Bad Luck Cadet #8 – The Worst Possible Enemy
The day of our first classroom test arrived. After more torture at morning physical training, 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 and felt I did 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 to stencil our last names on the back of our white physical training T-shirts. The top of the letters had to be two inches down from the collar.
It was a disaster. The male cadets made mistakes left and right and T-shirts were thrown in the garbage. When it was my turn to stencil, I had no problem. It was easy. Word got out. It was decided I would stencil while cadets shined my boots. A great trade off!
The next morning, for the first time, Sgt. Dickens said, “Nice boots, cadet.”
It was almost impossible to hide my smile. I whipped through the push-ups in elation.
We could carry a backpack for our binders and classroom supplies. I carried everything but the kitchen sink in mine. Ibuprofen, Kleenex, Band-Aids, sun block, and chemical ice packs were only a few of the items. As word got out, 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. 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 defensive tactics 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—wristlocks 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. The TSA had nothing on us.
My arms were twisted and I was thrown to the ground too many times to count. I would limp to my room after training, take more than the prescribed amount of Ibuprofen, apply ice packs while changing my clothes, and then head to breakfast.
Rocco and I began skipping dinner, eating a power bar, and working out. We were barely keeping up in physical training and our POPAT practice 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. 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. Physical training was my worst nightmare.
I was also struggling with push-ups. Sgt. Dickless, I mean Dickens, 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 everyone push-ups for my infractions. I didn’t receive all his attention but it was apparent he wanted me gone.
When we were out of his hearing, the entire class referred to Sgt. Dickens as Sgt. Dickless. 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 much 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 push-ups by not going down far enough. He told the class he was adding five hill runs every day until I could do them correctly. The class was pissed and I received angry glances.
Class leader Clark said he would help me out that evening. He showed me a proper push-up and I could barely complete ten. If Sgt. Dickless was going to be watching me, the entire class was in trouble. I added push-ups to my nightly workout routine.
That week we did five extra fucking hill runs every day with Sgt. Dickless screaming at the bottom about whose fault it was. Mine, because I was a forty-five-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 attempts. 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 had a hold of me, his face red, veins popping.
“I will see you immediately in my office!”
Rocco gave me a look of complete horror. I gave him a small push in the direction of the dorms and immediately turned myself toward Sgt. Dickens’ office and began marching. This was like being in grade school all over again. I was forty-five 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 returning? Let me add this: If you come back Monday morning, 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 after class. 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 possible enemy.