Graduations of all sorts are commencing around the country, and they can have a variety of meanings to those who participate.

To Trooper Nathan Elzen, of Medford, one of the 22 cadets of the 61st Training Academy who graduated in a ceremony held at Camp Ripley in April, it’s about reaching out to the community and honoring his father.

In October 1982, Elzen’s father, Ron Elzen, was struck by a drunken driver while inspecting the damage from a fender bender along the highway. He survived the encounter, but has since endured a total of 25 surgeries, including seven hip replacements. This incident had a profound impact on Elzen’s family, and was one of Nathan Elzen’s inspirations for joining the Minnesota State Patrol.

“We’ve always had to deal with the repercussions of that crash,” Nathan Elzen said. “I am very passionate about DWIs and my goal is to be efficient and effective at finding these drivers while working with the community and educating them about the dangers of drunk driving.”

Elzen understood the importance of connecting with the community even before donning the trooper uniform. While earning his Bachelor’s degree in Law Enforcement at Minnesota State University, Mankato, he worked as a YMCA building supervisor.

After receiving his degree, Elzen went on to join the training academy, which had to adapt this year’s curriculum to the COVID-19 pandemic. The regular 16-week course had been condensed to 14, with Elzen and the other cadets staying at Camp Ripley seven days a week in order to complete the required training.

The training consisted of numerous activities including motor vehicle crash investigation, traffic law, emergency vehicle operations, firearms, defensive tactics, and communication and scenario-based training.

In this era of the COVID-19, they also regularly receive updates from the Centers for Disease Control and learn to adjust their tactics accordingly. Masks and hand sanitizer, Elzen said, have become part of the equipment they are issued.

Elzen joins the ranks with his brother, Trooper Mitch Elzen, who was among the law enforcement officers honored last year for most DWI arrests.

Reach Reporter Allison Miller at 507-444-2379. © Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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