Five months after the Cook County Sheriff’s Training Academy was certified as an eligible site for benefits under the G.I. Bill, nearly one-third of those cadets graduating today are U.S. military veterans, Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart announced Wednesday.
Ceremonies are set for 2 p.m. today at Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Heights. Graduation happens in Building M, near the school’s 111th Street entrance.
In March, the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs recognized the Sheriff’s Training Academy an approved program for G.I. Bill benefits, meaning eligible veterans, National Guardsmen and Reservists can receive a stipend of nearly $9,000 while completing their training to become correctional officers at the Cook County Jail. Since then, 28 Training Academy cadets have applied for benefits under the G.I. Bill.
Those graduating today and beginning their careers on Monday include U.S. Marine Sgts. Robert Carroll, of Chicago, who twice served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Omar Macias, of Oak Lawn, who attended bilateral international training while serving in Iraq and Southeast Asia. Other graduates include Marine Cpl. Luis Guadarrama, of Chicago, who received an Outstanding Service Medal while serving, and Marine Sgt. Tomasz Tustanowski, of Chicago Ridge, who received a Combat Action Award while serving in Kosovo and Afghanistan. Also graduating today are Marine Cpl. Miguel Ortiz, of Chicago, Marine Cpl. Gerard DeLeon, of Niles, and Army Sgt. Luis Reyes, of Alsip. The class also includes Petra Gumble-Pritchett, of Chicago, who earned a masters degree in economics in her native Germany, where she worked as a civilian employee for the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. She moved to the United States in 1990 and became a U.S. citizen in 1998.
In 2007, Sheriff Dart introduced strict new standards for applicants to be considered for employment, including mandatory physical training, psychological and polygraph examinations, along with thorough background checks. The office is under a federal court order to add hundreds of officer positions in order to properly staff the 9,000-inmate jail.