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Massachusetts Student Trooper Program in New Braintree, Mass
This summer I attended the Massachusetts Student Trooper Program in New Braintree. My father is a detective with our local police department and knows a trooper who works with the academy on the ropes course. Both my brother and I have always liked the idea of having a job in law enforcement so when my dad suggested the program to my brother three years ago he jumped at the chance to go. When July rolled around and it was his graduation I was extremely jealous and impressed. As this summer was approaching I constantly reminded my dad that I was old enough to go and he eventually signed me up.
About a week before I left for the academy I was feeling pretty pumped and excited for the week to come, then I started reading reviews of the program. While they all said that the academy was amazing and that they had had an amazing time, they also said that it was a very tough week. They detailed the yelling, the pt, and how kids were constantly dropping out. I became nervous and started to worry about going. Then I received a letter from my brother telling me that its going to be the best week ever and that I’m going to do great. He told me not to worry and not to let the yelling get to me, it’s all a game.
July 25 came quick and before I knew it I was driving up a road in the middle of nowhere. There was absolutely nothing around, just fields and farmers. A few minutes later I pull up to the academy. The parents are told to go in the mess hall and the kids are left to sign in and gather our hats and water bottles by ourselves. After I got my things I was told to line up against a wall with my luggage. We marched down the stairs and dropped our luggage and went back upstairs to join our families.
The mood in the mess hall was happy and everyone was whispering and joking around. A couple troopers walked in and everyone went silent. They went up to a podium and they talked to the parents. Jokes were made about how we would be taught to make a bed and we were told that it would be a tough week. The parents were told to say their goodbyes and the troopers walked out of the room. After the parents all left us kids all sat together and whispered. The mood had changed from happy to nervous. We sat there for what felt like an hour, not knowing what was going on. Eventually All the troopers came flying through the doors screaming “Get out of your seats!” and “Get back in your seats!” we stood up and sat down so many times because we didn’t do it “quick enough”.
My first personal encounter with a trooper came maybe five minutes into the day. I had been smiling. That’s a “no no”. Throughout the rest of the day I would be screamed at for smiling, making eye contact with a trooper, my hair, the contents of my bag spilling out in the gym, and for being a “screwball”. But for some reason my nerves had gone away and, despite the yelling, I was kind of… enjoying myself.
When we finally mastered the skill of standing up and sitting down we were rushed to our luggage and ushered into the gym. Here we lined up in formation and asked to pull certain things out of our bag. Even though there was 94 other kids standing in formation, if you messed up the DI’s seemed to only see you. While I had all the things from the list and hadn’t brought anything that wasn’t on the list, not everyone was so lucky. If you didn’t have something like three face clothes or you were missing a pair or two of socks the troopers were all over you. Oh and if you are going to this program some summer, here’s a hint: Pack your bag or at least watch when it’s being packed. It helps you find things and if you’re having trouble finding an item the troopers are going to ask “Did you pack your bag?” and if you answer “Sir no Sir” they are going to assume your mother packed it for you.
After we had pulled everything out of our bags and held them above our heads, they gave us about one minute to pack everything again. We did it to slow so they made us dump our bags and do it again. This time we succeeded and were told to pick our bags up. When I lifted my bag the whole thing opened up and spilled all my clothes all over the gym floor. The DI’s immediately stopped what they were doing, looked, and Trooper Doyle yelled “Hoooooleeeeeey Mackerel!” I gathered my things and stuffed them in my suit case, made sure it was zipped, and picked it up.
We were then told to line up by height, smallest to tallest. I was the 11th shortest in my platoon, this made me squad twos squad leader. They showed us the proper way to make our beds and fold our clothes and we went back into formation, picked up our gear, and were marched to the decks (our rooms). Here we were given a little bit of time to try and make both beds and put our gear away. The first day was bad. We lost at least one student trooper before lunch. I just kept remembering “It’s going to get better” and did what they said, when they said it. The day ended and tattoo (bed time) came quicker than I thought. We listened to taps in the position off attention and then crawled into bed at about 2230 hours (10:30). I slept like a baby until 0530 hours when we were awoken.
Over the course of the week we participated in EVOC, the ropes course, PT, demonstrations, and a field day. EVOC stands for Emergency Vehicle Operator Course. This was the day that I had been looking forward to. How cool would it be if the first car I drove was a State trooper’s squad car, at the age of 15? It would have been pretty cool. Too bad the rules were recently changed so that you need at least a permit to drive. It was still a really fun day, I got to sit in car while other student troopers tried (and failed) at driving. It was a great day, the troopers were all a bit nicer and we cracking jokes about everyone’s driving skills.
The next day my platoon did the ropes course. This was my favorite day of the whole week. Going into the camp and walking up to the course I was extremely nervous. I had this terrible fear of heights. I say had because troopers Dumas, Pulak, Doak, and several other student troopers made sure I got over it. My group was sent to the rock wall first. I was perfectly fine waiting at the back of the line and going last but that wasn’t going to happen. Trooper Doak handed me a helmet and told me to I was going next. Climbing up the ladder to the rock wall I was shaking, I was nervous I couldn’t even remember the safety commands. After what felt like an eternity (turns out it wasn’t) I made it to the top, I was the first person to make it to the top. Once at the top you’re supposed to yell your warrior cry, my cry was terrible but that’s alright. Next came the wire. You have to climb up a pole and walk across a wire, maneuvering around another person. After a couple kids went I was pumped and jumped at the chance to go. I climbed up to the top and was standing on the wire just chit chatting with one of the troopers on the ground while waiting for the other climber to get to their spot. I wasn’t nervous at all and when I was up there I was surprising myself with how I wasn’t nervous about looking down or anything. I made it across and gave another pathetic war cry.
The nerves came back when my group stepped up to the zip line. I was planning on buying my time and staying at the back of the line until there wasn’t time for me to go. Some of the other student troopers noticed and commented on it… loudly. Trooper Pulak over heard and told me I was going next. One of the kids next to me plopped a helmet on me and told me to get going. I climbed the ladder slowly and crawled on to the platform. The trooper up there was really nice and told me I could take my time. I swallowed my fear and slipped off the platform, gave my terrible war cry, and had the best time. Trooper Dumas shouted to me “I thought you were scared of heights?” I replied “Sir not anymore Sir” I really wasn’t. They forced me to face my fears and I loved it.
On the fourth day we had a field day. “You were born for this. You were born to give your life for Trooper Paluk on this field, here, today. This is field day!” The day was to consist of tug of war, some games about elephants that I didn’t pay attention to, and Alaskan baseball. But then as I was lining up for the first game I was called aside. They told me to go talk to Troopers Paluk and Dumas behind the ambulance. I was told I had been selected for a special mission. They took me and another student trooper into the gym. “Why are we here?” “Sir I don’t know Sir” “Really? And your father's a detective?” they liked to point that out, as if it ran in my blood. Turns out we were selected to put on sumo suits and wrestle in front of our platoons.
My competition took on the name “Jelly Spine” and I took on the persona “The Mad Freckle”. I weighted about 315 pounds and came from some place in Japan. I was sent out to hype up the crowd first and when I did, first platoon went crazy. Jelly Spine came out and the matched started. We ended up rolling on to the floor and tying the first two. Then I took her out and one. It was now 1-0. Then I tackled Jelly Spine but she pushed me up which caused me to roll out of bounds. The score was 1-1. This was it, the last match; it was all up to me. Then I shoved her out of bounds and ended the match. It was the first win, and possibly only win (they never gave us the outcome of the Alaskan baseball game) for platoon one. Apparently second platoon hasn’t lost field day once, so hey, at least we won one!
The remaining time at the camp was spent practicing for graduation and actually graduating. After we graduated we all pig piled and hugged our family. Then we went and took pictures with the DI’s and returned the uniforms. Then we were free. Even though it was a tough week and I was glad to see my parents again, I didn’t want to leave yet. I wanted to stay for another week or two! Everyone I talked to agreed, it was just too much fun and a greet week. I made new friends, who I plan on talking to for a long time, I learned things about myself, I conquered my fears, and I gained even more respect for police officers in general but also for the process that State Troopers have to go through to become a State Trooper. The Massachusetts Student Trooper Program was an amazing experience and I will never forget it or the lessons I learned, I’m so thankful that I had the opportunity to attend this academy. I’d go back and do it all over again in a heartbeat. First Platoon leads the way, Hoorah!