Trooper Randy Servia from the Michigan State Police Alpena Post is getting a chance to hand over leadership skills he picked up during his time at the 115th Trooper Recruit School. Since June 11, Servia has been in Lansing at the MSP Training Academy preparing for his recently assigned temporary firearms instructor position at the 123rd Trooper Recruit School.
Upon receiving the news of his selection in May, Servia said it's both an honor and a huge responsibility.
"I was really excited. It's an honor to be responsible for molding and mentoring future members of the police. That first initial impression, it's crucial, it's huge, and it sets the tone for the direction they go. You always remember that first experience," he said.
Instruction is officially under way, and the daily schedule is quite grueling - for recruits and instructors alike - and will continue for the next 19 weeks.
Servia said this session's 85 recruits - a young group, mostly in their late 20s - report to the academy on Sunday evening at approximately 6 p.m. and are excused on Friday between 8-11 p.m, but are not allowed to leave the academy throughout the week, unless a family emergency arises. The day begins at 5 a.m. and ends at 10 p.m., consisting of physical training, classroom instruction (Michigan criminal code, motor vehicle code, investigations, policies and procedures), practical instruction (firearms, defensive tactics, first aid, water safety, patrol and driving), testing, studying, and cleaning details.
Swimming was one of the most difficult tasks for Servia, and he said you'll actually break a sweat while in the training tank.
Servia said he felt fortunate to enter the academy in 1997 single and not owning a home.
"Not being able to leave the academy during the week and/or communicate with your family is extremely stressful on the fellow recruits. All the responsibilities at home fall solely on the recruit's spouses or family members," he said.
Servia is one of five firearm staff members whose job is to instruct, prepare and evaluate each recruit on four weapon systems - the Sig Sauer .40 cal (primary handgun), Smith & Wesson 640 .38/.357 cal (backup handgun), Colt M-4 Rifle .223 cal, and Remington 870 shotgun.
"Each recruit starts on the same plain by focusing on the five fundamentals of proficient shooting: stance, grip, breathing, sight alignment/sight picture, and trigger control. You want to tune in their shooting skills so there's confidence that they can make that shot so more lives aren't lost," he said.
Servia has been assigned five recruits that he mentors routinely, and provides feedback so they can master the training objectives.
Prior to Servia's days in recruit school, he attended Lake Superior State University receiving a bachelor of science in criminal justice/law enforcement, and worked for law enforcement agencies for two years. He is the second farthest staff member for travel time to Lansing, and the third most senior among the temporary staff with 15 years worth of time and service.
He recalls that despite his experience in the field, recruit school proved to be a challenge.
"With the above education, training and experience, I discovered that each day at recruit school was extremely challenging physically, mentally and academically," he said. "Throughout the entire school, I and my classmates were pushed beyond our comfort zone. There was no room for complacency. Time management is crucial. Each recruit needs to move with a purpose in order to buy time throughout the day to complete the required tasks."
Servia said recruits have to learn very quickly the skills of problem solving, become assertive (communicate in a way that is concise, confident, calm and clear), tactful decision-making, time management and working together as a team in order to complete a task(s).
"You either work as a team or you will leave the program as an individual," he said.
Recruits who successfully complete this summer training will graduate on Oct. 19. Planning and development for the 124th Trooper Recruit School already has begun, and is expected to run from Oct. 28 to March 29. There are 130 recruits being sought. Interested applicants can complete an Entry-Level Law Enforcement (CS-102-2002) application at www.michigan.gov/mdcs and email questions to email@example.com.
Driving home to Alpena near 9 p.m. Friday for a short break before returning to Lansing Sunday evening, Servia admitted that he hadn't even heard about the Aurora, Colo., movie theater shooting until his wife informed him moments before. That's how closed in the academy is, he said.
It takes a special kind of person to be able to jump in and control that type of situation, he said - which is what the training is really all about.
"They push you to your comfort zone, and then they push you off the cliff. And you deal with it. You either quit or survive. Are you going to pull it off or collapse?
"We want to give them every possible moment of our time to succeed."
Jessica Nikolich can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 354-3111 ext. 343.