Bassett High School rising seniors William Hatchett and James Mills recently experienced a week similar to that of a Virginia State Police trooper in training.
From June 22 to 27, 39 teenagers from around Virginia attended the 25th annual Junior Law Cadet program at the Virginia State Police Academy in Chesterfield County, according to a news release. The Virginia State Police and The American Legion co-sponsored the event, which was for high school students who have completed their junior year.
There were “daily room inspections and instruction by state police troopers on department operations, crime scene investigations, officer survival, undercover operations, driver improvement, scuba training, defensive tactics and firearms safety,” the release stated.
It added, “As part of their training, the cadets also undergo a variety of physical agility exercises used in the Virginia State Police applicant testing process.”
In an email, William called the week “a life-changing experience.”
He explained, “Through the training in discipline, physique and aspects of the state police, I learned that it isn’t easy to become a state trooper.”
James also wrote in an email that the discipline and physical training were challenging. He added, “This experience shows me that it’s not going to be easy when I get out of high school, but it helped prepare me (for) life’s challenges.”
James wrote the accommodations were similar to a dorm room, with three cadets to a room.
The state police academy culinary staff provided meals, William wrote. He added, “There was a salad bar for us to fix a salad in case we did not enjoy what was being served in the line.”
Burgers and rice were among the other foods served, William wrote. “The food was good -- better than I expected when I first arrived,” he added.
Cadets had to have lights out at 10 p.m. and be up and ready for an hour and a half of scheduled physical training (PT) starting at 5:30 a.m. — after room inspections.
“We had to make our beds with a hospital fold (45-degree angle), which took a while to learn, so some of us had to be up at 3:30 in the morning to get our beds right so the counselors wouldn’t throw our beds out,” James wrote.
William wrote: “If our rooms were not squared away, our mattresses would be flipped and we would have to remake it until we got it right. The state troopers that were our counselors did not hold back when one of us screwed up. But, they also would not let us quit. Because of the state troopers that led the camp, I feel that I can achieve most anything I set my sights on.”
Besides the PT that started at 5:30 a.m., “We had to get up several times throughout the night for additional training (signal 66) to learn we must always be prepared for action,” James wrote.
PT changed every day, William wrote.
“The physical training included a lot of running but also had push-ups, sit-ups and other various exercises,” James wrote. “For me the hardest part of the physical training was the running because I was not used to running that much.”
The PT became more difficult near the end of each session and more challenging as the week progressed, William wrote.
“Sometimes I wanted to stop because of the lack of oxygen getting into my system, but my fellow cadets helped to motivate me to go through,” William added.
James wrote: “If one person messed up drills, the entire group paid for the mistake with extra PT. We quickly learned how to work together as a team.”
Among other topics covered during instruction, cadets learned about “all things to look out for when driving and how to correct a ‘spinout,’” William wrote.
He explained he learned that when a driver enters a spinout, “the best thing to do to correct it is a ‘shuffle steer.’ Do not attempt to go hand over hand. Move the wheel slightly with each hand in the direction you want to go.”
There were a hydroplaning course, a parking course with a number of parking scenarios, and a pure driving course where cadets needed to stay in the middle of the lane, William wrote.
“After the instructions were given, we had the chance to actually drive the vehicles of the state troopers in different scenarios,” William added. “The one part of that day that almost gave me a heart attack was the high-speed course. We were not allowed to drive the car on that course, but we were in a trooper car with either an instructor from the driving training facility or one of our trooper (counselors).”
James also mentioned the Emergency Vehicle Operations Course (EVOC) as one of the highlights of the week.
Both students also enjoyed firearms training.
“The firearms training was ... fun because we were given one of the firearms that the state troopers carry for the target practice that we were told to do,” William wrote. “After we finished a round, we were allowed to take our targets so that we could show our roommates and our families how well we shot.”
“The things I liked the most were making new friends, EVOC training and firearms training,” James wrote.
“In order to receive R&R we could volunteer to have our heads shaved. Needless to say, there were very few with hair by the end of the week,” noted James, who was among those who had his head shaved.
Doing so wasn’t that big of a deal for William. “I have been getting my hair cut that short since I was 11,” he wrote.
James said the counselors indicated they will be there for him in the future. “The state troopers and the American Legion people that were our counselors at the program told us if we ever needed somebody to talk to or if we needed recommendations for an application, they were pretty much saying they were going to be there for us if we needed them,” James wrote.
He also learned that “blue lights are not to be dreaded, but a signal help is on the way.”
William and James were sponsored by American Legion Homer Dillard Post 78, “spearheaded by Mr. Curtis Millner’s work with school counselors to identify students interested in a career in law enforcement,” Monica Adams Hatchett wrote in an email. She is coordinator of family and community engagement for Henry County Public Schools and William’s mother. Millner represents the Iriswood District on the Henry County School Board.