Week 4

Back to Basics: A 17-year law enforcement veteran goes back to basic training

March 4, 2022

Going into this week, we were all stressed about our second test, which we took on Monday. The test was on constitutional law, liability and the Code of Virginia. This test is the hardest and has a reputation for weeding out recruits. In addition to the difficult subject matter, this test had about 30 fewer questions than our first, so each question was worth more points. That means there was not much room for error.

Two of us scored 100%, so fewer people had to retest this time around. With a little extra studying, everyone passed the second time and we’re going into Week 5 with all 15 recruits! I have to thank my schoolteacher mom for my study habits. I wish she was alive to see me go through the academy a second time. I think she would be proud.

BAC52-22 firearms drills
Recruits participate in firearms drills at the Law Enforcement Training Academy

This week we also started firearm fundamentals. We have a wide variety of skill levels in the group. One recruit has never touched a gun before. Others are former military or law enforcement and have a lot of experience. Most fall somewhere in between.

As a former law enforcement officer for 17 years, I received a great deal of firearms training. That’s a good thing and a bad thing. I’m grateful for my experience, but I’m also having to learn a new firearm and unlearn habits that are inconsistent with the VBSO’s training.

We each receive our assigned duty firearm every day to use for draw/fire exercises (don’t worry, there’s NO live ammunition in the classroom, only “dummy rounds” for training). In the six years since I left law enforcement, the Glock Generation 3 was replaced with a Glock Generation 4. There are several differences, and I’m working through the different feel of the frame, levers, etc. The ballistic vest we wear is different, too. It’s called a “molle vest” or “molle carrier,” and is worn over our uniform shirt with pretty much all of our tactical gear attached. When I was in the Virginia Beach Police Department, our vests were worn underneath our uniform shirts and all our gear was on our belts. The molle carrier is much heavier and bulkier, but it puts less weight around my waist and hips, which is an improvement for my lower back. I have muscle memory from my previous equipment placement, so I’m having to retrain myself to draw from this new holster with different weapon retention points, as well as drawing magazines (the slang term is “clips,” but they are officially called magazines), flashlights, handcuffs and other equipment from new places. I’m getting used to drawing my gun and getting it online with the target while adjusting for the bulk of the vest.

Firearms instructor
Firearms Instructor Master Deputy Jacob Gilbert leading drills with Basic Academy Class 52-22

The firearms instructor said that it’s usually easier for him to train inexperienced recruits because he doesn’t have to untrain those with previous experience to follow the VBSO’s procedures. Luckily for me, many of the VBSO’s firearms training processes are similar to what I learned in the Police Department, but there are some differences. I guess we’ll see how that whole “old dog, new tricks” theory works out.

Last week I shared that our group was going through the “storming” phase. I am happy to report that we are showing a great deal of progress. We are looking out for each other, working through conflict effectively and genuinely working as a team. We are proactively addressing issues and policing each other.

Deputy Recruit Margie Hobbs firearms drills
Deputy Recruit Margie Hobbs doing firearms drills

We end classroom instruction this week and will be going to the range next. It will be nice to have a change of scenery (and a break from PowerPoint). The firearms instructor said we were all looking more skilled each day and that the only difference next week will be that, with live ammunition, our guns will recoil (kick). This will be a new experience for many of our recruits. It will be the moment of truth for those who are learning or are reacquiring a good shooting stance. If our stance isn't tactically sound with a steady shooting “platform,” the recoil of the firearm will make it more difficult to reacquire our sight alignment and be ready to follow up with another shot. Fundamentals drills, like those we’ve been doing all week, help us prepare for the training and qualifications we have next week. Those of us with previous experience will help our fellow recruits with whatever they need, and hopefully teamwork will continue to bring us success as a class. Wish us luck!

Photos by VBSO Public Information Officer Toni Guagenti