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Recruit School #11: Week 5

Aug. 7-12, 2022

Author: CO recruit writer

After looking back on week 5 of the recruit school academy, I can truly say that this week was my toughest challenge yet. It was another full week of water safety that was more rigorous than the previous week. These past two weeks have been some of the hardest challenges I have faced because I was never in the water all that much growing up in Colorado. I have been active my entire life, but everything I have ever done has been above water where oxygen is readily available for every breath. I can truly say that learning to stay calm “in” and “under” the water will be a massive confidence booster for any scenarios or life events that I may have to respond to in the future.

man sitting in tub of ice with ice being poured on his head

Photo caption: Recruits sit in a tub of 28-degree Fahrenheit water for four minutes. All conservation officers work on the ice and near water, all year long. This controlled scenario gives them an idea of what it is like to fall into cold water. Paramedics are on deck monitoring recruits as academy instructors talk them through a series of verbal and dexterity tests.

Monday kicked off with the dreaded four-minute, 28-degree ice water bath. This scenario taught us how the body responds to cold water shock and how the body prioritizes blood supply to stay alive and functioning. Personally, it was very hard to control my breathing for the first 20-30 seconds. I wouldn’t say it was panic, but more of an involuntary convulsion of my body trying to react to the extremely cold water. While in the water, I went through dexterity tests and movement of limbs to see how it feels to have the blood leaving your extremities and get sucked into your body cavity. Overall, I learned you do not want to be in cold water for very long.

Tuesday started out with a strong physical training session. All the recruits lined up in teams of four and performed 50-yard relay races down and back which consisted of carrying a partner, running, crab walk, lunges, frog jumps and wheelbarrow carry. We then moved into the tank for a very educational and technique-based day. We revisited the previous week’s fundamentals and learned how to recognize an active drowning victim (someone who is in the process of drowning). Toward the end of the day, like every day in the academy, we finished with classroom learning which included health and wellness, writing and issuing citations.

man, scuba diver at bottom of swimming pool

Photo caption: Recruits wear “blackout” goggles and practice removing members of the Michigan State Police dive team from a device that is supposed to mock a submerged vehicle. The scenario prepares them for what it’s like extracting a person from a submerged vehicle when you can’t see – as most Michigan bodies of water have low to no visibility.

Wednesday was my biggest obstacle, or so I thought. We were greeted by a few members of the Michigan State Police dive team and learned how and what happens when a vehicle drives into the water and how it sinks. We then got into the tank with the dive team and were instructed step by step of what needs to happen underwater to successfully extract a person from a submerged car.

We got to perform a couple of test runs wearing regular goggles. We were then put into the situation completely blind, with blackout goggles to simulate the low visibility of Michigan waterways. When I dove down in the final scenario completely blind, it was an uneasy and eerie feeling, until I reached the car, then training took over and I was able to successfully extract the victim and bring him to the surface. When most of the recruits broke the surface, you could see the self-confidence and excitement beaming from their faces. It was a huge accomplishment for everyone!

recruit pulling instructor through water

Photo caption: A recruit pulls a person to the surface of the water after removing them from a device that mocked an underwater vehicle. 

Thursday was another demanding day of physical training, as we ran 4 1/2 miles after performing pushups and abdominal exercises. In the tank, it was back to education and technique, as we revisited active drowning techniques and methods of securing victims in the water who might have possible spinal cord injuries. It may not have been the most grueling day in the tank, but a lot of important information was delivered. In the classroom we revisited report writing and the importance of writing skills.

Friday, unknowingly, was the hardest struggle of my short stint at Recruit School #11. We were told to meet in the classroom and were informed that we would be doing a water rescue scenario. Luckily, instead of having to sweat out the long anticipation that some of my fellow classmates had to endure, I was first! The scenario consisted of rescuing an active drowning victim in which we had to apply the techniques we learned throughout the week. It was the most exhausting mental and physical challenge I have experienced in my life.

woman swimming in pool

Photo caption: A recruit swims laps as part of a water safety scenario.

All in all, the recruits and I came out of week 2 of water safety with the confidence and knowledge of how far we can push ourselves, as well as the limits and boundaries we need to break to be the best conservation officers we can possibly be. Because as our instructors kept telling us, it is not a matter of “if” you will have a water rescue, it’s a matter of “when” you will!

Read Week 6.