SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — There are 18 new law enforcement officers in southeastern South Dakota.

The group graduated Thursday from the Basic Law Enforcement Certification Course at the Sioux Falls regional academy.

Denny Gonzalez made the switch from HR to law enforcement.

The Marine Corps vet is one of the graduates from the Sioux Falls regional.

“It was pretty tough. Coming in, I didn’t know what to expect,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez and 11 other grads are members of the Sioux Falls Police Department.

The other six will work for the Brandon Police Department and the Minnehaha, Lincoln, and McCook County Sheriff’s Offices.

This is the 5th graduation from the Sioux Falls program, which offers the same training as the Pierre-based academy.

“The officers here have an opportunity to be around loved ones, go home more often. It’s state-of-the-art training, and it’s working well not just for Sioux Falls, but the surrounding area and the entire state,” South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley said.

Jackley delivered the keynote address at graduation Thursday.

“They need to stay physically and emotionally healthy. Being a law enforcement officer is a tough job. I encourage them to do just that, make sure they’re paying attention to their loved ones, paying attention to priorities in life,” Jackley said.

Recruit officer Gonzalez now has months of training to do with the Sioux Falls Police Department before he can work on his own.

He’s looking forward to what’s next.

“Just being there for people when they need me, and just learning from all the officers, honestly. I know there’s going to be a lot of hard times, but with hard times comes good times, happy times,” Gonzalez said.

More than 40 officers will graduate from the Pierre academy soon.