that it's crucial for someone in law enforcement to be in the best shape possible," says Gonzalez. "It's one of the main aspects and necessary to keep in good health."

He also believes that his prior military experience as an Army sergeant, and as a police officer in Ocean City, Md. helped him earn the two awards.

Within the first month after arriving at the depot, all incoming security guards and police officers undergo an extensive training curriculum which includes, but is not limited to, firearms qualification, common task testing, Pennsylvania vehicle code, and pepper spray and extendable police baton certification. "Officers who do not have an accredited academy under their belt must attend the academy," noted Sergeant James Vones.

"The training will help with tasks performed here such as working at the entrance gates searching vehicles, traffic stops on post, felony stops, writing a report for, responding to, and engaging in, a situation," explained Van Orden.

Gonzalez says he learned that things aren't as easy as they look. The biggest challenge was experiencing different situations, such as being pepper sprayed or shot at with Simunition rounds (similar to paintball and used for realistic training), that prepared officers for real-life scenarios, he explained.

"Everything they have learned is going to enhance what they do here and is going to rub off on some of the other officers. By watching [Gonzalez and Van Orden], others are going to look at them as leaders and learn from them," explains Lt. Louis Pistella, depot supervisory police officer.

"The training will help me with job in many ways, from enforcing the requirements for a vehicle to enter the gate, to responding to alarms and being more aware of my surroundings," Gonzalez noted.

"[Gonzalez and Van Orden] did a good job. For them to earn three of the awards is a tribute to their work ethic and drive," Vones added. "We're setting the standard high."
Tobyhanna Army Depot is the largest full-service Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) maintenance and logistics support facility in the Department of Defense. Employees repair, overhaul and fabricate electronics systems and components, from tactical field radios to the ground terminals for the defense satellite communications network.

Tobyhanna's missions support all branches of the Armed Forces. The depot is the Army Center of Industrial and Technical Excellence for Communications-Electronics, Avionics, and Missile Guidance and Control Systems and the Air Force Technology Repair Center for ground communications and electronics.

About 5,700 personnel are employed at Tobyhanna, which is located in the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania.

Tobyhanna Army Depot is part of the U.S. Army CECOM Life Cycle Management Command. Headquartered at Fort Monmouth, N.J., the command's mission is to research, develop, acquire, field and sustain communications, command, control, computer, intelligence, electronic warfare and sensors capabilities for the Armed Forces.