Kentucky State Police Trooper Joey Vorbeck hushes.
Before he depresses a small switch on his cruiser console to broadcast he’s “10-8,” or evening shift begins, the amiable 27-year-old has his own devout rite. “I say little prayers,” he smiles proudly, understanding each workday brings stakes and vulnerability in darkness.
Crisscrossing country road ruts, he blacks out his headlights, with gunshot bangs 100 yards away. Two state police brothers are alongside Vorbeck. “We’re one foot out of the car and shots started firing. We didn’t know if they were intended for us or not,” he details, speaking of the chancy episode.
Although it’s just someone firing into an embankment, he calls upon KSP’s concerted mental and physical training, his three years protecting Madison County citizens as a deputy sheriff and his grandpa’s guidance for certitude in this risky business.
Rex Bunch was sworn into office the day Vorbeck was born and served three terms as Metcalfe County sheriff. He often piled his cadet grandson into his police car. There, Joey met a state trooper — a tough, unfaltering leader with a herculean aura and constant kindliness while backing up Vorbeck’s grandfather.
“I always knew I wanted to be a trooper since I was a little boy. It stuck with me until I became one,” he adds, saying those years as a ridealong helped him come to terms with odds of danger around the rural hollow bend. Raised on a farm, he’s in his element here.
“There are always butterflies in your stomach when you’re responding to an emergency. From training we go through, to calls you learn from, it all betters me on handling those situations,” he said. “But we’re trained to handle those situations, no matter how small or big.
“We go — no matter what the situation is. We’re not trained to survive. We’re trained to win.”
He’s privileged to wear the KSP uniform.
“This agency has heritage. People know when this gray car pulls up we’re gonna take care of them,” he said. “The job can be very stressful — from paperwork, to long hours to dealing with the most unimaginable calls the normal citizen wouldn’t think of. There are nights when you go home at midnight, get called back out and return home at 6 a.m. You never know what the day holds for you.”
Vorbeck’s paramount objective is coming home to his wife. Walking out tonight, he seals his love for her with a kiss and a heartfelt, “I love you.”
He learns safety from every complaint, from traffic stops to domestic violence calls, and advocates bulletproof vests.
“You wear it for yourself and you wear it for your family. It’s selfish to them to walk out the front door without it,” he yanks at his vest, and then speaks of commonplace highway traffic stops quickly turning bad. “Just because someone is nice doesn’t mean they don’t wanna kill you.
“Stress will always be part of being a Trooper. I deal with it by coming home and turning it off. I don’t think about what happened that night or day.”
After Christmas, he pulled over a mother with two children in the car. A nice guy, he imparted Tonka trucks and a princess dress-up set to the kids. He hopes first memories of a trooper were cheery and hospitable. He recommends the career to children and loves volunteering at the annual holiday Shop-with-a-Trooper charity campaign.
“If you have a goal you wish to accomplish, go for it, and don’t stop. I had support from my family. Since day one I said I wanted to be a Trooper — and now I am one.”