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Reporter Staff Writer Catherine Bowen Mijs and fellow media cadet, Toni Esquivel a graphic designer with a weekly newspaper in Willows, get instruction from California Highway Patrol Sgt. Jason Jared, an instructor with the Advanced Officer Safety Training unit at the academy during a session at a media boot camp on Wednesday in West Sacramento.
At the command "fall in," everything changed.

My formerly peaceful -- albeit early -- Wednesday morning suddenly erupted into shrieked orders from overzealous drill instructors hurled at the 20 or so media members assembled with me in a distant lot at the California Highway Patrol Academy in West Sacramento.

We were informed that we were "undisciplined" ... that nothing is funny, "so get rid of that smile" ... eyes were to be forward ... "get with the program" ... "I've already told you" and a host of other adverbs and colorful adjectives until we were finally arranged in neat rows, each an arm's-length apart.

Fortunately, this was simply the CHP's Media Boot Camp and the excruciating drills lasted only a few hours, unlike the 27 intense weeks -- and estimated 1,280 hours -- of training that actual cadets are required to endure.

According to Capt. John Price, the event was the perfect opportunity for the media -- and others by extension -- to get an idea of what recruits go through on a daily basis.

"Everything from driving training to range, to classroom instruction, DUI, how to drive vehicles, it gives them a chance to experience what a day in the life of a cadet is truly about," he explained.

After being shouted into submission and marched to the gym, the real "fun" began in the form of an up-close and way-too-personal encounter with the academy's physical training staff.

As the training instructor, Sgt. Ken Roberts, demonstrated how each exercise should be done, other officers trolled back and forth, seeming to relish each slip and slip-up and never failing to take full advantage to instill the "never give up, never quit" attitude -- although my aching muscles had other ideas.


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Then the running started. Yes, they really do cadences, followed by the wall, over which we awkwardly vaulted, hurdles that were jumped and then ... the monkey bars. Sore, tired and drained, both mentally and physically, I could see why the current academy's attrition rate is hovering around 45 percent.

For those who come out of the training, however, the experience is invaluable. With a goal of promoting teamwork while producing highly trained officers who will "uphold the traditions of and dedication to the highest ideals of public service," the academy works to equip the cadets with each of the tools they will need in their future roles.

The day wasn't all about getting run into the ground, though. The event also included classroom time with Officer Robert Smith, who explained the finer points of field sobriety tests and the science backing them, while others demonstrated accident investigation.

Advanced officer-safety training gave us a chance to get down on the ground while trying out new hand-to-hand fighting skills, including punching, blocking, grabbing and rolling.

The timing for the inside peek couldn't be better.

Beginning at 7 a.m. Sept. 12, the CHP will once again begin accepting applications from those interested in a career as an officer in one of the nation's largest law enforcement agencies. Applications will be accepted for three days only, ending at 11:50 p.m. on Sept. 14. For more, visit www.chpcareers.com.

"Working for the California Highway Patrol is about making a commitment to public service and improving the well-being of our state," said California State Transportation Agency Secretary Brian Kelly. "This is a tremendous opportunity to join an organization that makes California communities safer while providing for the greater good."

Lessons from the day: Monkey bars are not my friend; however, venting some frustration on a target with a .40-caliber Smith & Wesson at the range, followed by a lap or 10 around the flooded skid-pan track at the Emergency Vehicle Operations Course will make almost anything worth it.

Think you've got what it takes and feel up for the challenge? Go ahead, give it a try.

Follow Staff Writer Catherine Bowen Mijs at Twitter.com/cmijs.