Bad Luck Cadet #6 – You Will Be Sent Home
After we received our academy study binders, Sgt. Dickens reviewed the class rules. We would be spending eight hours a day in the classroom. Everything we learned throughout the week would be covered in a test on Monday mornings. We were expected to get a seventy percent or higher. If not, we would be given one retake. If we did not pass the retake with a seventy percent, we would be sent home immediately.
We were also expected to pass the POPAT (Peace Officer Physical Aptitude Test):
A 99-yard obstacle course
Body drag – Lift and drag a 165 lb. life-like dummy 32 feet
Chain link fence – Run 5 yards, go over the fence, and run an additional 25 yards
Solid fence climb – Run 5 yards, go over solid fence, and run an additional 25 yards
The nightmare six-foot fence my daughter taunted me with was now on the table.
Each event was timed and scored with higher points given for shorter times. The minimum passing score was 384. Men and women are scored equally. Age doesn’t matter. If we scored a 383, we were going home. I preferred the Cooper Test.
Oh, we had to pass the Cooper Test too.
More rules. There would be no fraternizing with the college students or among the cadets. If caught, we would be sent home. We would tell the truth at all times; if we were caught in any lie, we would be sent home. We would attend class Monday through Friday. If we missed more than two days due to illness, we would be sent home. There were so many “You will be sent home rules” it was hard to remember them all.
Our dorm room would remain spotless for weekly inspections. All homework would be turned in on time. Our notebooks would be inspected weekly. We would be given daily uniform inspections. We were to be outside on the classroom deck at 0745 each morning inspection ready.
Monday, Wednesday, and Friday we would meet in the gym at 0530 hours for physical training (PT). On Tuesday and Thursday we would meet at the same time for defensive tactics (DT). These classes would last an hour and a half, giving us 45 minutes to eat breakfast, change into our uniform of the day, and arrive for inspection on the deck. Infractions would be severally punished.
Punishment hill runs (whatever that was) would take place after class at 1700 hours daily. We were not to leave campus unless we had written permission. There was an absolute ban on cell phones during the day.
After this set of rules and instructions were yelled out, we marched to the gym. It was time to learn a few military formations and some of the terminology. Sgt. Dickens continued to yell and we eventually got it. It was hot in the gym. One hundred and fifty degrees was what it felt like. I’m pretty sure we were dying.
Eventually the first cadet dropped. He passed out in a dead faint. I could see the look of satisfaction on Sgt. Dickens’ face. The staff called an ambulance and we got a break. There were two water fountains and we took turns getting water and wetting our heads and necks. No one spoke; we were all being watched closely. The “lucky” cadet was taken to the hospital fifteen minutes later.
More orders were yelled out—about-face, parade rest, attention, forward march, etc. The sergeant and his helpers synchronized their yelling. I wasn’t sure what was up and what was down. My head spun. We were told not to lock our knees or we would be visiting the emergency room. I tried locking my knees but it didn’t work; I just couldn’t pass out.
After all this, it was time for our first inspection. We lined up by squad. This would be our formation throughout the academy. Both sergeants and their helpers (a.k.a. our squad advisors) began going person to person and finding something wrong. My hair was barely staying in place and I could feel it touching the back of my neck.
I sensed someone behind me and then the back of my hair was tugged, hard.
A female voice said, “Sgt. Dickens, it appears we have a bird’s nest in squad five.” It was yelled into my ear.
I couldn’t help it, I giggled. A woman pulled my hair and compared it to a bird’s nest. I suffered from delirium. What could possibly be funnier?
Sgt. Dickens was in my face before I could choke back more laughter.
“Cadet, are you laughing? Do you find this funny? Give me twenty push-ups. As a matter of fact, I want the entire class to give me twenty push-ups. Quarter right turn, assume push-up position. Begin.”
What the hell was a quarter right turn? Thankfully, I was getting good at mimicking the cadets around me. I can’t believe the police ad at the drugstore had not stated, “Military training required.”
We were so tired. Someone stopped doing push-ups at the count of fourteen and we had to start again. At least it wasn’t me. The inspection continued and so did the punishments. When finished, we had done more than one hundred push-ups. I couldn’t feel my quivering arms.
After inspection, we were shown the location of our dorms at the eastern end of the campus. We didn’t get a chance to stop and admire our dingy living quarters. They immediately marched us to the cafeteria. Not a word was spoken. We huddled together miserably at whatever empty seat we came to. The sergeants and advisors sat at their own table. It was 1800 hours. We had only been at it for five hours. This sucked.
I tried to eat. I could barely lift my fork to my mouth. I ate very little. After about twenty minutes, we resumed our formation outside. We ran like hell—I mean double timed it—back to the dorms. I was thankful I hadn’t eaten much. We were finally released for the day and told to be at the gym at 0530 hours the following morning.
Getting our room assignments, unpacking, and arranging the shower schedules were done next. There were only four female cadets. Our dorm was tiny with two sets of bunk beds. We decided to rotate every two weeks so we would each have a turn on the top bunk. There was only one small bathroom for the four of us.
After getting situated, the woman who sat by me in the classroom left the room with her cell phone in hand. She came back an hour later and said she was going home. She wasn’t crying or acting anything but determined. She left. I never heard from her again.
Have I mentioned how much this sucks?