Rick Root has had lots of careers, made several stops around the globe and has now found his final career.
“I hope so, I enjoy it and it looks like something I’m going to stick with,” Root said.
His new career, starting in 2020, is with the Colorado State Patrol. He’s stationed in the Glenwood Springs area, but he hopes to soon be transferred to the Fruita office and back to his hometown area.
Root, 42, chuckles as he admits that being a state trooper was never on his radar.
“It was never something I would have ever considered when I was younger,” he said.
It’s been a long road to this career with more turns than a single-track trail, and a few potholes and detours along the way.
It started with six years in the Air Force for the Central High School graduate. There were all kinds of training in electronics, satellites and other technology-based fields. His military time landed him in several locations including South Korea.
After returning to Grand Junction in 2004, he used the GI Bill to go to college, and he graduated from Colorado Mesa University with a degree in geology.
He dabbled in a variety of careers after he left the military.
“I tried a bit of everything, including real estate, I was just kinda bored,” he said with a laugh.
He eventually ended up in the energy industry, which ultimately led to his decision to find his new job.
“I worked on and off in the oil fields for nine years,” he said. “In 2015, I was laid off for the last time.”
It was his time with Mesa County Search and Rescue that shifted his focus to a possible career in law enforcement.
“I participated in some rescues and recoveries, and that pushed me in that direction,” he said. “I started doing things to potentially help me get with one of the law enforcement agencies.”
The first step was to get an EMS (Emergency Medical Services) certificate.
That led to step two — contacting the Mesa County Workforce for help getting that done.
“Going over there and going through the veterans work program was great and was pretty easy,” he said. “I told them my goals and they said ‘OK, let’s get this started.’ ”
Tony Lee, a U.S. Army veteran, is the veteran services officer with the Mesa County Workforce Center’s VetWorks program. It’s his job to help veterans get started to fulfill those goals.
“Hopefully, we put the steps out to make it not feel like such a daunting process,” he said. “We want to be here so they have someone with them to help them get through those hoops.”
The program provides funding for veterans to help them in a variety of ways: from training to certification to even equipment.
Lee gave several examples. One veteran needed training to get his commercial driver’s license training. Another, like Root, used the EMS certification process to find a job; some needed money to pay for work boots and uniforms.
He said it can be almost anything if they qualify.
“There was this one guy that we got him a new bicycle so he could get to work since the bus routes weren’t close enough,” Lee said.
Providing that financial help to get them on the right path is the goal.
“Anything that gives them kind of leg up to help them achieve a different career, so they can be self-sustaining, gainfully employed, so they can find long-term gainful employment,” he said.
The funding for the program comes from grants created after a Colorado House Bill was passed in 2016.
For Root, once he decided law enforcement was the goal, he used the EMS certification, which was paid for by the VetWorks program, as his jump start.
After applying, along with 2,500 other Colorado State Patrol hopefuls, Root was accepted into the academy in Golden.
TATTOO HAD TO GO
Even before he applied, Root was faced with a dilemma if he wanted to become a trooper.
He had to have a tattoo on his hand removed since visible tattoos are not allowed.
“It was a starfish,” he said about his tattoo. “I love sea life and snorkeling, and I have an aquarium at home.”
But the starfish had to go, and it wasn’t fun.
“The removal was pretty painful; it was a lot shorter than getting a tattoo, but it was really excruciating,” he said.
He laughs: “I think I’m done getting tattoos now.”
Once he made it to the academy, thanks to COVID, it took nine months instead of the normal six months to complete.
Root said an enormous thank you needs to go to his wife Heather.
“She had mixed emotions at first, but she’s very supportive, she’s really toughed it out for a while,” he said.
The couple have three kids, ages 22, 16, and 13.
Since 2019, 27 veterans have taken advantage of the VetWorks program.
Root credits the VetWorks program for helping him on the path to become a state trooper.
“They were instrumental in getting me on with Colorado State Patrol,” he said. “It provided me with the financial support that I needed at the time.”
For information: mcwfc.us or contact Tony Lee at 970-248-2733.