On September 6, EHS Extend students received a visit from 2007 EHS graduate Steven Soper, who spoke to students about his career in the military and as a law enforcement officer.
Soper served eleven years in the Marines, the majority of which was spent in the artillery. He asked students how many of them enjoyed competitive sports.
“The military is nothing but competition,” Soper said. “There are conduct and competency tests all the time.” He said the competitiveness of the military fuels a constant drive to do better, be better.
Using an anecdote about his grandfather buying veteran belt buckles for a deceased Vietnam comrade and his own close relationship with a fellow Marine, he explained that the bonds formed with military teammates often last a lifetime.
When deployments began to cause his oldest son to exhibit signs of separation anxiety, Soper decided it was time to make a career change that would allow him to stay closer to home.
He traded his military uniform for a police uniform in 2016. Students were interested to know what the police academy entailed.
Soper shared that it was structured in a manner so that new material pertaining to laws and the constitution was presented Monday through Thursday and a test was given over the material every Friday. After passing the written tests, the class moved on to driving and field skills.
When students seemed concerned that it would be too difficult to pass, Soper assured them that only one person out of the whole class had failed the tests. He confided to them that he was not a very good test-taker, that his strengths were with hands-on skills, but that he had been able to pass the tests.
“Everyone has their own strengths,” Soper said. “Sometimes people forget that book-smart doesn’t always translate to ability and a bad score on a test doesn’t mean someone isn’t smart and capable of doing great things.”
Students asked questions throughout Soper’s presentation about both his military experiences and his law enforcement career. In Elk County, the largest number of arrests are related to DUIs and driving on a suspended license.
When asked about whether he was afraid of being mortally wounded on the job, Soper shared that only 218 police officers have been shot in the history of Kansas.
“It’s always a risk, but realistically it doesn’t happen that often,” Soper said.
In addition to sharing some of the strict laws he had encountered in other countries such as not being allowed to chew gum while walking down the street in Singapore, Soper shared a few calming techniques he had learned as well.
Step 1: Control your breathing and heart rate.
Step 2: Focus.
Step 3: Run through the worst-case scenario as if everything that could go wrong did. Then run through it again as a best-case scenario as if everything went right.
No matter what the situation is, it is better to face it with a calm and clear mind. As a final parting message, Soper encouraged students to talk to someone if they are struggling or feeling overwhelmed. He advised them to start thinking about their future and what they want it to look like.
“I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for my wife,” Soper said. “I was on the wrong path in high school, and she helped pull me off of it an onto the one that allowed me to have all of the awesome experiences I’ve been able to have.”
The military and law enforcement are not careers that appeal to everyone, so Soper encouraged students to talk to people who work in the fields they are interested in so they can get a feel for what that particular job is really about.