By ANJANA SCHROEDER
Capital News Service
LANSING – Trooper Andrew Adamczyk wants to have an impact on the 100-plus men and women who are undergoing an intensive 22-week program that includes instruction in firearms, driving and patrol.
“I wanted to come back and pass along my experiences and everything I have to offer to future recruits and be a part of the Michigan State Police tradition. To build to department is very rewarding,” said Adamczyk, who teaches patrol techniques, report writing and water safety.
Adamczyk is an instructor at the State Police’s 124th recruit school. The class as 93 men, 11 women and 26 military veterans.
He said training to prepare aspiring troopers for the unknown is hard because out on the road, there’s no predictor of the types of calls they’ll get or whether they’ll go home at the end of their shift.
“Recruits never know what’s in store for them that day – physical and mental challenges,” said Adamczyk, who is based in Mount Pleasant.
“If you think you can, you will. If you think you can’t, you’re right,” is printed on a sign prominently posted at the academy. “Every trooper knows that saying because everybody lines up on that ramp before physical training (PT), shouts that and then sprints into the gym. It gets you into the right mindset you need to be in for PT in the morning.”
Sgt. Kevin Rod is the recruit school commander and oversees defensive tactics and patrol training. Recruits report directly to him throughout their 1,000-plus hours of training.
There are now 965 troopers stationed at 29 posts across the state.
Rod said recruits are assigned to work sites and posts throughout the state, depending on what the department needs.
Recruit Jennifer Nowicki, from Holland, remembers her first week at recruit school.
“It was worse than what I expected, having to stand at attention constantly, no free time and long days. It is a lot tougher than I expected,” Nowicki said.
Rod said training is grueling — emotionally and physically taxing. The academy brings in motivational speakers to keep recruits encouraged and motivated.
“Ultimately it does come down to them trying to find something deep down within themselves, to motivate themselves,” Rod said. “They’re going to be working the road as a single officer on patrol at times and will face challenges where they’ve got to learn to motivate themselves to get through.”
Nowicki said her family and determination keep her motivated.
“It’s something I want so I just have to work out to get the end result,” she added.
For recruit Chris Phillips from Traverse City, it’s a difficult process when the staff expects nothing but the best. “My son and my family are the main motivators for me. I want to be able to provide what my family gave to me as a child for my son and my wife.”
Trooper Joel Kuhn of the Metro post in Oak Park and a firearms instructor, said one thing the academy focuses on is explaining why troopers shoot the way they shoot rather than just telling recruits this is how it’s done because it’s the way it has always been done.
“The more somebody understands a process, the easier it is for them to understand it, buy into and apply it,” he said.
Kuhn said when recruits report to class, they’re expected to be on time with all their necessary equipment and uniform in appearance.
Uniformity promotes teamwork, he said.
“Prior to reporting, we want them to look each other over and check each other out because they’re each others’ partners.
“We want them to become as proficient a shooter as possible. What we want them to take away from the class is remembering fundamentals of shooting so that if a time comes where they may have to use their weapon in the line of duty, we want them to be able to shoot as effectively as possible.”
The building where the recruits and most instructors live for each recruit school has been remodeled, Adamczyk said. “Every trooper in the state has been through that building. It’s got a lot of good tradition and a lot of senior troops come back and remember their recruit school times.”
Adamczyk said every trooper, no matter if they’re in the Upper Peninsula or Detroit, has gone through the building and the State Police’s way of training.
“I can meet up with a trooper who I’ve never met and I know exactly how he’s going to act and he knows what I’m going to do because we’ve been trained the same uniform way, so we instill that uniformity in ourselves starting out as a recruit,” he said.
After the academy, recruits have a field training officer period when they study and apply the things they learned in recruit school, Adamczyk said. As probationary troopers, they ride with a senior trooper, get mentored and learn through a more hands-on approach.
At the drive track, instructors teach a maneuver or skill and then recruits practice before being tested, Adamczyk said.
If recruits fail the drive track, they can be dismissed from the academy. “As much as we want as many troopers on the road, we don’t want to make shortcuts because we don’t work in an office — we work on the road.”
Lt. Jim Flegel, the precision driving unit commander, said recruits must take a proper line of travel through the curves and turns on the track – proper driving techniques, proper acceleration, proper breaking and proper steering techniques.
“All three of those things have to come into combination with each other very, very smoothly. When you’re operating a vehicle at higher speeds, it doesn’t take a whole lot to lose control of a vehicle. We want to make sure they are maintaining control at all times,” Flegal said.
“They have to know and understand their capabilities and limitations, as well as the car’s abilities and limitations to make these maneuvers,” he said.
The class is scheduled graduate March 29, 2013.