A graduate and an officer

Air Force veteran, 13 others make up county police academy's `finest class'

February 11, 2007|By Will Skowronski | Will Skowronski,sun reporter

Erika Heavner might not have been on stage, let alone been able to speak for her entire Howard County Police Academy class, had it not been for Michael Marino. Along with another cadet, Marino helped Heavner endure a stressful eight-hour day meant to build teamwork among cadets during the first week of training.

"I was to the point of exhaustion with leg cramps. [I] wasn't really sure how I was going to make it through, and I look up and here comes Mike running down the hill," Heavner said after Thursday night's graduation ceremony. "He threw my arm over his shoulder, and he said, `Let's go.' And he carried me to every obstacle that we had the rest of that day. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have made it without him."

Marino, 33, graduated from the police academy with Heavner and 12 other cadets at Reservoir High School.

"Finest class I've ever had," said Lt. Mark Joyce, commander of the department's Education and Training Division, who has trained four classes over the past three years.

Five cadets dropped out of the class for different reasons, and Joyce said this enabled the group to flourish.

"A lot of the leaders stepped up, and the class referred to the leaders." Joyce said. "They just kind of started building momentum, and they worked better as a cohesive unit than any class I've seen."

He said Marino stepped up early, carrying the class "guide on," or flag, from the first day.

His classmates agreed.

"There was not a better candidate in the class," Heavner said. "He provided a great example for the rest of us to follow."

Marino, who was selected a class leader by the academy training staff, presented a plaque to the trainers, a graduation tradition.

After the ceremony, Marino moved through the crowd flowing out of the auditorium to find his family. He didn't hesitate to show his happiness and hugged wife, Eva O'Croinin, and his parents, Beryl and Michael Marino Sr.

He seemed especially happy to see his 70-year-old father, a retired police officer. Marino interned with his father while in college and decided he wanted to follow in his footsteps.

"I felt confident that this is what I want. This is what I like," Marino said. "This is my dream."

The 28-week police academy began July 31, shortly after Marino left the Air Force after 11 years.

Marino enlisted after receiving his associate's degree in criminal justice from Gloucester County College in West Deptford, N.J., in 1995. He joined the security police section and was assigned to Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana. He also was stationed in South Korea and Greece.

In August 1999, he transferred to Andrews Air Force Base as part of the special air mission - what he called the "air marshals" of the Air Force - and guarded high-level officials during flights all over the world. He later was permanently assigned to Air Force Two.

Marino remembers most escorting Gen. Tommy Franks at the start of the war in Iraq and Vice President Dick Cheney during his unannounced visit to American soldiers in Iraq.

"It was intense, very intense," Marino said of the Cheney trip. "All eyes are on you. Your level of alertness, I think it goes beyond your peak."

Tech. Sgt. Alfred Toney, Marino's former superior in the Air Force, said Marino was a professional and reliable soldier.

"Mike was what anyone in the military would call their go-to guy, and he would certainly handle whatever it was as best, if not better, than everybody," Toney said. "That is Mike. Absolutely."

Marino's disciplined reputation continued at the police academy. In fact, some members of the training staff found Marino too structured at the start of the program.

"As a matter of fact, Marino, he had to be de-programmed almost," Joyce said.

Marino's intensity earned him the nickname "Robocop" from his fellow cadets.

"He took everything seriously, very seriously," Heavner said. Marino's wife, however, said her husband is a different man at their Anne Arundel County home with her and their 17-month-old son, Joseph.

"He's very laid back. He's very funny, cracking jokes. ... He knows how to switch gears," O'Croinin said.

A slide show during the ceremony gave an inside look at the academy. Cadets laughed as they saw pictures of themselves carrying logs on a "nature hike" and being sprayed in the face with pepper spray.

"I don't remember it being this fun," Joyce said, commenting on the cadets' laughter.

O'Croinin saw how difficult the training was on her husband.

"It was grueling," O'Croinin said. "There were a lot of late nights and early mornings."

Marino Sr. said he gave his son advice over the phone every week during training. "He had to deal with it. And he did," he said.

He said he has mixed emotions about his son taking on the dangerous job.

"I had 35 years of law enforcement. I've seen every facet you can imagine," Marino Sr. said. "It's rough. But I know he'll deal with it."

Marino and the other cadets face 14 weeks of field training and going on patrol with an experienced officer. They then patrol on their own for a six-month probationary period.

Marino hopes to eventually investigate organized crime and gangs, as his father did.

"I'm a person who does not like to sit back and watch things happen around me and complain about it and not do anything," Marino said. "I want to be in the mix, making a difference."

The following cadets graduated from the police academy: Andrew Brown, Benjamin Carlton, Lawrence Cook, Jeremy Duncan, Amy Frasier, Erika Heavner, Dale Kreller, Michael Marino, Jessica Morgan, Ernest Newhouse, Jason Noble, Jeremiah Poehlman, Tyler Valimont. Edward Simmons graduated to the Howard County Sheriff's Office.

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