Rescuing hundreds of people in harm’s way during Hurricane Harvey then training Texas Parks and Wildlife Department game wardens to do the same is all in a day’s work for one Texas Department of Public Safety trooper.
But some at the state level have thought differently, and saw fit to award Geronimo native and Texas DPS Lt. Cody Klaehn — a helicopter pilot for the state agency — with multiple awards for his actions while on duty, even if the trooper himself downplays his efforts.
“From April 2013 to present, Lt. Klaehn was instrumental in introducing, familiarizing and training TPWD Aviation Branch personnel during the implementation of the department’s search and rescue program,” TPWD Executive Director Carter Smith said in presenting Klaehn with a TPWD Director’s Award. “Lt. Klaehn provided countless hours of ground-based instruction and personally directed numerous scenario-based training evolutions. Lt. Klaehn’s professional acumen and training expertise directly contributed and produced three hoist proficient pilots, one qualified tactical flight officer/hoist operator, and 10 hoist qualified helicopter rescue technicians.”
Klaehn is a tactical flight officer on a DPS helicopter crew. His duties working in that capacity helped lead to a state-wide award, the lieutenant said.
He received the DPS director’s citation for actions saving lives as Hurricane Harvey battered Gulf Coast Texas towns, he said.
“We basically flew around and rescued. I think our machine did about 250-300 rescues in that weeks’ time frame,” Klaehn said. “That was quite a few. The weather was terrible. We went over to Port Arthur, too. When it shifted it’s course, we spent some time over there.”
But that’s not the first time he was recognized for his heroics. Klaehn said he received a life-saving award several years ago. In that instance, he and other members of the DPS office where he worked rushed to save a colleague who had passed out and fallen to the ground, he said.
They hurried the patient to a helicopter that whisked the man away to get further medical attention, Klaehn said.
“One of our office mates comes running in and says one of our other office mates just passed out and hit the ground,” he said. “Myself and several others went out there and had to give him CPR put an AED on him and loaded him into the helicopter and saved his life.”
Though he opened up about the awards, Klaehn initially seemed hesitant to talk about his actions. He was just doing his job along with his colleagues, the lieutenant said.
He learned a sense of honor and duty growing up on a farm in Geronimo, Klaehn said. He left for a short while but returned to the area because he loves it and could think of no better place to continue fertilizing the roots he established here.
“It was a good, farm, country-style town,” he said. “That’s why I’m back in the country. We have a farm, but I personally don’t live on it.”
A year after high school, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, Klaehn said. After the service, he saw a need to return to Texas.
He made it back home and quickly realized what he wanted to do with his life, driven by the sense of duty and honor instilled in him years earlier. As a member of such an elite fighting force as the Marines, he sought the next best thing to it at home.
That led to becoming a state trooper, Klaehn said. He said DPS was the hardest agency to work for, it was toughest to get into, had the toughest academy, best looking uniforms, best looking vehicles and everything about it caught his eye.
“That was the theory behind it. I just went through the hardest branch of the military and just wanted to keep that up and go to the state police in Texas,” Klaehn said. “I wanted to come home and so I figured I’d come home and work for the best agency in Texas.”
He started at the academy in January 1997. While working for the department, Klaehn lived in Austin from about 2008 until about 2012.
However, he longed to return home to the Seguin area, which he eventually did after leaving Austin, the trooper said.
Klaehn takes his helicopter to attend career days at local schools and shares with them career opportunities at DPS. He volunteers at his daughter’s school with the Watch D.O.G.S. program for Navarro ISD and with Boy Scout Troop 317 where he mentors young scouts.
He does work for and outside DPS to serving his community admirably.
“I’ve done a lot of good stuff with this agency,” Klaehn said. “I appreciate the opportunity to do all that and serve the folks of Texas.”