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Recruit School #11: Week 9

Author: CO recruit writer

Sept. 5-9, 2022

Despite not knowing what would be in store for us at Camp Grayling, the Michigan National Guard training camp, we were still excited to travel there for the start of week nine. The previous week, we were all given a list of items to pack in preparation for the short week of training at Camp Grayling. Since Monday was Labor Day, we were due back to the academy Monday night instead of Sunday.

The recruits of Conservation Officer Recruit School #11 waited patiently in a line of cars outside the gates of Camp Graying on Monday, awaiting further instructions from the recruit school commander. We were all anxious to find out what was next. After everyone was counted present, our commander had us all follow him through the gates to the barracks we would be calling home for the coming days.

Upon arrival to our building, we scrambled to secure all our gear and set it up for the possibility of an inspection. We were unsure how this week would go, given it was the first time we trained overnight away from the Michigan State Police Training Academy.

officers at outdoor firearm range

Photo caption: Recruits spent the week at Camp Grayling, being instructed by conservation officers who are firearms instructors. Starting with safety, instructors prepared recruits for their upcoming firearm qualifications tests. Conservation officers must pass firearm qualifications set by the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and the DNR Law Enforcement Division.

After we were settled in, we learned this week would be firearms instruction. We were issued our service pistols, rifles and shotguns. We spent the rest of the evening looking through our firearms manual to get familiar with what we would be doing.

Tuesday morning started with physical fitness. We conducted upper body muscle failure exercises (performing muscle exercises to the point failure) and “hitting the hill” (sprints). After breakfast, we met the firearm tactics instructors who would be teaching us the skills necessary to become proficient with our firearms. They took us through the firearms manual, and we learned about the functions and capabilities of our issued firearms. Some of the class was nervous because they did not have previous experience with the types of firearms we were issued.

It was clear, each of the instructors were subject matter experts on firearms. We would be taught using the “Crawl, Walk, Run” method of instruction. The instructors wasted no time ensuring that we understood the importance of safety this week and that we were comfortable with handling our new equipment.

After lunch, we left the classroom and headed to the shooting range. We would be focusing this week on our rifles and shotguns. We took the whole afternoon understanding how we must act while on a live fire range. Everyone had to pay close attention to detail, range instruction and most importantly, safety. We used the five fundamentals of shooting (stance, grip, breathing, sight picture/alignment, and trigger control).

By the end of our first day, we all successfully sighted in and zeroed (adjusting aim to align at a target) our rifles. After dinner, we cleaned our rifles and had instructors nearby to guide us through the process. They stressed the importance of proper maintenance and cleaning. We ended our night with a five-mile run.

recruit shooting rifle behind cover

Photo caption: Recruits practice firing their DNR-issued rifles behind cover, a drill to help them increase their shooting accuracy. 

Wednesday, we went straight to the range, jumping back into practicing emergency and tactical rifle reloading drills.  At first this was difficult because we had to become so intimately familiar with our magazines and rifles that we could perform the drills by using only our sense of touch. This is because it’s important for conservation officers to keep their eyes on a potential threat in the event of needing to reload. Then we practiced firing from the standing, kneeling and prone positions. The instructors taught us proper body positioning for each shooting position. Their tips made us more proficient in all stances; I could really see the improved accuracy. We finished at the range by practicing how to handle firearm malfunctions and firing behind different types of cover.

officers shooting rifles while kneeling

Photo caption: Recruits practice sighting their rifles in the kneeling position.

Thursday was a challenging day – we had to compile all we had learned thus far to conduct the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES) rifle qualification. This was a cumulative event, focusing on the fundamentals of rifle marksmanship. We followed up by conducting transition drills, where we shoot the firearms on our dominant side (right or left) and then shoot from our nondominant side. The instructors also introduced us to the DNR Law Enforcement Division’s rifle qualifications. The DNR has more stringent standards than MCOLES. Introduction to firing our shotguns was the last event for the day. We went through administrative and combat loading drills, then had the opportunity to fire our shotguns to become familiar with them.

DNR LED qualifications require recruits and conservation officers to hit the same targets as the MCOLES qualifications, but while moving, in low light, around barricades and while wearing a variety of additional gear. Conservation officers train for these unique situations because they often patrol alone in the woods and on the water. They carry four firearms and a lot of extra gear – such as jackets, vests, etc. 
Friday was by far the most difficult day. Between conducting physical fitness and weapon drills all week, my arms were burning and we still had to maintain proper firing stances. On top of that, we jumped into conducting the MCOLES shotgun qualifications, followed by the DNR LED qualifications with both our rifles and shotguns.

After many iterations of firing our shotguns, many of us learned the hard way about keeping positive control while firing and ended up with bruised and sore cheeks due to the recoil and improper seating of the shotgun stock. Finally, once everyone qualified, we had the opportunity to start becoming familiar with our service pistols and firing them.

All in all, this week seemed like a fire hose worth of information to take in. The instructors continued to build onto each training event until we successfully qualified. I learned the importance of knowing my firearm and being comfortable with its use, which is vital for serving in law enforcement.

Read Week 10.