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Recruit School #11: Week 23

Date: Dec. 11-16, 2022

Author: CO recruit writer

12 officers standing up with their right hand raised speak their oath of office in an auditorium

Photo caption: In front of their peers, friends and family, members of Recruit School #11 take their oath of office to serve and protect.

Week 23 was finally here. As a class we were all ecstatic that the end was in sight. However, we still had an obstacle in our way. The Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards test was on Monday, so we spent Sunday night studying and preparing for the dreaded MCOLES test the next morning.

Monday: After a long anticipated 22 weeks, the MCOLES exam was here. The exam covers materials we learned throughout the academy, all the way back to the first week. After completing the MCOLES exam, everyone felt a great deal of relief. The expression on my classmates' faces afterward conveyed how tough the test was for all of us. It was a long lunch hour while we waited for our results.

Tuesday started with physical training in the weight room. It was nice to lift weights instead of the high-intensity cardio workouts we typically did throughout the academy. We were each able to focus on muscle groups of our choosing. After breakfast, we reported to the classroom and learned how to use SIGMA, the time management system for state employees.

In the afternoon, Sgt. Mark Papineau, DNR Law Enforcement Division, taught the class about the history of conservation officers. We learned about the daily work of conservation officers before the job was an established position. The history is very interesting and makes me proud to follow in the legacy left by previous conservation officers. Our mission remains to enforce fish, game, and natural resource protection laws, while also serving a unique role as certified law enforcement officers with the authority to enforce all of Michigan’s criminal laws. Often, conservation officers also serve as first responders to situations involving emergencies, missing persons, and public safety threats.

Wednesday morning we were back in the weight room for physical training. After the PT session, we headed to the classroom to learn about officer-involved shootings and death notifications from Dr. Michael Comer, police psychologist for DNR law enforcement. This class gave us a reality check of what can happen in the field. We must be prepared for anything once we leave the academy.

Thursday morning began with the class reporting to the tank (pool). Once in the tank, we noticed dry bags on the bottom. In each bag were the keys to our patrol trucks. We all began diving down in search of the dry bag with our name on it. After retrieving our bags, we changed back into dry clothes and ran in formation to our trucks. It was such a full-circle moment, realizing all the work and effort put into the academy had paid off. What a surreal moment to sit in my truck for the first time! I couldn’t help but imagine the many hours ahead I will spend in my truck throughout my career and how I will grow.

recruits march down a hallway

Photo caption: In alphabetical order, the 12 members of Recruit School #11 take their final march through the academy hallway before they enter the auditorium to become Michigan DNR conservation officers.

Later that afternoon, Sgt. Todd Thorn, DNR Law Enforcement Division, instructed us on probationary training to prepare us for the next step, as probationary conservation officers in the field. This class covered the requirements of the 18-week probationary period that starts upon graduation. Each graduate will train in different areas of the state with different training officers. After class, we practiced for graduation. It was such an amazing feeling that graduation was one day away. We are almost conservation officers!

a man standing at a podium reads a speech

Photo caption: Recruit School #11 class speaker, probationary Conservation Officer Joey Closser addresses the class. Closser spoke about the challenges and triumphs of the academy and how the recruits, their instructors and family members helped them achieve graduation.

five men sitting in chairs smile and laugh

Photo caption: Members of Recruit School #11 reminiscence as they listened to the class speaker speak during their graduation ceremony.

Graduation day was finally here. Everyone woke up feeling anxious and so excited for the upcoming day. After a grueling, long academy, we were about to become conservation officers. We woke early, put on our Class A uniforms and traveled to the state Capitol steps for a class photo. A lot is packed into the last day at the academy, and we had many tasks to complete before the ceremony started at 1 p.m., in addition to packing.

five color guard officers stand in the front of a room with the State of Michigan flag, American Flag and firearms.

Photo caption: DNR Law Enforcement color guard presents the American and state of Michigan flags.

1 p.m. arrived. Stepping to a perfect, loud march that grew louder and drew attention to the center aisle, we descended the steps as we marched to our front row seats in the auditorium for graduation. We wore our pride. This was the moment we each had anticipated for the last 23 weeks. We listened to speakers imparting knowledge and encouragement, acknowledged our dedicated and supportive families, honored our training officers and commitment of the recruit school staff, and spoke our oath of office. Finally, one by one we reported to the front of the auditorium as our names were called to accept our badges. We moved to our designated spots along the outer auditorium walls where a chosen family member or other special person joined us to officially pin our badge on us for the first time as Michigan DNR conservation officers. It was an overwhelming, amazing ceremony.

Now, the real challenges begin.

newly graduated conservation officers lean over tables and chairs, hugging and shaking each others hands to celebrate their graduation

Photo caption: The 12 probationary conservation officers of Recruit School #11 celebrate their graduation from the 23-week DNR Law Enforcement Academy.

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