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Joe Coughlin

Sitting with his wife Kelle, Joe Coughlin talks with Montana Highway Patrol troopers during an awards ceremony recognizing Coughlin's more than 32 years with the department and other awards Thursday.

Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Joe Coughlin began working the east Yellowstone County and Big Horn County region 32 years ago and rarely took a day off.

"Started there and just never left," Coughlin said.

Troopers and Patrol leaders gathered to recognize Coughlin on Thursday, as he entered retirement after three decades as a patrol officer.

Coughlin went to work in the Custer area right out of the law enforcement academy, said MHP Capt. Keith Edgell. The region can be a busy beat, and as a result Coughlin was the primary officer on many serious and fatal crashes.

But through the years, Coughlin proved to be a reliable officer for a number of shifts. Edgell said he had more than 2,000 hours of unused sick time by retirement.

Col. Tom Butler, the top MHP officer, presented the award to Coughlin.

"The impact you've had over the years, Joe, is indescribable," Butler said.

Now Coughlin is battling serious health issues, but his colleagues on Thursday offered to help in any way. The Association of Montana Troopers gave him a check toward his retirement and other costs.

Jose Sigueroa Jr., chief of police for the Bureau of Indian Affairs on the Crow Reservation, also presented Coughlin with a plaque. MHP and the BIA law enforcement officers often work together in Big Horn County matters.

Commendations

Butler also handed out Medal of Valor awards to three troopers who faced potentially life-threatening calls while on duty.

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Joe Coughlin

Col. Tom Butler of the Montana Highway Patrol presents trooper Shane Warehime with a Medal of Valor award during a ceremony Thursday, November 30, 2017.

Trooper Shane Warehime stopped at home to see his wife and kids on the evening of March 7, 2016, when a call went out about an armed man in Joliet, according to an MHP memo. 

During a standoff with law enforcement, a suspect fired rifle shots that hit Warehime's cruiser. One was inches from the trooper as he took cover, the memo said.

For his work throughout the incident, Warehime received one of the awards.

Troopers Trever Chase and Darvin Mees both received Medal of Honor commendations for their actions during a March standoff in Laurel. A man fired at officers through a closed garage door.

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Joe Coughlin

Montana Highway Patrol troopers Trever Chase, left, and Darvin Mees are presented with a Medal of Valor award by Col. Tom Butler during a ceremony Thursday.

One of the bullets hit Chase's boot and pant leg, according to MHP.

The suspect was arrested without injury at the end of the standoff.

In a memo on the incident, MHP Sgt. Scott Ayers wrote that "they knowingly responded to the call for assistance without regard for their personal safety, and in doing so, exposed themselves to a situation of great peril in an act of heroism and bravery."

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General Assignment Reporter

Reporter for The Billings Gazette.