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Recruit School #11: Week 1

July 10-15, 2022

conservation officer recruits outside

Photo caption: Recruit School Commander Sgt. Jason King conducts roll call to admit recruits into the training academy on Sunday evening.

Sunday evening, 5:55 p.m. – Fifteen Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officer recruits lined up in alphabetical order and walked in single file formation to the entrance of the Michigan State Police Training Academy, located in Lansing.

Though prior instructions stated check-in is at 6 p.m., these recruits already knew that “on time” was late.

academy dormitory bedroom

Photo caption: Recruits sleep at the training academy Sunday through Friday. Their rooms include the essential gear and items they will need for the academy. They are told what to bring ahead of time, as most items are provided. Cellphones are not accessible until designated times.

Dressed in their finest formal business attire, recruits each carried one piece of luggage, packed with minimal necessities they would need for the week; most essentials are provided.

For the next 22 weeks, recruits will repeat this check-in procedure every Sunday. They will eat, sleep and train at the academy until they are dismissed Friday evening. Cellphones are stored in lockers and are not accessible except for designated times.

four conservation officers

Photo caption: Recruits meet the Recruit School #11 full-time academy staff. Academy staff consists of conservation officers who have taken time away from their daily county patrols and home-life to live at the academy with recruits, ensuring recruits receive the highest quality training day and night. Left to right: Conservation Officers Kyle Bucholtz, Danielle Zubek, Jeremy Cantrell and Mark Siemen.

Sgt. Jason King, Recruit School #11 commander, conducted roll call and directed recruits into the academy, where staff stood inside waiting to begin training.

conservation officer in hallway

Photo caption: Recruit School Commander Sgt. Jason King walks the dormitory floor as recruits locate their rooms for the first time.

It’s not the typical “first day” greeting most expect when starting a new job. The Conservation Officer Recruit School Academy emphasizes discipline and structure. Recruits will learn how to think clearly while under pressure so they can confidently make critical decisions on their own when they’re in the field (after graduating the academy).

three recruits in hallway

Photo caption: Three recruits work together, under pressure to learn how to properly dress in uniform. Teamwork and communication are essential for their success.

Week one instilled the basics of functioning while at the academy: How to prepare their rooms for morning inspection and carry themselves in the hallway, when and where they pay their respects to fallen officers, and what they can consume from the cafeteria food line.

recruits in food line

Photo caption: Recruits learn how to conduct themselves in the food line for “chow.”

One of the most asked questions people have about the CO academy is, “Are recruits required to shave their heads?” The answer is “no,” but most male recruits choose to shave their heads because it eliminates grooming maintenance and helps them move quicker to the next task, particularly when they exit the tank (pool).

In the classroom, Capt. Jen Wolf, DNR Law Enforcement Division, addressed the recruits with words of encouragement.

“There is purpose behind everything you experience in this academy,” Wolf said. “We want you to be the next generation of officers to fill the leadership roles you see standing around the room. We are a family. We take care of each other, and we want you to spend your entire career with us.”

Physical training started immediately. Wall sits, pushups and planks are just a few of the basic exercises recruits will perform daily, in preparation for multiple Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards physical fitness tests. The exercises also keep them conditioned for survival tactics training – coordinated physical movements officers learn to defend themselves when they encounter physical conflict. Recruits spent almost half their week learning survival tactics. For those who graduate the academy – training will continue for the duration of their career as a conservation officer.

recruit ties his shoes

Photo caption: A recruit puts on his physical fitness training gear. Recruits are expected to be dressed and ready to begin physical fitness every day at 6 a.m.

Monday morning, Law Enforcement Division Chief Dave Shaw welcomed recruits. Chief Shaw, with more than 35 years as a conservation officer, shared his perspective on the diversities of the job and the important role recruits have in protecting the state’s rich natural and historical resources.

Throughout the week, recruits were introduced to military protocol and procedures, constitutional law, court functions and interpersonal skills. The DNR places a high, continuing emphasis on interpersonal skills, including training to handle the mental stress of the job. All conservation officers have 24/7 access to a contracted psychologist as well as other wellness resources.

As with any job, recruits spent time becoming familiar with their new computers and the state’s time-entry and payroll system.

Sgt. King dismissed recruits Friday evening for a welcome 48-hour break before they return, ready to dive into week two.

Read Week 2.