Corrections guards graduate from unique Kaua‘i-based course

NUKOLI‘I — Ten prison guard graduates of the Basic Recruit Class 03-03, and one from the Corrections Familiarization Class 03-03 celebrated a historic first graduation Tuesday afternoon at the Radisson Kaua‘i Beach Resort here.

Neal Wagatsuma, warden of the Kaua‘i Community Correctional Center, said this was the first-ever class to be graduated on the island, and said he expects it’ll be a long time before another class graduates.

Wagatsuma explained that due to the large number of recruits, it was easier to bring the instructors to Kaua‘i rather than have the recruits travel to O‘ahu where previous recruits were trained before returning for duty at KCCC.

The effort required coordination between the main instructors as well as a Kaua‘i liaison Sgt. Robert Kato.

Sgt. Michael Carvalho of the Big Island and Sgt. Lot Kaluau of Maui alternated between taking the lead-instructor roles in the comprehensive, eight-week training session that resulted in the graduating class being honored earlier this week.

Wagatsuma, keynote speaker for the event, congratulated the graduates for their perseverance, and thanked the head instructors for their sacrifices and hardships they had to endure to mold the graduates.

“Prison is not a happy place to be,” Wagatsuma told the graduates and their families. “You will witness daily battles between good and evil. You need to be steady. You need to brace yourselves,” he said. “You have much to learn, and much to gain in the experiences you will encounter.”

Kaluau, in bidding farewell to his class, left them one parting note: “Don’t forget your roots, and where you came from, because when things get tough, that’s where you’ll go back to.”

In congratulating the class that he said worked until mid-morning Tuesday in finalizing their coursework, Kaluau said: “Excellence is not a single act. It’s habitual. Stand for what is right, even if it seems like you’re standing alone.”

Members of the Basic Recruit Class 03-03 include Talisiu K. Huni, Romulo T. Laborte, Stephen L. Lizama, Jr., Robely K. Lovell, Lawaia E. Naihe, Michael Rubio, Jr., Thomas K. Smith, Matthew J. Tafiti, Ronny S. Tanihiro, Jr., and Jose M. Vera Cruz III, who provided the class message and received the Academic Award as the distinguished graduate for his work in the course.

Bradley Chiba graduated from the Corrections Familiarization Class 03-03.

The Top Gun award for skills in weaponry was presented to Naihe, with Smith being awarded the Physical Fitness award. Tafiti was presented the Inspirational award.

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