It's not a job, it's a calling for many of South Carolina's High - - Columbia, South Carolina

It's not a job, it's a calling for many of South Carolina's Highway Patrol troopers

Sgt. Therese Alford is just one of 784 South Carolina Highway Patrol troopers. (Source: Sgt. Therese Alford) Sgt. Therese Alford is just one of 784 South Carolina Highway Patrol troopers. (Source: Sgt. Therese Alford)

The South Carolina Highway Patrol has 784 troopers working throughout the 46 counties of our state, but they are in need of more troopers to continue keeping the roads safe.

For those who work the roads, they say their job is a calling.

"For me it's personal," Sgt. Therese Alford said. She has been a state trooper for 20 years. When she was 11 years old, Alford's world changed and she knew what she needed to do. 

RELATED: See photos of Sgt. Therese Alford's life and career.

"My mom was involved in a near-fatal collision that left her paralyzed from the neck down. A driver drove into her path of her vehicle, disregarded a stop sign," Alford said.

That collision changed the course of her destiny.

"I wanted to understand why collisions happen and understand a driver's mentality," Alford said. 

Fast-forward to today. Alford said she knows she's making a difference.

"I'm going out enforcing laws and investigating collisions," Alford said. "I had that determination and drive to do that for my mom. I was actually making a difference -- that her accident wasn't in vain and that I was trying to help prevent that from happening to another family."

That determination has led her to accomplish a number of 'firsts' while on the job.

"I was the first female to come from the Highway Patrol to go to the Governor's detail to provide executive security for Governor Jim Hodges." Alford also was the first female supervisor on the Aggressive Criminal Enforcement team. Alford is currently one of 42 females with the department.

Alford said working for the Highway Patrol has been an environment full of opportunity and like a family. That's a sentiment shared by other troopers.

"I knew when I grew up and became of age I wanted to be a part of that organization and it was something that was a dream," Lance Corporal David Jones.

The Department of Public Safety has been actively recruiting in-state and out-of-state for more troopers who share that dream.

"We want dedicated, motivated people to get out here and enforce our laws and keep our roadways safe," Lieutenant Colonel Chris Williamson said.

The agency has a second recruiting class starting at the Criminal Justice Academy in July. They are hoping to hire as many troopers as possible.

"We need you. We want you. If you feel like you meet the qualifications as a South Carolina trooper, I definitely encourage you to apply," Williamson said.

Starting salaries for troopers increased in September 2015. 

Starting Salaries for Similar Agencies

"We're starting you out at $37,000. Also you get a car, you don't have to worry about. We're going to give you everything you need to do your job," Jones said. 

But the reward sometimes is intangible.

"As a trooper serving here in South Carolina for 10 years, I can never turn back I can never see myself doing anything different. If I could do this job and survive without a paycheck, I would do it in a heartbeat," Jones said.

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