Three Alaska State Troopers were honored at a ceremony in Wrangell last Thursday. They were noted for their bravery, service and one surprised trooper received the Trooper of the Year award.

Chadd Yoder is the only Trooper at Wrangell’s post. He’s responsible for everything from taking out the garbage, maintaining vessels and filing charges in complex court cases.

Yoder received the 2023 Trooper of the Year award for the southern detachment, which represents about half of the state. 

“The list of the responsibilities is endless,” Col. Bernard Chastain said. “Trooper Yoder not only maintains the Trooper post, but he also excels at each facet of his job.”

Col. Bernard Chastain, Director of the Alaska Wildlife Troopers Division, presented Yoder with the award. Chastain said Yoder’s traits were showcased when he began to investigate notorious commercial crab fishermen.

“In June, the report came in and this boat had in fact arrived in Wrangell,” Chastain said. “Trooper Yoder made observations of the vessel and the crew. He gave aimed evidence to show that the captain of the vessel was violating his conditions of release from a prior domestic violence assault arrest.” 

Yoder also received an accommodation for bravery award for how he responded during the deadly landslide in November.

“Throughout the 10-plus day natural disaster response, Trooper Yoder worked tirelessly, not only as a dedicated Trooper, but also as a member of this close knit community,” Chastain said. “As other troopers arrived in the days following, Trooper Yoder continued to be instrumental in search efforts, overall coordination recovery of victims and public safety with a visible sense of determination and security.” 

“It’s a bittersweet moment to move on.”

Yoder was then given a going away plaque to recognize his efforts in Wrangell. He and his family will transfer to Ketchikan in late February, on Feb. 19th.

In response, Yoder expressed gratitude for everyone in the room and talked about how quickly he and his family were welcomed in Wrangell in 2021.

“You just really brought a sense of welcoming community and you really set our time here and Wrangell up for success,” Yoder said. “I really appreciate that. It’s a bittersweet moment to move on.”

After the ceremony, Yoder said he expected some kind of a send-off, but nothing like this.

“It was a surprise to me and it’s certainly welcomed,” he said. “I mean, these guys took the milk run down from Anchorage away from their families to be here and to offer it. They coordinated with friends and people in the community to be here. So it means a lot.” 

The milk run is the flight route in southeast Alaska where the plane makes multiple stops before the Wrangell destination.

Yoder’s wife, Sabrina, said she knew for a few months about the awards and had to keep it a secret from the kids until the day of because they can not keep secrets. However, Yoder’s oldest son, Cyrus, 11, was in on it. 

“I was the second one in our family to find out and it’s been so hard to keep your secret from him,” Cyrus said. “I was so excited for him and they’re finally here. I’ve been waiting for so long and then when he finally got it, I was like, ‘You see? That’s what we’ve been all excited about.'”

Petersburg troopers also received awards

Chastain, the director of the Wildlife Division, has been a Trooper for almost 26 years. So he knows what it takes to stick with a tough job. 

“It takes a toll over the years,” he said. “It’s a hard job.” 

He helped honor Sgt. Cody Litster, one of Petersburg’s Wildlife Troopers, for two decades of service. Capt. Derek DeGraaf, who oversees the southern detachment, presented the award. 

“Twenty years of service, that’s a huge milestone,” DeGraaf said. “Just because you can retire doesn’t mean you should retire. So thank you for your hard work out here.”

After the ceremony, Litster said he’s not retiring anytime soon.

“I’m still having fun doing what I’m doing so there’s no reason to leave,” he said. “You’ll see me around for a while.”

Col. Chastain speaks with Sabrina and Trooper Chadd Yoder at the Sourdough Lodge on Jan. 18, 2024. Yoder received the 2023 Alaska Trooper of the Year for the southern detachment. Trooper Josh Spann (second to right), received an award for saving a life and Trooper Cody Litster (right) received an award for 20 years of service. (Photo by Colette Czarnecki/KSTK)

The State Trooper officials also awarded another Petersburg trooper, Josh Spann, for saving a life on March 1st of last year. He administered Narcan – a medicine that rapidly reverses opioid overdoses.  

Chastain spoke about Spann’s good work.

“Trooper Spann’s actions and recognizing the need to administer Narcan and the decision to administer subsequent doses to preserve a preserve life reflect great credit upon himself, the Division of Alaska Wildlife Troopers and the Department of Public Safety,” Chastain said. “This is signed by Commissioner James Cockrell, so congratulations.” 

Although Spann accepted the award, he recognized it was for a not-so-great reason.

“I guess it’s a bittersweet thing because it’s an unfortunate circumstance,” he said. “It’s also good to be recognized, so it’s good and bad.” 

Chastain said the awards given in Wrangell help recognize just some of the great work that Troopers do every day.