So it’s your first day at the academy. You’re laughing, joking, and meeting new classmates. You’ve all talked about your past experiences and what you’re expecting to come your way. If you’re like me, you might be listening to something like Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson to keep your mind occupied. As you roll up to the academy site, you can see your instructor waiting to address your class. This is where first impressions can be a really big deal. Here’s how to not make a name for yourself on the first day:
When they ask if anyone has any questions, they’re seeing who’s dumb enough to ask one. Remember when you were told in school that there are no stupid questions? You were being set up for failure. No, questions in general are not a bad thing. Asking questions will be an important part of your development as an officer. But in this situation, they’ll more than likely hurt you. Unless it’s absolutely essential, try to figure things out on your own or ask your classmates at the appropriate time.
Don’t be the guy who asks about sidearm specs on the first day. This almost falls under rule number 1, except it deserves its own attention. There’s always one guy who asks a question without really looking for an answer. He may ask something like, “Didn’t you used to carry a Glock before switching to H&K?” He already knows the answer and is trying to show the instructor and his class that he’s done a little research. The instructor is aware of this. Don’t be that guy.
Nobody cares what you did before the academy. The trainees who get the most respect are the ones who come in ready to do what’s expected of them and don’t try to coast off past accomplishments. You could have a prior Navy SEAL in your class and never know the extent of what he did because he doesn’t talk about it. Or you could have a mall security guard who can’t stop talking about his portfolio of web-based Incident Command training certificates. This is a new job and it’s time to prove yourself all over again.
If you walk across the grass, you’re walking across their grass. It may seem trivial, but that’s the sort of thing instructors will get on you about. If you step off the walkway onto the grass, you may very well hear, “Are you walking on my grass?!” Just say, “Sorry, sir” and get back on the walkway. Remember the “sir” or “ma’am” after every response, because that’s another chance for them to jump all over you.
Learn to gently bend your knees when standing at attention. Nerves will be running high. Depending on the climate in your particular area, this could be hazardous. If you’re training to become a federal law enforcement officer, you could be training somewhere like Artesia, NM or Glynco, GA. With the combination of stress and heat while standing at attention, many officers in training have “fallen out,” or passed out in formation. Pump your knees in a way that is inconspicuous inside your pant legs in order to keep the blood flowing and avoid this.
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