Becoming an officer:
Sweating the small stuff

single-meta-cal April 4, 2017

The Huntsville Police Department’s new Academy class is underway, with the 18-week process ending in July. We’ll regularly follow four members as they share their stories of the Academy.

Today: Curtis Mitchell, 21, from Chicago, who served as a military policeman in Army Reserves, with recent deployment at Guantanamo Bay.

This has been a stressful week. We’ve been at the firing range at Redstone Arsenal for 12-hour days. We get there at 6:30 a.m. and spend all day shooting, with a couple of “smoke sessions” in between.

That doesn’t mean we’re taking a break to smoke. It’s what we call basically working out non-stop. Like there’s a yield sign about a half-mile away and the instructor would say, “You all look relaxed. Run to that sign.” Today one of the cadets said his arm was tired from shooting, so they said, “Everybody in the push-up position.” And then we had to do overhead arm claps.

We shoot countless rounds, probably about 500 a day. The first few days we were just using our Glock 17, the new weapon that everybody in the department has been issued. On Thursday, we qualified with shotguns, the 12-gauge as well as the slugs. My shoulder is still a little sore from that.

The Academy is definitely tougher than basic training I went through for the Army Reserves. But basic helped me a lot this week in firearms training because we’re basically using the same stance. I had the fundamentals down as far as stance and sight alignment. But we used the Beretta 9M and the M-4 (rifle) in the Army. The Glock is a lot lighter than the Beretta.

The qualifying was a bit different because in the military we had pop-up targets. This time, you’re running from different yards. You have to be quick-drawing. They’re paper targets. You shoot at them, then you have to holster, run forward, draw again and shoot a little more, holster, then run forward and draw and shoot some more.

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It helps me to put it in a “real-world “scenario. I pretend this person has a hostage or has the gun pointed at me. So my objective is to put rounds through this silhouette who is dangerous.

We had a class ranking for the most accurate shooter. Cadet Rufus Gaines was chosen so we had to carry him around and say “Gaines, King of the Range.”

Day by day it goes by slow, but you think about it, it’s the end of the fourth week. When I look back, it was like, that went by fast. As I’m doing this story, it’s a Friday afternoon and I’m not even thinking ahead to next week – just thinking about the weekend. I keep Friday night relaxed, then on Saturday, because we have a son on the way, I decorate his room. Then Sunday is “Family Day” after church.

As a team we’re coming together, but sometimes we still get caught up on little things. They say don’t sweat the little things, but when you don’t that’s what gets you in trouble. Like somebody’s hat is on crooked or somebody comes in with dirty boots and everybody gets smoked because of that.

One morning I was in a hurry because it was inspection day. I threw my seatbelt off too quick and ran inside and somebody was like, “Where’s your name tag?” I didn’t know where it was. I looked all over. Everybody else took their name tags off so we’d have uniformity, but we all got smoked. It was my fault. When my wife picked me up, the name tag was right there on the seat. The seat belt snatched it off.