MICHIGAN — On Friday, June 5, the 37 recruits who successfully completed the Department of Natural Resources conservation officer training academy graduated as probationary conservation officers.
The week was fast-paced as recruits completed exams, learned additional skills and finalized preparations for graduation. Monday morning saw the recruits taking the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES) physical agility test, which consisted of a half-mile shuttle run, a distance jump, pushups and situps. Recruits take this test three times: prior to the academy as a pre-enrollment requirement, midway through the academy and again at the end. Passing this test is a graduation requirement.
That afternoon, recruits were in the classroom for training on locating and evacuating areas around suspected explosive devices. They also completed anti-terrorism training. After dinner, they were back in the classroom for environmental crime training and instruction on warnings, citations and arrests. At 10 p.m., the recruits were dismissed for the night.
The group spent the following day in the classroom completing training on terrorism awareness and then, in the afternoon, taking their final licensing test, required for MCOLES certification. This three-and-a-half hour written exam tested their knowledge on information learned throughout the 560-hours of MCOLES curriculum education. Recruits must pass the test to obtain their license, required for all fully commissioned peace officer, including conservation officers and police officers. After dinner, the recruits completed a two-hour class on hunter casualty investigation.
Recruits stand near their new work vehicles, Chevy Silverados. Recruits stand near their new work vehicles, Chevy Silverados.
Wednesday, the recruits were back on their feet. The graduation 6-mile run – the last group formation run of the academy – took place that morning. It was followed by strength building exercises and a relay, with bragging rights for the winning team. Then, it was time to pick up their newly assigned vehicles, which were parked a short distance away at the Vehicle Travel Services building. First, though, they needed to claim the vehicle keys, which had been thrown into the deepest section of the training pool. Without hesitation, the recruits dove in to retrieve the keys.
There would be time to inspect their vehicles later. For the remainder of the morning, the recruits planted their class tree, a small oak, outside the training facility. A stone was set next to it, etched with the words “A tree grows strong not by its fruits and branches but by its roots. Conservation officer recruit school class #6.” Once a class photo was taken near the tree, the recruits jogged to the Vehicle Travel Services building, inspected their trucks, and drove them in formation to the academy training facility.
Recruits planted their class tree outside the training facility.: Recruits planted their class tree outside the training facility.
The afternoon began with a two-hour class on coastal zone management, followed by an introduction to the 18-week probationary field training program that would begin immediately after graduation. A class on hunter education concluded the evening.
Thursday morning, recruits cleaned their weapons and were issued ammo and cases for their long guns. After lunch, they spent four more hours learning about their upcoming field training, including what they would be doing and what was expected of them for successful completion. The evening was spent in graduation practice.
Three more hours of graduation prep followed Friday morning. While family and friends entered the auditorium for the long-awaited event, the recruits gathered together for the official graduation photo.
Graduation At 1 p.m., with loved ones looking on, the recruits marched into the auditorium. After the presentation of colors by the color guard and the national anthem, the recruits took their seats. Pastor David Wichert of United Methodist Church, AuGres, Michigan, a retired conservation officer, said the benediction. DNR Law Enforcement Division Assistant Chief Dean Molnar welcomed the recruits, noting that they have completed 966 hours of training. DNR Law Enforcement Division Chief Gary Hagler addressed the recruits next, saying, “We’re here to honor and congratulate our officers.”
William Moritz, DNR natural resources deputy thanked the recruits for their commitment to their careers as conservation officers. Dennis Muchmore, chief of staff to Gov. Rick Snyder, addressed the recruits as the best and the brightest, noting that more than 1,000 applicants had sought entry to the academy.
Following additional speakers, a video presentation and recognition of awards, Chief Hagler led the oath of office and the presentation of certificates and badges. Academy participants walked on stage as recruits and left, badge in hand, as probationary conservation officers. Officers lined up against the walls of the auditorium and designated family members and friends pinned on their badges.
After 22 weeks of intense academy training, the officers, with their family and friends nearby, completed the first leg of training. They left the academy Friday afternoon to begin their next phase, 18 weeks of field training with experienced conservation officers. After successfully completing that training, these probationary conservation officers will no longer be PCOs. They will begin their careers in assigned counties as conservation officers—fully-commissioned peace officers sworn to protect the natural resources and the citizens of this state.