No Jerking Off on My Range! is the sixteenth post in my Bad Luck Cadet Series that follows my adventures at the police academy after my mid-life crisis. It’s all about fun, laughter and PAIN! If you are new to the series, you can follow it from the beginning on this blog starting with Bad Luck Cadet #1 – Accidents Happen or buy it (for only 99 cents) as a Kindle e-book from Amazon.
Returning to my dorm room on Sunday evening was depressing. All signs of Donna were gone. I went in search of moral support. Rocco hadn’t arrived yet. Cadet Rodriguez, known as P-Rod was looking a lot worse for wear. Philip Rodriguez is the cadet who ran my ten punishment hill runs with me and it was hard to be depressed when around him. He’s one of those “Life is wonderful people.” I think I was one of those people before the academy, but the stress was wearing me down. It never seemed to bother P-Rod and I felt lucky to run into him.
He said he got extremely drunk on Saturday night in celebration of his twenty-first birthday and lost his virginity. He was a good looking, hard working guy. He told me he thought he was in love with the lucky girl. I was impressed he’d held out until he was twenty one.
I told Rodriguez about Donna not returning. He told me he had seen my determination that first week at the academy and never doubted I would make it. He said he never saw the same determination in Donna. And when she wrote the famous memo about our Sgt. bothering us during classroom time, he was surprised she hadn’t quit then. He said she didn’t have the nerves to handle the job.
Hangover or not, this young man was wise beyond his years. I would miss Donna terribly, but I was learning daily this job was not for everyone. The other cadet (besides Donna) who shot his SIMs gun at an unarmed man returned to the academy. His department would be informed of his faulty judgment call but they would also let him remain.We had now survived half our training and were down to twenty-six cadets.
Monday we were given our department issue duty weapons minus bullets. These had been kept in the classroom vault. We double checked everyone’s guns, including instructors, to make sure none were loaded. For me, even this small step with guns was huge. I had never owned a gun in my life. Going our with my police department Sergeant before coming to the academy was the full extent of my firearm handling experience.
We spent the day in the classroom learning about our weapons and “dry firing.” This is aiming at a target and pulling the trigger with no bullets in the gun. Different videos were played on the front classroom screen to simulate shooting scenarios. We would shoot our guns at the front screen when appropriate. At the end of the day we were taught to dismantle and clean our weapons. They were then returned to the vault.
We were divided into two groups. Group one would head to the range the next day while group two would stay and have class lecture. I was in the second group. We would alternate activities and days so that each group went to the range twice a week. Range days would start after PT (Physical Training) or DT (Defensive Tactics) and go until evening.
It seemed odd on Tuesday with half the class missing, but it was also very stress free. I was saving my panic for the following day at the range.
Wednesday morning we headed to the range and were issued our weapons and ammunition. Our guns and two extra magazines were loaded. Range rules were drilled into us. If we deviated from a single rule we would be asked to leave permanently. The old “You will be sent home” mantra was back in force.
There were four range instructors for thirteen of us. The instructor assigned to me was becoming frustrated. And so was I. I couldn’t help it. I was not a very good shot. And I was worried that shooting would be the death of my academy experience and my police career.
Lieutenant Hurd was head instructor in charge of firearms training. He stayed mostly on the opposite end of the range. At the end of the day Lt. Hurd pulled me aside and asked how I did.
“With all due respect sir,” I said, “I sucked.”
“You don’t suck and believe me I would rather have a new shooter than someone that is unwilling to learn the proper way of handling a gun. I can mold you into someone that is confident and smart with their firearm.”
I was having difficulty with his assurance. “Honestly I think my biggest problem is being afraid of guns. I don’t like them.”
Lieutenant Hurd laughed and said, “We have a lot in common. I still have a very healthy respect for guns and I’m not a gun fanatic like many officers. I wasn’t raised with guns. In the long run you and I have less chance of having an accidental discharge of our weapons. We always respect them. A little fear is a good thing. Always keep in mind that guns are made to kill. They really have no other use.”
“But if I suck so badly I can’t hit the target, I don’t know what good it will do being armed out on the street. I may be able to hit a vehicle or the broad side of a barn door but that’s about it.”
He laughed again and told me he would help my group come Friday. He said he would fix my problems and not to worry about it. I felt better but was concerned. My fear didn’t seem to affect Lt. Hurd at all. I would try keeping his lack of worry in the back of my mind and think positive thoughts. Yeah right.
On Friday we began with a practice shoot and then were told we would start learning our qualify drills. The instructor from Tuesday stayed clear of me. He was a stereotypical healthy, in excellent shape, clean cut, bigoted cop. The stereotype that had clearly defined ideals of cop material. And I didn’t fit it. My very presence seemed to annoy him and his “type” endlessly.
Lt. Hurd finally came over as promised. He stood beside me and told me I needed to relax as I was shooting. He told me I was jerking off. Was he kidding? Before I could decide to be offended, he explained I was anticipating my shots and jerking my gun. He smiled and said he did not allow jerking off on his range. I smiled and relaxed some.
He asked for my pistol and then asked me to turn around. I did as instructed. After a moment he handed my gun back and told me to face my target again. He instructed me to fire one bullet. I fired. My shot went wide. He told me to fire again. I did. This time the only thing that happened was my hand and gun jerked up but no bullet exited the barrel. I was jerking my hand in anticipation of the gun firing. This was my problem. He had put blanks in my gun to show me. I fired again but didn’t jerk. I hit the target and then hit the target again. The next shot was a blank. My gun did not jerk.
Now that I knew what I was doing wrong and why, I began to improve. When ever I would forget his lesson and my hand jerked, I would hear him shout, “Ivy you’re jerking off on my range again.” It would put me back on target and keep me smiling.
Rocco (nickname, The Rock) was a good shooter and we both began enjoying our time on the range. Again I learned why we did so many pushups. We shot over six hundred rounds every time we went to the range.
The weeks flew by and we were finally at week four, time for our qualifiers. I was improving and consecutively shooting in the 240’s. We needed a 210 to pass with a 250 being a perfect score. Several of the cadets shot 250’s on a regular basis. I passed the day qualify with no problems and was feeling proud of myself. Friday night we would return to the range for our night qualify.
On the day between our qualifiers, we had a lesson in traffic control. It began with a twenty-minute classroom lecture about hand signals. We were then bussed to a major intersection in the city. The traffic lights were turned off along with the crosswalk signals. One by one we were thrown into the street with a traffic vest and a whistle.
Talk about on the job training. The saving graces were the signs posted saying, “Police Training in Progress.”
Each Cadet directed traffic for ten minutes. It took the first five minutes to learn the ropes while traffic backed up. The next five minutes was actually fun. I think a little control created a small monster in most of us. It was comical. Some driver’s just tried to ignore us while others shouted obscenities or laughed out their windows.
I waved cars forward and stopped them at my leisure. A pedestrian dared to cross before I gave him permission. I told him to get his ass back to the curb and I made him stand for an extra minute before giving him the go ahead. He complied which was a smart move on his part. If not I may have taken out my rubber gun and said, “Bang bang.”
We had a few near misses but overall it was a great experience. I always appreciate those comical officers on television that make directing traffic an art form. I was not one of them. But I did get the job done.
After lunch on Friday we headed to the range. There were different scenarios set up and while we waited for the sun to go down we did a lot of tactical shooting, which is running across the range shooting at different targets.
During one test, pylons were set up every six feet. Six small metal targets were spaced twenty feet in front of us, six feet apart between pylons. We could not stop moving between the first two pylons until we hit the first target. We would then move to the next two pylons. Back and forth we ran in a six foot space until that fateful “ping.” For safety’s sake we went through the course one at a time. By the time we were at the last three targets it was easier and our speed picked up. The test was timed and the scores would be added to our overall range rankings.
As hard as I felt some of the shooting tests were by the time the sun went down I was ready to shoot at a non-moving target. I passed with a good score and I was not last. For me this was something to celebrate.
My confidence was increasing and the end to my academy days was in sight. Only five more weeks. I was holding on to my determination for all it was worth.
My adventures continue with: ~ Bad Luck Cadet #17 – The Police Perspective