Are We in Hell is the 7th installment in my Bad Luck Cadet Series.
Day two at the police academy began at 0430 hours.
A squad leader had knocked on our door the previous evening to inform us we would need to meet before physical training (PT) the next morning and work on straightening up our marching and formations. And there were some, like myself, that needed to learn basic commands.
We were in front of the dorms at 0445. It was already warm. As we lined up, the space beside me was noticeably empty. Another cadet asked where my partner was. I explained what happened the evening before. Everyone moved down one spot.
Stacy was one of two cadets to drop out the first day. The other was a male cadet from squad three. It was at this point that I swore to myself I would complete the academy. I had never given up on anything and I wouldn’t begin now. I was not a quitter.
We marched and learned: about-face, quarter turn (marching while turning a corner), and standing at attention with our toes pointing out so the Sergeant could stand between our feet and inspect us up close and personal.
It was now time to march to PT. As much as I would come to dread our early morning workouts, the marching was great. We marched and sang to cadence. One of the cadets, fresh out of the military, knew every cadence imaginable. They were funny, entertaining and inspiring. Our voices rang across the campus.
Sgt. Dickens was waiting when we arrived. The yelling began and we were introduced to our PT instructor Sgt. Listberg. He turned out to be a great guy but we weren’t aware of this on the first day. After warm ups we went on our first run. Sgt. Listberg told us it would be the last mile we ever ran at the academy.
He was correct. Wednesday we ran two miles.
It soon became apparent I was a slow runner so I was put in front to keep the pace. Another female, Cadet Higgins was put in front beside me as well. She ended up dropping back due to her asthma and barely finished the mile run. I finished but could tell my pace did not offer a challenge to the other cadets. I had work to do.
We were taken to the weight room next and put through Sgt. Listberg’s idea of a power workout. There were thirty-one torture stations set up. Every sixty seconds he blew his whistle and we moved to another station. Arms, legs, wrists, butts and thighs were all given a work-out. The only good thing was Sgt. Listberg also turned on some great 70’s rock and roll music. Through the pain I remember George Thorogood’s Bad to the Bone and Joe Walsh’s Life’s Been Good, blaring through the speakers.
After the workout, we were taken to the gym bleachers and made to jump with both feet together to the top, then we ran back down and began jumping our way back up again. This went on until the end of class. Do you have any idea how your teeth clack when you land on both feet? My head was killing me. We double timed it back to our dorms, changed into our shirts and ties, and headed to breakfast.
Eating was again a difficult task due to my shaking arms and hands. God forbid we spilled anything on our ironed white shirts, it would mean changing before inspection. Somehow I managed to get some food in my mouth.
We three female cadets sat together and a few male cadets joined us. Our “clicks” were already forming.
Cadet Chavez sat next to me. He was obviously as stressed as I was. I found out he was an emergency medical technician sent to the academy in order to be part of a SWAT team. He was twenty-seven years old, fifty pounds overweight and worried about what he’d gotten himself into. He was told the academy would be a piece of cake, but he was having doubts.
I had doubts too. So we made a pact to complete the academy and help each other out. We weren’t such an unlikely friendship, we were both in over our heads and both needed to lose weight. It felt great to have a friend and he was also in squad five along with me. We would suffer together.
Our first inspection was horrible.
Sgt. Dickens as well as all six squad advisers were in attendance to find something wrong. And they found plenty. Our ties were the improper length. Our shoes were not shined to high gloss. We had lint on our black pants. Several of the guys did not have a close enough shave, due to shaving the night before to save time this morning.
In all we were given eighty push ups and six hill runs. The push ups were done on the spot and the hill runs would be executed after class. I found out why we practiced a duck stance early that morning. Sgt. Dickens placed one foot between my boots, put his face an inch from mine and began the inspection from the top of my head down to my toes. I know my last OBGYN appointment was not this thorough.
It was a relief to enter our classroom and begin learning.
The first two hours every Monday would be with Lieutenant Griffin for report writing. He talked and told stories more than he taught us report writing, but we enjoyed him tremendously.
Our binders were explained to us. A schedule was located in the front of the first binder and encompassed the entire eighteen weeks of the academy. All our lesson plans were outlined, which explained the four-inch thickness of the binders. We were told we would get a break every hour but most importantly we were not to fall asleep in class. We could stand up in the back of the room but there would be hell to pay if one of us was caught sleeping.
Our first lesson from our binders was on the history of policing. Robert Peel created the first organized police unit in England called “Bobbies” in 1929. He was our founding father and his ideas lived on in modern policing.
After a lunch break, it was back to the classroom. Sgt. Dickens stuck his head in and did some yelling on a regular basis but learning was the focus. We had different instructors for different lecture modules. My brain wanted to explode by the end of that first day in class. I actually wish it had, because waiting for us were our six hill runs we’d earned that morning during inspection.
The hill consisted of a quarter-mile of switchbacks up a steep, rocky dirt path to a water tower. It looked like a nightmare. And it was. Add in the 109 degrees outside and it was hell. I decided then I need to straighten up my ways. I don’t want to go to hell if it is anything like these hill runs.
We had water bottles at the bottom and took drinks between runs. I was the second to last person to the top on the first run. We were all going at our own pace. One of my roommates slipped and fell. She twisted her knee and sat out the last few trips to the top.
We were all focused on the hill and didn’t notice when Sgt. Dickens showed up. I was taking my last trip up.
“What the hell are you doing?” He yelled at the cadets waiting at the bottom for the stragglers to finish.
“Are you individuals or a team?” He demanded, “I want your punishment done as a unit. Start over and get it right this time.”
Higgins, Chavez and I turned around and went back for our classmates. We formed two lines and ran six more hill runs together. We were then released for the day. I was too tired to eat and went back to my room. I ironed my shirt for the following day, tried to shine my shoes but fell asleep.
I slept until 0430 hours the next day, woke up, and did it all again. We were given 110 push ups at morning inspection and ten hill runs. I could barely move my arms during class and taking notes was excruciating. I thought Friday would never come. I was gigged (gig is like a demerit) for my boots every day. Our class could do nothing right.
My thinking began to change that week. I had always respected the police but my admiration for them was growing as well.
We were constantly under stress. It was explained as being similar to what it would be like as an officer on a patrol shift. Being a police officer was stressful as well as deadly and if we couldn’t handle it we needed to leave. It was not shameful to decide this was not right for you. It was smart, or so they told us.
I struggled with my decision to become a police officer on a whim. Did I have what it would take? Could I handle the stress?
Friday finally came and we were released at 1600 hours. I was too tired to make the drive home. I called my husband and begged his forgiveness. I spent the weekend working on my shoes, typing my notes and organizing my binders.
Sunday evening at 2000 hours we had a study group in our classroom. All but two cadets showed up. The two missing didn’t show up for PT on Monday morning as well. They had decided being a police officer was not right for them. My roommate with the hurt knee was one of the two not returning. I was down to one bunkmate. The bathroom schedule became much easier.
Cadet Donna Higgins, Rocco Chavez and I were becoming a team. We were the slowest, most un-police like cadets at the academy and we bonded. We weren’t treated badly by the other cadets, but we knew they didn’t think we would make it.
Our first classroom test was the next day. If we didn’t pass, the decision to stay would be taken out of our hands.
If you want to follow my adventures at the police academy from the beginning, start with Bad Luck Cadet #1 – Accidents Happen. It’s all about fun, laughter and pain. To be honest, at the time, it was more about pain, pain and pain! — Suzie
My story continues with: Bad Luck Cadet #8: The Worst Possible Enemy