Eighteen newly minted members of the Anchorage Police Department took the oath to protect and serve in front of family and friends Thursday afternoon.

The recruits, graduates of APD's latest police academy, just finished 900-plus hours of training spanning over 24 weeks to reach Thursday's ceremony at the Wendy Williamson Auditorium on the University of Alaska Anchorage campus.

The recruits will now start on the Anchorage police force, some starting on Sunday night, others disbursed throughout the next week, for field training with senior patrol officers for the next four months.

"They have a training officer that will be with them through every call," said APD Sgt. Scott Roberts. "They work through each call and learn how to handle each call. The training officer is there to give them guidance on how to handle calls that we've taught them in the academy, but this is real life when they are with the field training officer to give them guidance in how to do the field portion of police work. "

The uplifting and emotional day included speeches, awards and the recruits being presented with their badges, which were pinned on to their uniforms by selected family and friends.

"I've always had the heart to serve the community," said recruit Colson Dettmeier. "I first joined the National Guard when I was 19 as an infantryman, and I didn't just want to stop there -- I wanted to keep moving forward in that life."

"I grew up here," said recruit Colin Neace. "I wanted to do my part to be able to give back to the community, and to be able to protect and serve my family and friends."

APD's next academy will begin Dec. 18 with a class of more than 30 recruits. Including the recruits graduating Thursday and the start of the new academy, APD will have more than 435 sworn officers. The department's current staffing goal is 440 to 450 officers.