Thursday, October 25, 2012

Week 4 - Wise Words...

It has been quite a week with some ups and downs.  I am sorry to report we have lost our first classmate as Art from Arizona had to return home after tearing his Achilles which will require surgery and substantial recovery.  He will hopefully have the opportunity to return for a future session of NA training.  In the time he was here, he made an impact on several of us with his quiet, "gentle giant" demeanor and articulate contributions to class discussions.  Art was in my section as well as several of my classes to include Ethics where we were teammates in a debate.  We wish the best to Art on a speed recovery.  Meanwhile, I am pleased to report that after three dentist visits and two failed attempted root canals, I found a new dentist with the help of my mother-in-law.  Thanks to Dr. Misto who, on his first try, was able to perform a successful root canal on my broken tooth.  I never thought I would be so relieved to get a root canal.

It has been a full week as we began our enrichment programming this week.  In keeping with the goal of developing well-rounded law enforcement leaders, the NA brings in a variety of speakers throughout our session to speak to us on a number of topics.  This week, we had our first enrichment speaker, Gen. Hugh Shelton.  Gen. Shelton was the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on September 11, 2001.  Originally appointed to the post by Pres. Clinton, he also served a term under Pres. Bush.  Gen. Shelton came to speak on values-based leadership and leaving a legacy.  His distinguished 38 year military career included two combat tours in Vietnam.  He previously served as Commander of the 82nd Airborne Division as well as Commander in Chief of the U.S. Special Operations Command.  Among his many military awards, Gen. Shelton has earned four Distinguished Service Medals, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star Medal for Valor, and the Purple Heart.  He also received the Congressional Gold Medal and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.  The author of two books, he wrote Without Hesitation:  The Odyssey of an American Warrior which I am currently reading.  I would recommend it to anyone who has an interest in the military, history, politics, or leadership.

 Gen. Shelton address our session.

Gen. Shelton captivated us with his no-nonsense take on leadership and kept us entertained with his sense of humor and quick wit.  Many of his experiences in the military translate very well to the law enforcement world.  He broke his views on leadership into three broad categories: the leader, the people we lead, and the importance of teamwork.  He got straight to the point when discussing the role of the leader.  He said that it all begins with integrity.  He said that "without it, anything you build is on shifting sand."  One of the most important benefits of being an leader with integrity is that "you have the right to give no quarter to those who lack it."  With regards to the people we lead, he reminded us that the "golden rule" would not lead us astray on how to treat our people.  He promoted a more collaborative form of leadership where open debate is encouraged.  One thing he made struck home with me.  He said that the goal for any good leader "should be for his organization to run as well without him as when he is there."  As I monitor from afar, via End of Shift Reports and occasional calls and emails, I consider myself fortunate in this way.  Though it may have been nice in some ways to appear more critical to our operations, I am pleased that my troops have not missed a beat in my absence, thanks in large part to the professionalism of our officers, but also the leadership and hard work of Maj. Miles and Lts. Gooding and Millhouse.

Gen. Shelton understood and stressed the importance of teamwork in any profession where members have to rely upon one another in life threatening situations.  Again, he stressed that it all starts at the top.  The leader must first set the standard for what is expected and then must demonstrate it and serve as an example.  He summed everything up by simply encouraging us to "just do what's right and feel good about it."  While I can't do justice to his hour long speech in a couple of paragraphs, I will say that he did not say anything that night that I did not wholeheartedly agree with.  Having found himself in some very precarious positions, he was definitely tested throughout his career and serves as a great example to others of how you can lead effectively and still maintain an ethical code.  I look forward to continuing his book.

This week's fitness challenge was a 5k run throughout the FBI complex known as the "Lion's Leap" (in keeping with the Wizard Of Oz theme).  Once again we gathered and learned that we would be running in honor of a classmate's coworker who had been killed in the line of duty.  We ran around several parts of the campus to include the famed Hogan's Alley, home of the most robbed bank in America.  (Hogan's Alley is a "town" where new agents conduct scenario-based training.)  In fitness class we continued with our circuit training in a routine reminiscent of Rocky IV when Rocky trains in the Soviet Union without the benefit of  traditional equipment.  While we didn't chop any firewood or outrun KGB agents in the snow, we did train today with rope, tires, and a few other things they had laying around.  Our Fitness instructor Kevin is a good guy and continues to push each of us to push ourselves.

The most "robbed" bank in America.

The class looks on in dismay as Kevin demonstrates the fitness benefits of this medieval torture device.

A deceptively tiring workout using nothing but a "big ole piece of rope". 

Another "tiring" workout...flipping tires...exactly what it sounds like.

Tonight I was able to attend a presentation by Dr. Kevin Gilmartin, author of the book, Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement.  Familiar with his book but never having had the opportunity to hear him speak, I eagerly joined my roommate's class where he was scheduled to speak, and I was not disappointed.  A former police officer himself, his presentation (and book) focused on the change that police officers inevitably undergo after beginning work in the field.  Unfortunately, the same hypervigilance that serves officers from a self-preservation standpoint on the streets also works against them in their personal lives.  Officers essentially trade one threat for another.  Dr. Gilmartin also discussed one of law enforcement's dark secrets - police officer suicide.  He provided some startling statistics that show that an officer is actually about nine times more likely to die by his own hand than by that of a felon's.  He offered an alternative path to prevent an officer from going down that road.  He went on to speak in great depth about how officers can keep their cynicism at healthy levels and keep issues at work from affecting them at home.  Though discussing some very serious material, Dr. Gilmartin was able to interject some humor into his presentation, much of it at the expense of firefighters.  While we already provided his book to our officers several years ago, I am also exploring ways to bring Dr. Gilmartin to SC, as his message is one that should be heard by everyone who wears a badge (as well as anyone married to someone who wears a badge).

Dr. Gilmartin addresses the class.

The members of Section 1 also had our first official section dinner.  We went to Fredericksburg for, not only a great meal, but also some great camaraderie and conversation.  While I am actually quite fond of cafeteria food, it was nice to get away and eat dinner in a less industrial setting.  I got to hear some great stories from my classmates around the table...most of which were probably even true.

Some of "the guys"

This coming weekend is a big weekend as we will be traveling to New York City for a program sponsored by NYPD.  I look forward to reporting back some details of that trip in my next installment.  Until next time...

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Week 3 - It's all about perspective...

Well, what could have started as a pretty rough week has turned out to be the best since I've been here. Heading into this past weekend, I broke a tooth.  I wish it had been doing something heroic or even while completing the Marine Corps obstacle course, but it was just biting down on something hard in the cafeteria.  While it was painful, people bent over backwards to assist me.  From the free phone consult from my dentist father-in-law, to Paul the FBI Agent/Counselor who worked through the night to find me a local dentist and provided me with transportation there, to my boss who helped navigate the insurance maze, to my instructors who were very understanding with scheduling issues, I felt nothing but support.  In the end, I needed a root canal and a crown.  The root canal is half-way done and will be completed on Monday.  The crown will come sometime down the road.

I had signed up for a moonlight monument tour on Friday and almost didn't go because I wasn't feeling that well.  A new friend, Jason offered to drive so that I could attend and still take my vicodin.  We were able to see a number of monuments via an open-air bus and made several stops at the major monuments.  Having seen many of them during the day, they are a spectacular sight at night.  Our bus driver was both gregarious and knowledgeable and ensured that we all had a great time.  Having South Carolina roots, he was also a Gamecocks fan.  We were able to see the Marine Corps Monument, the Vietnam and Korean Memorials, the MLK Memorial, and several others.

A humbling sight

On Saturday, several of my classmates and I drove to D.C. to see the Smithsonian Natural History Museum and Arlington National Cemetery.  Arlington was awe-inspiring.  It is one thing to know that we have lost over a million American lives in wars over the years.  It is quite another thing to walk through rows and rows of graves and to know that you have only seen a fraction.  We were able to watch the changing of the guard as well as a wreath ceremony.  The Old Guard was phenomenal.  The care and precision that they demonstrate is almost inhuman, and they perform their ritual every hour of every day, around the clock, regardless of weather conditions.

Precision and dedication at its best

As far as the eye could see and beyond

On Sunday, twelve of us drove back to D.C. to participate in the Run to Remember 5k at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.  In addition to a registration fee, each runner was required to raise an additional $54 to raise awareness of the fact that, on average, a police officer is killed in the line of duty every 54 hours.  Proceeds from the event will support the building of the National Law Enforcement Museum which is under construction near the memorial.  I can't imagine a better experience for my first 5k.  Several of us ran as a unified group offering encouragement and enjoying the scenery of our nation's capital.  After the race, we were able to spend some time at the memorial, and I was able to locate the names of several officers from South Carolina who have paid the ultimate price.

Opening ceremonies

The view from the course

Approaching the finish line

On Wednesday, we completed our second challenge run, the "Tin Man Trot."  While the run was only 2.8 miles, we took periodic "breaks" from the run to perform lunges, bear crawls, pushups, and burpies.  The spirit of camaraderie that I observed last week continued with officers providing encouragement to one another and ensuring the last runner completed the run to a cheering crowd.  In keeping with the somber theme of the week, we learned that the police chief of one of our international classmates had been assassinated.

Later that evening, our entire session returned to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial for a special ceremony.  The ceremony included an honor guard, pipe and drums, and a roll call ceremony. A roll call ceremony is where the names of fallen officers are read off to signify their end of watch.  Several classmates read names of coworkers who have been killed this year.  One officer had lost a partner and several had lost close personal friends.  The incidents served as somber reminders of the dangers of this profession, what's really important in life, and the need to make every day count.

Entering the Capital for the ceremony

Just prior to the laying of the wreath

The SC Delegation - Asst. Chief Scoggins (Winthrop), me, Lt. Morrison (West Columbia)

So, back to my tooth.  Not such a big deal after all.  As I sit here with my temporary filling away from my family, I think about how much worse other people have it.  Start on one end of the spectrum.  I miss my family but am able to speak to them on the phone every night and with FaceTime can even see them during our conversations.  I will see them over the holiday weekends, and they are only a seven hour drive away.  My international friends have to carve out a moment after lunch to speak with their families (if they wait until after class their families are sleeping because of the time difference).  They can't go home on weekends because of the cost of airfare.  Many of their families will not even be able to attend graduation in December.  Still, we are all here voluntarily having tremendous personal and professional opportunities presented to us.  To go one step further, I think about the military families where separation is a part of life for months or more at a time - the troops who miss their families but are also living in tents, eating MREs, with little to no communication with their families.  Still, we have our health.  Now, go to the other end of the spectrum of sacrifice.  I think about the officers on the memorial wall and the soldiers' graves at Arlington and elsewhere - those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of others.  Yeah, my tooth is feeling much better.  It's all about perspective...

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Week 2 - "Not in Kansas Anymore..."

Well, I have completed Week 2 (our first full week of classes) and have begun to acclimate to Academy life.  I was able to travel home for our first weekend due to the Columbus Day holiday.  I was able to work the Georgia game (Go Cocks!) and enjoyed some quality time with the family.  I have now begun my longest stretch away, as I will not be able to return home again until November.

The FBINA is designed to challenge officers and provide training and development in a variety of areas in order to create well-rounded law enforcement leaders.  There is certainly a large academic component, but one aspect that sets the NA apart from other leadership schools is the physical training. Every officer who attends the NA must take a mandatory physical fitness class.  In addition, other opportunities are provided to tackle other physical challenges.  Each session of the NA is broken down into sections (think of a homeroom in school).  You go through much of orientation as a section, announcements are made through weekly session meetings, and you attend PT as a section.  I am a member of Section 1 (of 6).  I imagine that serious bonds will be forged through each of the sections since PT and the physical challenges will serve to bring everyone together.

A look back at your daddy's NA workout

Our fitness instructor is one of the few who is not an FBI agent.  As most of the instructors are agents, they are usually here for a short time as it is a temporary assignment.  Our instructor was hired for the sole purpose of physical training and has been part of the unit for approximately 17 years, longer than any other member.  On our first day with him, we underwent a fitness screening which included several screenings and evaluations designed to uncover any preexisting injuries or issues.  It also included a check of our blood pressure, a weigh-in, and some measurements.  We ran a timed mile run and performed maximum pushups.  In December, we will repeat this process with the hope that we have improved.

The moment of truth

Some new friends and running buddies from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Prince George's County (MD) after our mile run

The fitness classes are very comprehensive and include a classroom portion which focuses on health and nutrition.  The physical portion is primarily comprised of circuit training with a focus on variety.  We have used medicine balls, broomsticks, sandbags, elastic bands, and our own body weight.  We have done inch worms, bear crawls, and the spiderman.  The fitness facilities here are second to none with 24-hour access to a lap pool, cardio facility, weight lifting facility, and track.  The fitness training is designed to change an officer's lifestyle and provide them the knowledge and tools to continue with the program when they return home.  This is accomplished by stressing efficiency and providing options that require little or no equipment.

Another fitness component of the NA involves a weekly fitness challenge.  Based on the Wizard of Oz, each challenge pays homage to a scene or character.  Occurring on Wednesday of each week, the challenges become progressively more difficult.  The first challenge run is known as  "Not in Kansas Anymore" and is a 1.8 mile run.  The entire section gathered, grouped by section for the run.  In addition to our fitness instructors, several academic instructors and Academy staff members showed up dressed in PT gear to perform the challenge with us.  As the challenge began, the pack began to separate into the fast, medium, and slower runners.  The camaraderie that has been prevalent continued; as runners completed their run, they remained at the finish line to cheer on their classmates.  As the last few runners came in, they were joined by dozens of other students who had already finished but ran back out to encourage and accompany the last few finishers.

Section 1 before our first challenge run

Dozens of runners go back out and bring in the last few finishers

Some post run stretching with my buddy Ed.  (Alright Ed, I mentioned you in my blog)

I am actually looking forward to progressing through the challenges.  Keeping in line with the Wizard of Oz theme, officers who complete all the challenges including the final challenge, known as the Yellow Brick Road, are awarded an actual yellow brick.  These bricks can be found on book shelves and mantles of many NA graduates across the country.

Until next time...

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Week 1 - Settling in...

As I approach the end of my first week here, I am finally beginning to feel as if I am getting settled in to a routine.  I have attended all but one of my classes at this point and have attended some more than once.  On Monday there was a "drop/add day" to give students the opportunity to change their schedules.  Although I had originally planned on being content, I got restless and decided to tweak things.  I had originally signed up for three graduate level classes with the rest being undergraduate.  I then read that those students who took at least four graduate level classes would receive a graduate certificate in criminal justice from the University of Virginia.  Although I already have a masters degree, I still like to get "stuff" so I embarked on a mission to change my schedule around to squeeze in another graduate class.  I was able to accomplish this by simply switching my undergraduate statement analysis class to the graduate section at a different time with a different instructor.  It was rather serendipitous in that I now have someone who I have heard is one of the best instructors at the NA.  Since I also have her for Investigative Analysis of Verbal and Nonverbal Behavior, I'm taking a double leap of faith.  Switching this resulted in a conflict for Psychology of Leadership but allowed me to pick up The Law of Police Operations which is primarily focused on constitutional law such as search and seizure, use of force, and protests/freedom of speech.  It should be a good complement to my labor law class.  I also added a special five-week criminal justice research class.  So, after a couple of switches I am now taking:  The Law of Police Operations, Labor Law Issues for Law Enforcement Administrators, Solving Ethical Dilemmas in Law Enforcement, Interviewing Strategies Through Statement Analysis, Investigative Analysis of Verbal and Nonverbal Behavior, Criminal Justice Research, and Fitness in Law Enforcement.  While I had been advised to not "load up" on graduate classes since I won't be putting them towards a masters degree like many here, I am looking forward to the challenge.  Since this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, I want to take advantage of every opportunity.

I am very excited about all of my classes and have to say that the instructors all appear to be second to none.  Most are FBI agents with 20-30 years of experience.  One example is my Labor Law instructor who, after graduating law school, began her career as an agent, later became the general counsel for a large field office, and is now the Unit Chief for Legal Instruction at the FBI Academy.

While I am excited about classes, I am equally excited that I have been blessed with a good roommate.  Not having lived with anyone other than my wife and children since college, I was a bit apprehensive about being "stuck" in such close quarters with a stranger.  I am relieved to say that he couldn't be more normal in his taste of music/food/television, sleep habits, hygiene, etc.  Considering my first college roommate experience (let's just say we didn't even survive the entire first semester), I couldn't be happier.  He is an Inspector with the Santa Cruz, CA District Attorney's Office.  He is also a former deputy sheriff, so he and I share a common past and have had some enjoyable conversations.

Everyone I have met here has been both friendly and professional - without exception.  The new agent trainees are all very courteous and even helped us move our luggage and other belongings in on the first day.  I am looking forward to next Wednesday night which is known as flag night.  All of the NA students from each state meet under their respective state flags in the cafeteria.  The new agent trainees who have just learned about their first field office assignments will then come in and proceed to the state flag of their assignment to be welcomed to the state and make what will likely be their first contact with state/local law enforcement.  There are three of us here from SC, as I am joined by a lieutenant from the West Columbia Police Department and the Deputy Chief of the Winthrop University Police Department.

The NA does a fantastic job of fostering relationships and encouraging networking.  I have already had so many opportunities to meet so many people from so many different places.  We have students from 29 different foreign countries to include Afghanistan, Iraq, France, the Ukraine, Finland, Nigeria, Canada, the United Kingdom, Poland, Argentina, Germany, Mongolia, and Taiwan.  What I have noticed is that while laws and tactics may be different, police officers are the same everywhere.  We have several very funny guys from the New York area who have taken to picking on each other in typical cop fashion.  As they exchanged good natured insults, I wondered to myself if the foreign students would understand the nuances of the humor.  As I turned to my new Polish friend next to me, he was already laughing and answered my question before it was asked by saying, "Cops are the same everywhere!"  The American students here represent 49 states plus the District of Columbia (West Virginia appears to not be represented for some reason).  They represent municipal, county, and state law enforcement agencies that range from small towns with fewer than 10 officers to New York City with more than 40,000 officers.  We also have several federal students representing all branches of the military and such agencies as the Uniformed Division of the Secret Service and the Pentagon Police.  What's so great is that as we sit in the cafeteria or talk before class, there is no segregation based on agency type or size or geographic region.  There is no disconnect between the 30 year old officer with 8 years of experience and the 55 year old officer with 30 years of experience.  While I have known the bonds and camaraderie of a shift of officers or deputies who work with each other and depend on each other in life threatening situations, I am still amazed at how quickly and naturally over 260 strangers from 49 states and 29 countries have begun to bond.

Traditional NA photo at "the sign".

Fitness is big here - even amongst the deer who frequent the track.  They are clearly in on the secret that the gun fire that can be heard in the area is not directed at them.

It's getting late and for the first time in 10 years, I have homework, so I better run.  Next time I will provide a glimpse into some of the physical training we are doing here.