Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Darth Warden

It is evident that I suck at pretending. I can handle playing store with Chatterbox or pretending that Towhead is a dog so he can fetch stuffed animals...but when it comes to game warden training, I will never win an Oscar. Unfortunately "scenario training" is a big portion of any career in law enforcement. Whether you are a city cop, a state trooper, or a conservation officer, there will surely come a time when you will have to put on your uniform and "play cops and robbers" with the boys.

There are a few problems with scenario training...namely that the scenarios that trainers come up with are never like real life. The most recent training scenario I took part in was at our statewide training session.

At first I was encouraged because we were told to pick a partner. Usually we have to do scenarios alone while everyone watches (and heckles). Being one of the lone females, I usually have to secure a partner before it is necessary, so I'm not left standing there like the last kid picked in gym class. Luckily I thought ahead and had already my neighboring officer, Smithy, to be my partner in case we should ever need one during our training weekend.Smithy and I get along well out in the field, and I work with him quite often, so I figured the scenario would be a piece of cake--I would just make him do all the talking.

When it was our turn, we went to the training area (located behind a truck that was hooked up to a big camper) to get the instructions from the trainers. That is when things went downhill.

It was raining, so all of us (the three bad guys-which were actually other game wardens, Smithy and myself) were wearing our raingear. All of our raingear is state-issued, and therefore, identical. Mossy Oak Camo pattern. I knew that it wasn't going to go well as soon as they started strapping knee pads, elbow pads, and a Darth Vader mask, and helmet on all of us, including the bad guys.

Here were our instructions: You have just arrived at a deer camp. If you go outside the cones you are out of bounds. Just do what you would normally do. That's it.

Then they took away our real guns and gave us "Air soft" guns, which are basically paint guns that hurt when you get hit.

My first mistake was not looking for the cones before starting the scenario. I was too busy arguing with Smithy about who was going to be the primary officer (the one who has to talk) and who was going to be the secondary (the one who stands there and makes fun of the one who talks).

I lost the argument.

When you go into a deer camp wearing elbow and knee pads, a facemask and helmet, you have to fight the urge to pull your gun in the holster. It just seems like something bad might happen when you are surrounded by four big guys dressed in identical camo who look like they are about to de-fuse a bomb. BUT, you are supposed to "do what you would normally do." Normally I don't draw down on a group of deer hunters unless they give me a good reason to do so. In real life if they were wearing those outfits, in my book it would qualify as a good reason.

So, Smithy and I stepped from our trucks and walked into the camp. While the bad guys and I were in the midst of our fake conversation, I found an untagged deer and Smithy found a loaded rifle leaning against a tree. Smithy ordered them to move away from the rifle so he could walk over and get it unloaded. I thought that we were in the clear...obviously the point of the scenario must have been that you needed to find the weapon and clear it. I was wrong.

After the gun was unloaded, I asked to see their deer tags. Bad Hunter 1 displayed his license, Bad Hunter 2, who was sitting by the campfire cleaning under his fingernails with a machete, said his license was inside the camper. Smithy, being the observant officer he is, noticed the machete and told him to put the knife down. Bad Hunter 2 didn't want to put the knife down. Smithy gave him the order again. This time Bad Hunter 2 made a run for the camper.

As Bad Hunter 2 ran for the camper, I started running for cover. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Bad Hunter 2 grab a rifle from inside the camper. I screamed "GUN!!" at Smithy, and Smithy made a dive for the other end of the camper. This wasn't good. Now, in order to shoot Bad Hunter 2, Smithy and I would be firing towards each other. On top of that, I wasn't sure if I was out of bounds. I stood there trying to ask the trainer if I was still playing by the rules, all the while taking fire from Bad Hunters 1 and 3 who must have pulled handguns out from inside their raingear.

As I felt myself getting pelted with bullets, I fired back at Bad Hunter 3. Finally Bad Hunter 3 fell to the ground and pretended to be dead. Still the trainer wouldn't answer my question about the cones. I guessed that meant that I must not be out of bounds.

Meanwhile, one of the trainers started yelling at me, "Can that rifle shoot through the camper?" Umm..yeah. Just as I was about to run for cover, someone came up behind me. I drew my gun and pointed it at the man clad in camo wearing the Darth Vader mask. He raised his gun in response. Just as I was about to pull the trigger, I  realized it was Smithy. Luckily I didn't shoot him.

The trainers blew the whistle and the scenario ended.

We were gathering around for a debriefing when one of the trainers asked me if I was ok.

"Yeah, why?"

"Look at your hand," he said.

I looked down and saw that blood was gushing out of my finger and running down my hand. It was swelling up rapidly and looked nasty, covered in the tell tale blue ink of my partner's gun.

Smithy was standing off to the side of the group looking like a dog who had just peed on the carpet.

"Sorry," he said, "I didn't know it was you. I can't believe I shot my partner."

He will never live this down.


  1. As a retired LE officer, I have to say that this brought back a lot of memories...
    I'm glad it's you and not me. I don't think I could survive training again. I'll be watching your back.

  2. I have decided you will not be invited to our deer camp this year . . . please make other arrangements. :)

  3. Oh,come on Rabid Outdoorsman, don't be a party pooper...

    By the way, thanks for following my blog.

    Cofisher--I only have about twenty more years of scenario training to look forward to. At least with your experience you would probably not have drawn down on your partner!

  4. Thanks for the links guys--I did the same!

  5. LOL! So glad you're in the blogosphere! I look forward to your further adventures.

  6. Thank you so much LoARSqred and Kev2380! Time to check out your sites...