CERT gets new members

New CERT members face audience as they are introduced
New CERT members at their graduation ceremony

The 24th annual Correctional Emergency Response Team graduation was held April 26 at the Gowen Field Auditorium. This year’s graduates included two Idaho Correctional Center officers (pictured here wearing white shirts). Veteran CERT members applauded as the graduates were introduced to the audience.

South Boise Women’s Correctional Center Warden Shannon Cluney gave the graduation address. He talked about his years with CERT and how training and standards have improved over the years.

Here is a transcript of his remarks:


CERT Academy Graduates, family and friends, departmental leadership, and distinguished guests.  Thank you for this opportunity to speak before you; it is truly an honor and privilege to be here today.


I began my correctional and tactical career in 1987.  I like many others of the time, viewed corrections as a ‘job between jobs’ and for the most part quite boring.  After a rather short period of time, I decided I wanted to do more than conduct count, search cells and inmates, and sit in an office with old timers who did nothing but complain about everything!

I was young, fit, worked hard (and often) and had somehow impressed the right people.  I was asked to apply for the team, ‘TAC” as it was called back then, breezed through the fitness test and figured I would be a lock for this so-called ‘team’.  The ‘team’ voted on new members and all it took was one dissenting vote and you were done.  This was definitely a ‘good old boys club’.  Fortunately I survived the populace vote and I was now ‘one of them’.  And so my journey began.

I was issued a set of blue coveralls, a gas mask that likely saw action in the Korean War, and a riot helmet that would shatter if you dropped it too hard.  We had side-handle batons (PR-24’s) as all IDOC security staff were certified and allowed to carry them on duty.  Our primary weapons were Ruger Mini-14 rifles with a wooden stock… that we shared; our secondary weapon was a .38 revolver… that we shared, however we did have our own speed loaders! 

Tear Gas (CN and CS) made up our less lethal munitions inventory since OC was still in the test and evaluation stages for tactical deployment.  Flash bangs, not an option, too expensive, however we did have some fireworks available for deployment if needed.  Over pressure, over saturation, etc. were just words in fine print, viewed merely as a ‘guideline’.  As I reflect back to those days, I am glad that the technology of today was not available then as it would have been dangerous in the hands of some.

My first few experiences in the TAC Team training arena comprised of some basic tactical stuff but mostly consisted of the old dogs telling stories and picking on the new guys!  When training was over, the socialization portion of the team building began, at the gravel pit located at the bottom of the hill.  There was no academy, there were no lesson plans, there was little structure, and even less discipline.  After awhile, I still had no idea of what we were capable of doing.  Not something I wanted to be part of for any length of time that is.  At some point I asked myself this question ‘if I were a hostage, could this team save me?’  Needless to say, I didn’t like the answer!  I had a few options:

  • Stick around, maintain the status quo,
  • Quit, I’m not a quitter,
  • Facilitate change

For purely selfish reasons, I opted to work myself into a position to facilitate change.  As time passed, we were able to develop a positive team culture steeped with structure, discipline, and the ability to achieve our goal-mission readiness! 


Over the years, the name has changed; TAC, SWAT, SORT, CERT, etc.  Equipment and technology has improved, tactics developed, and administrative support spiked.  Team members have come, Team members have gone, some returned, and then left again.

Through all of this change, the mission has remained relatively the same; MAINTAIN/RESTORE ORDER AND SAVE LIVES.  In its simplest form, that is what you do.  All your training, preparation, and sacrifice are to ensure mission success at all costs.

Trying your best and giving 100% is great for little league however has very little application in the CERT environment.  If the mission is not a success your best wasn’t good enough!


Commitment to the CERT Mission is not measured by the time you give; it is measured by the line you cross.  You must constantly ask yourself ‘what can I do to make myself a better team mate, while making the team better as a whole, without compromising the other commitments you have in your lives’. 

You have agreed to serve the Idaho Department of Correction in a manner unlike any other.  Our expectation is that you commit to develop and maintain yourself in a state of tactical readiness should the situation arise that your services are needed.

Maintaining balance in your tactical world, professional world and most important your personal world is a key component to your individual success.


From this point forward, what you do and how you do it will be looked at in a different light by everyone-offenders, co-workers, and decision makers.  Expectations are higher; standards may be different for you than they are for the next guy, accountability somewhat harsher for the CERT member.  Understand it, accept it, and embrace it……that’s the way it should be!  How you work through adversity is what will be remembered and how you will be assessed.

CERT is not defined by the certificate you are about to receive or the pin you place on your uniform.  Those things will not define you nor should they.  CERT is a mindset and an attitude, let it get into you but don’t let it define you.

Carry yourself with confidence not arrogance and never wear CERT on your sleeve.  You now have a responsibility to those who have come before you as well as those who will follow you to represent in a positive manner.  Make us proud!


In closing, this achievement is something you will remember forever.  The people you sweated with, broke bread with, and in some cases cried with will be there for you forever.  The training evolutions, the goofy experiences (if there were any), the survival strategies you may have deployed in order to survive, memories that you will not soon forget.  Cherish it all, no one can take that away from you.

To the families, your loved ones have endured quite a bit over the past 10 days.  I thank you, these men thank you for your understanding and support.  Give them the rest of today to recover then tomorrow, get them back to doing their chores.  If they whine, let me know and we will dispatch the DI’s to your residence and provide some ‘motivation’.

To the graduates of the 24th CERT Academy, congratulations for completing your first mission, I commend you!

Godspeed to each of you as you begin your journey.

Story published: 05/22/2013
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