TROOPER BARBIE

Story by Kelsey Boyd

 

Ask a young girl what she wants to be when she grows up, and you’ll most likely hear “a princess,” “a movie star,” “a singer” or “a model.” This wasn’t the case with Brenda Gibbons, who now goes by State Trooper Gibbons since earning state trooper job with Troop J of the Highway Patrol Division.

“Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be a state trooper,” said Trooper Gibbons. “They were my heroes when I was little.”

Trooper Gibbons has long aspired to be a state trooper because of her family connections with the Arkansas State Police. Her father served as a reserve deputy when she was a child. She can remember the pride she felt when seeing him in uniform.

“It was in my blood at that point,” she recalls, “It was my passion.”

Law enforcement became a big part of Trooper Gibbons’ life as she grew older and began seeking jobs during high school and college. She worked at the police department and sheriff’s office at her hometown of Cove, Arkansas, as a dispatcher and jailer and moved to Russellville to attend Arkansas Tech University.

“Trooper Gibbons is a wonderful person, and we are very lucky she chose the Arkansas State Police as her career,” said State Trooper Senior Corporal Blake Wilson.

“The first time I met Brenda, I was impressed with her work ethics. She was working full time as a dispatcher and attending college full time, as well.”

While at Tech, Trooper Gibbons continued dispatching with Pope County 911 and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Emergency Administration and Management.

Her degree required an internship and in 2004, Trooper Gibbons landed a job with the State Police Headquarters in Clarksville. During her internship, she learned all aspects of a job with the Arkansas State Police and was able to work directly with state troopers. She learned from State Trooper Blake Wilson of Russellville, who eventually gave her the nickname “Trooper Barbie” since he knew of her state trooper aspirations. The nickname stuck and today, Trooper Gibbons is affectionately known as “Trooper Barbie” among her co-workers.

The training Trooper Gibbons endured to earn her real title would put GI-Joe to shame. In January of 2006, Trooper Gibbons began the six-month training regime to become a State Trooper.

Trooper Gibbons said she was warned about troop school before she went but the warnings just didn’t do it justice.

“It was the toughest thing I’ve ever been through in my life. It was just intense.”

Trooper Gibbons and her fellow students trained five days a week for 22 weeks. The recruits were up by 5 a.m. and did not stop until 10 p.m. They endured intense physical and mental training including being tazered and pepper-sprayed. The recruits studied and practiced fighting and defensive techniques. Trooper Gibbons fought male partners every day.

“I did everything they did and learned a lot from it.”

Her proudest accomplishment at troop school was when she conquered an eight-foot wooden wall after six weeks of struggling to climb it.

“The seventh week of school, I grabbed a hold of that wall and I pulled myself over. From then on, I could get over it.”

Trooper Gibbons recalls how much mental energy she spent climbing that wall. She remembers one of the drill instructors saying, “Gibbons, you just climbed over a wall in your mind.”

Out of 45 recruits who began the training, 14 quit the first week. Trooper Gibbons was the only female trooper out of three that persevered.

In spite of the bruises, aches and sleep-deprived nights, Trooper Gibbons recognizes the importance of the training and takes pride in her accomplishments.

Upon graduating from troop school, Trooper Gibbons and her classmates were honored as they marched through the Little Rock capital rotunda.

“It was the greatest experience of my life,” she recalled. “It is such a proud moment.”

“I look back and on it now and enjoyed it,” she said about troop school. “I had an awesome group of people to be around.”

Trooper Gibbons recalls her classmates with fondness.

“The guys I went through school with were like big brothers. We stuck together no matter what.”

Despite being the only female, Trooper Gibbons recalls feeling a sense of unity in the group.

“I didn’t feel any different. I never felt like I was treated any differently by the guys I went to school with or the drill instructors.”

Her friends and family are also highly supportive of her unique career. She admits that her mother was a little worried when she first began training.

“My mom was hesitant at first because I’m ‘Mama’s little girl,’ but she knows how much I love it and how much it consumes me because it’s my passion.”

Many of Trooper Gibbons’ female friends also work in law enforcement and are very understanding of her career. She jokes about wearing “the man pants,” as she lovingly calls them.

“My friends are very proud of me. They like to tell people that I’m a trooper and brag on me, but I don’t see it. It’s just my job and that’s what I do.”

Trooper Gibbons patrols the highways and has been doing so since completing her training in July of 2006.

“I’m still a rookie,” she jokes.

“Brenda is only one of 22 female troopers, and one of ten in uniform working patrol,” said Senior Corporal Wilson.

“I can say, without a doubt, that we hit a home run when we hired Brenda. I would like to have one hundred more just like her.”

Trooper Gibbons also makes daily traffic stops and works accidents but tries to avoid making the job too routine. Her training has prepared her for different situations she may face.

“You never know what you’re going to encounter. You’ve got to be on your toes all the time.”

Fortunately, however, Trooper Gibbons has not encountered many problems with authority.

“I credit that to just being able to talk to people. I’m not going to degrade people and I understand that they’re having a bad day when they see a trooper.”

In spite of the weeks of repeated physical and mental endurance and the challenges of a job in law enforcement, Trooper Brenda Gibbons maintains a positive attitude. She is enjoying every moment of her dream career as a state trooper.

“I smile a lot. I’m just happy to be doing the job.”

 

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