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This is the 10th installment in the Bad Luck Cadet Series. It’s best to start at the beginning BLC #1 to enjoy my adventures at the police academy after my mid-life crisis. It’s all about fun, laughter and pain. Well maybe pain, pain and pain!
After my week in hell, courtesy of Sgt. Dickens, I finally broke down and told my husband everything going on at the academy. He was sympathetic and gave me a fantastic full body massage that night. When I told him of my plan for returning to the Policy Academy on Sunday, he helped implement it and encouraged me through my tears.
Sgt. Dickens could point out anything he wanted at Monday morning inspection, but he would never again be given the chance to complain about my hair touching my collar. I loved my hair, and so did my husband, but I was determined to finish what I started. I took my inspiration from Demi Moore and G.I. Jane and decided that if sacrificing my hair would help; it was a small price to pay. My resolve only grew stronger with every snip.
I arrived at the study session Sunday night with a shaved head.
I just wish I was one of those women that looked good bald. My head looked like an egg with a nose.
Monday morning at physical training (PT), I made it over the six-foot wall for the first time. I was so excited I forgot to run the twenty-five yards to complete the event. It didn’t matter, the entire class was cheering and Sgt. Listberg gave me a huge hug. Everyone said it was because I was ten pounds lighter without my hair.
Sgt. Dickens never batted an eye at my shaved head. He only found a piece of hair (not mine) on my back pocket and gave us ten pushups. I knew I wasn’t out of the woods, but it was nice just to have some of the pressure off. Unfortunately, my roommate became the next target.
If we wanted to communicate with our advisors we had to write a memo. We were given light blue paper, told to print in all capital letters and not to scratch out or erase anything. The blue paper showed the erasure lines. Misspelled words were another no no. When we finished with our memo, it was given to our squad leader and he in turn gave it to our class leader. Both would review and correct each memo, giving back any they found had problems.
Donna decided she was tired of Sgt. Dickens and squad advisors coming into the classroom and monitoring us when we needed to be concentrating on school work. If an infraction was seen during class we were pulled outside on the next break and given pushups. We all held our breath when one of our superiors came into the room. Donna was right, it made it hard to concentrate.
Donna wrote this in a memo to the academy staff. It was first given to her squad leader and next to our class leader, it was then turned in. The next morning was the reprisal.
During morning inspection Donna was asked to step front and center. She was then asked if she wrote the memo. It had her name on it but I guess Sgt. Dickens was making a point. Her squad leader was called up next, and asked if he read the memo, and if he agreed with Donna’s analysis. He stated he did and yes he agreed. Cadet Clark, the class leader was called next. He also stated he agreed.
Sgt. Dickens asked if anyone disagreed with Cadet Chavez. Not one person raised their hand.
“The entire group of you,” said Sgt. Dickens, “is nothing but a class of fucking babies. I’m embarrassed to be your Sergeant. I’m embarrassed you think you can be police officers. Not fair?” his voice screamed, “Not fair? I’ll show you ‘not fair!’ You will all turn in a ten page memo by tomorrow morning on what is not fair in life. You will proceed with one hundred pushups this morning and twenty hill runs after class to give you a start on your memos. One of us will now be in the classroom at all times and you will learn what ‘fair’ is all about. Cadet Higgins you may lead the class in pushups.”
And so it began. If we stopped or got out of sync, Sgt. Dickens was in our face. We all struggled through. During class we weren’t just pulled out during break we were pulled out during classroom time and told to do more pushups.
The pushup club did not exist that day.
After our classroom torture was finished, we headed to the hill for our twenty hill runs. Once those were accomplished, we headed back to our dorms to begin writing our memos. I didn’t go to bed until 0230. Donna cried for hours. She felt horrible about the entire class being punished for her memo. I tried to explain to her that Sgt. Dickens was psyching her out and she had to pull through.
We turned in our memos before breakfast to our squad leaders. Some were returned, and cadets spent breakfast rewriting the page which had mistakes. It helped that we all remembered our old grade school trick of writing in large print. The memos were eventually turned into the Sergeant, but our classroom time continued to be hell that week. I lost count of the number of pushups we did.
Wednesday, according to our calendar, was expandable baton training and we were told to bring them to morning PT. There was no inspection and we spent the day learning the ins and outs of controlling someone with a baton.
My biggest fear was having my baton taken away and getting beaten with it. But we learned techniques for keeping the bad guy from accomplishing this. I also learned why we did so many pushups. I could barely hold the baton by the end of the day and I’m sure I couldn’t have just three weeks before. Having completed baton training, we were given permission to carry our batons on our duty belts.
Donna was talking about not returning after the weekend. I made her promise she would come back, but I had my doubts. Sgt. Dickens was singling her out during inspection and she could do nothing right. The psychological abuse was terrible but for some reason I think my age played a huge factor in it not affecting me as much as the younger cadets.
It was the physical requirements that were overtaking me. My body was breaking down. My back was killing me, my joints were unbearably painful and my muscles cramped continually. My age had caught up with me.
Friday finally came and we left for the weekend.
I called Donna several times and she said she would return. I wouldn’t believe it until I actually saw her Sunday night at the study session.
This is the 9th installment in the Bad Luck Cadet Series. It’s best to start at the beginning BLC #1 to enjoy my adventures at the police academy after my mid-life crisis. It’s all about fun, laughter and pain. Well maybe pain, pain and pain!
My weekend consisted of lazing around and doing as little as possible. It didn’t matter that the house was a mess. Keeping the ice packs in place under the ace bandages on my arms and legs was my first priority.
I finally felt better by Saturday night. My husband took me out to dinner and with the help of couple of margaritas I regaled him with an edited version of events. I didn’t tell him what awaited me on Monday. I made the entire academy experience sound like a lark. He was glad I was doing so well.
I left at two in the afternoon on Sunday, and made it back to campus for study group. My class adviser had the short straw that week, and he was in the classroom ready to prepare us for the test. His name was Corporal Tsisonnee, pronounced Tis-on-knee. He was quiet and had not interacted much with the class. I needed advise, and decided to speak with him after we were finished.
He told me he had been informed of my transgression the previous Friday. He asked what I was going to do about it. I told him I needed to change Sgt. Dickens’ mind, and somehow redeem myself. Corporal Tsisonnee told me it would be hard, and it would take a lot of heart.
There was that phrase again. Sgt. Spears from STPD had used it as well. Corporal Tsisonnee said he believed in me, and I could succeed if I truly wanted to. I left feeling better.
The following morning no one was looking at me. Word had spread, and I was not a person you wanted to be seen with. Rocco and Donna were my only allies. I think everyone else was surprised I’d returned.
For physical training (PT) we headed out to the POPAT training field. We were taken through the obstacle course, and I got to drag the dummy for the first time. It wasn’t easy.
Next, we headed to the fences. The chain link was not a problem because you could get a toe hold in the fencing. The six foot wall was a nightmare. There were five of us that couldn’t make it over. Rocco was one. Donna, though, made it over on her first try. Rocco and I decided we would head back out that evening and work on the wall some more.
Morning inspection was a nightmare. My shoes were perfect but not according to Sgt. Dickens. He stepped on my toe, and then complained I had dust on my boot. He also complained about my hair wisps touching my collar. It didn’t stop there. He gave the entire class twenty pushups for each infraction I had. He watched me like a hawk, and I managed to pull through the punishments.
During our first week we were given school identification cards. We attached them to our shirt pockets. We were told if we lost an ID card it would be like losing our police badge and the punishments would be endless. A cadet reported his missing badge to our class leader, and Cadet Clark reported it to the sergeant. Sgt. Dickens told us to be at the running track for lunch.
Before the lunch punishment we had to take our weekly test. I only missed five of eighty-five questions and had the forth highest score in the class. It was a relief, but I was more worried about what was ahead because of the missing ID card. We double timed it to the track and saw Sgt. Dickens waiting for us.
There was a flock of large black birds on the football field, and Sgt. Dickens told us one of the birds had our ID card. We all started chasing the birds. Sgt. Dickens then shouted we needed to be begging the birds to give us back the card.
We started begging loudly saying, “Here birdy birdy, give us back our ID card please.”
We ran across the field and through campus following those damned birds. The college kids got a real kick out of us yelling at the birds. This went on throughout the entire lunch hour.
Sgt. Dickens then told us the birds had left the ID on the hill at the water tower and we could look after class. Starving and dehydrated we headed back to the classroom.
We ran the hill that day until we couldn’t see straight. I think the only reason we were allowed to stop was that several cadets looked as if they would pass out.
When everyone left, I stayed behind to do my ten punishment hills. Cadet Clark told me he had to stay and monitor me and he waited at the bottom of the hill. A young Cadet by the name of Rodriguez stayed behind as well. He told me he didn’t want me to do the hills alone, so he ran by my side.
As we ran, he told me about himself. I was incapable of speech at this point. Every breath was a struggle. Cadet Rodriguez was twenty years old, and would be turning twenty-one in a few weeks. He’d worked at a county jail, and had waited until he was old enough to attend the police academy.
He said he admired me for coming when I was so old. I didn’t take offense. I was feeling particularly ancient and just happy to have someone with me. He chatted the entire time and didn’t seem to mind that I didn’t have the breath to spare for any encouraging remarks. Fortunately, I didn’t have any food in my system to throw up or I would have. I did spit up some foul tasting liquid that I assume was bile.
Cadet Rodriguez told me he was struggling with the weekly classroom tests, and asked if I would tutor him. He said he would shine my shoes nightly if I was willing to help. So we made a deal.
That night after the run I went to Rodriguez’ room with notes and boots in hand. His roommates were busy shining their boots and said they wanted to participate as well.
My boots were passed around. As the weeks went by we fit about eight cadets nightly in that small room and I also had a study group at my breakfast table on Monday mornings before our tests.
The next day I began the pushup club. During every break I worked on my pushups. We added one pushup daily to the total we did at each break. I kept track of our totals for the entire day, week and month.
Including our morning punishment for inspection the Pushup Club did 843 pushups our first week. It started with just Rocco and me but we soon had about ten cadets joining us. I don’t think they needed to do the pushups but our efforts were being noticed by the Sergeant and advisors. Anything that made us look good was on the agenda, because we were told repeatedly we were pieces of shit and not fit to wear a badge.
We were finally given permission to wear our duty belts. We were also issued “blue guns” and told to practice our draw. Blue guns are hard rubber imitation firearms, matching our department issue gun. Thank god I had gone out shooting before the academy and knew what kind of gun I had. It was nice to wear our belts and not carry them everywhere.
By the end of the week my fellow cadets were treating me normally, but Sgt. Dickens was not happy. On Friday I was given an additional ten hill runs for dropping a piece of paper on the floor in the hallway. We only had five hills to run as a group that Friday, and the entire class ran my ten with me. As I ran, there was a litany going through my head.
“I will never call Dickface Dickless again. I will never call Dickface Dickless again. I will never…”
And on it went. I knew this recitation would probably come out at the worst time and I was doing myself more harm than good. But saying those words got me up those hills when I didn’t think I could make it.
Sgt. Dickens was right. He had made my life hell. But I had survived.
And I only had fifteen more weeks to go.
This is the 8th installment in the Bad Luck Cadet Series. It’s best to start at the beginning BLC #1 to enjoy my adventures at the police academy after my mid-life crisis. It’s all about fun, laughter and pain. Well maybe pain, pain and pain!
The day of our first classroom test had arrived. After more torture at morning physical training (PT), then breakfast, then inspection where we earned eight hill runs, we sat down for our test. Bubble sheets again. It was multiple choice, but for every question there were at least two possible answers.
We were able to leave the room when we finished. I was third out the door. I felt I had done well. Cadet Clark, our classroom leader, who we had elected the previous week was the first to finish. There was a machine for grading in the secretary’s office outside the classroom. When approximately ten bubble sheets were turned in, they were gathered and run through the machine.
My test was handed back and I only missed three out of eighty-six. We all managed to pass but there were quite a few scores in the seventies. We were told this was the easiest test we would be given and we needed to study harder. It felt good to be out of the bottom of the pack for a change.
Next, each squad was given a package of stencils and one black cloth marker. We were told we needed to stencil our last names on the back of our white physical training (PT) t-shirts. The top of the letters had to be two inches down from the collar.
It was a disaster. Mistakes were made left and right by the male cadets and t-shirts were thrown in the garbage. When it was my turn to stencil I had no problems. It was easy. I wasn’t a housewife and homemaker for nothing. Word got out. It was decided I would stencil while cadets shined my boots. What a great trade off.
The next morning, for the first time, Sgt. Dickens said, “Nice boots cadet.”
We could carry a backpack for our binders and classroom supplies. I carried everything but the kitchen’s sink in mine. Ibuprofen, Kleenex, band aides, sun block and chemical icepacks were only a few of the items. As word got out on this, Cadets began raiding my supplies regularly and I earned the name Momma Ivy. I think we nicknamed everyone. It was our way of making our group a family. We became proud of those names.
Tuesday and Thursday mornings were defensive tactics (DT). Sgt. Tillman was our instructor. He was in his late forties, in fantastic shape, and basically kicked the shit out of us. We were hit, knocked down and handcuffed until our wrists were raw. I had bruises everywhere. Ice packs became my new best friend. My roommate and I bought a small refrigerator for our room and I was able to keep the packs frozen. It was cheaper than the chemical packs, though I still carried those for emergencies.
During the first and second weeks of DT we learned how to fall. We were tested on falling forward from a standing position, turning our heads to the side (so we didn’t break our nose), and landing just on our palms and toes. It’s hard not to use your knees to break your fall, and some of the cadets had difficulty but eventually we all succeeded.
We also started learning pain compliance techniques; wrist locks and joint control. The painful part for us was practicing on each other.
Proper search techniques were taught as well. I learned men like to hide things in their “junk.” This means I had to search their “packages” thoroughly. The male cadets had a harder time searching the women than we did the men. We all had to get over our mental rebellion and learn to grope and be groped.
My arms were twisted and I was thrown to the ground too many times to count. I would limp to my room after DT, take some Ibuprofen, apply ice packs while changing my cloths and then head to breakfast.
Rocco and I began skipping dinner, eating a power bar and working out. We were barely keeping up in PT and our POPAT training was beginning the following week. By the end of my second week I had lost ten pounds and Rocco twenty-three.
My roommate Donna and I were becoming good friends as well. She had been in the army for four years and worked at a grocery store before coming to the police academy. She was thirty-two years old and wanted a better life for her son. She was single and her mother was keeping her son while she attended the academy. She told me she didn’t really like the military but dreamed of being a police officer. She was getting her asthma under control and had moved to the middle of the pack when running.
Once a week we did not run together, but did a personal best run. I was proud of Donna’s advancement, but this put me dead last. Rocco finished about a quarter mile in front of me and everyone else was able to cool down while waiting for me to cross the finish line. I was then given two minutes to rest before hitting the weight room. PT was my worst nightmare.
I was also struggling with pushups. Sgt. Dickless, I mean Dickens, had pointed me out as a weak link for his class. He seemed to spend more time on my morning inspection than on other cadets. He loved giving us all pushups for my infractions. I didn’t get his exclusive attention but it was apparent he had it out for me.
The entire class referred to Sgt. Dickens as Sgt. Dickless — when we were out of his hearing. And it became second nature to call him by this nickname. I was also incorporating the “F” word in my vocabulary. It seemed to be how every cadet talked and it was becoming just another word. I never swore a lot before the academy but the only way to describe a hill run was to call it a “fucking” hill run. No other word did it justice.
Sgt. Dickless decided I was doing improper pushups and not going down far enough. He told the class he was adding five hill runs everyday until I could do them correctly. The class was pissed and I was getting angry glances.
Class leader Clark said he would help me out that evening. He showed me a proper pushup and I could barely complete ten. If Sgt. Dickless was going to be watching me the entire class was in trouble. I added pushups to my nightly workout routine.
That week we did five extra fucking hill runs everyday with Sgt. Dickless screaming at the bottom about whose fault it was. Mine. Because I was a 40 year-old woman who couldn’t do a proper fucking push-up.
By Friday, I was beyond spent. We did our hill runs at the end of the day, including the extra five for my improper push-ups. Cadets began heading to the dorms to collect their things for the weekend. I was walking next to Rocco.
“Sgt. Dickless,” I said with feeling, “is a fucked up piece of shit.”
I was grabbed by the arm and spun around. Sgt. Dickens stood there, veins popping.
“I will see you immediately in my office!”
Rocco gave me a look of complete terror. I gave him a small push in the direction of the dorms and immediately turned myself in the direction of Dickens’ office and began marching. This was like being in grade school all over. I was forty years old and being sent to the office. I swore I would not cry.
Sgt. Dickens was staring at his computer and waited about five minutes before speaking to me. I knew this drill. I’d used it on my own children.
His voice was low when he finally spoke, “Why are you here Cadet Ivy?”
Before I could answer he went on.
“You can’t run, you’re overweight, too old and you are not cut out to be a police officer. Is this a joke to you?” he demanded, “Will your social club give you a certificate if you complete two weeks of the academy? How about making it easy on everyone by going home today and not coming back on Monday? Let me add this, if you come back on Monday I will make your life a living hell.”
I believed him. My stomach was a quivering mass of jelly, but I looked him straight in the eye.
“I became a police officer because I can do the job. I apologize for my lack of respect today but I will be back on Monday.”
He shook his head and told me I would have ten personal hill runs on Monday. He then dismissed me. I didn’t cry, at least not until I was in my car and heading home.
I had now made the worst enemy possible.
This is the ongoing story of my misadventures at the police academy. It’s best to start with the first post.
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 and 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 into 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 pushups and six hill runs. The pushups 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 pushups 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.