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Fit to Serve? How Can I Best Serve My Country?

Stew Smith, CSCS

The email that prompted this week’s article was from a young man contemplating on joining the police force, yet he is not quite sure to go local, state, or federal law enforcement. Arriving fit is his plan, but “how fit do you need to be a police officer”? Here is his question:

What is the overall physical fitness level of the new recruits when they arrive at police officer training academy – will they have a chance to get into better shape for their next training? If I am going specifically for an advanced group like ATF after FLETC, will FLETC get me prepared for ATF or Border Patrol Academy? I am in a bit of a pickle in understanding where I can best serve my country.

First of all, good job on taking the time to think about HOW you wish to serve. People who serve in the military, law enforcement, or other public service professions are the backbone of this country. Having young people consider any of these professions makes me proud to be a veteran and motivates me to offer any assistance I can.

Now, arriving fit for any military or law enforcement training program is a must. So preparing for these programs could take at least 6-12 months to be an above average performer. However, today, as our adult population grows in waist size and decreases in fitness level, so has American children’s weight and fitness. These are our future military members, police officers, fire fighters, EMTs. Anyone see a potential problem yet?

But to answer your question, the average fitness level of incoming recruits for the law enforcement is considerably low. Standards are set low to allow lower fitness levels into the military and law enforcement profession, BUT the goal of the Basic Training in the military is to increase the fitness levels of recruits to reach passing fitness standards. The instructors do a great job with that and can turn a 50% failure rate into a 99% pass rate of fitness standards. But, at the same time, the instructors have to teach job skills that will save your life or the life of your comrades. These are not skills that will prepare you for sitting behind a desk. This is training that is very physical in nature. That is why having a strong physical base for several months or years is so important to the recruit BEFORE attending a police academy of any agency / department.

My recommendation to those who seek to serve in advanced law enforcement or special ops in the military is to arrive at your “initial training” in the best shape possible. This means, not just reaching the minimum standards but blowing the standards away. Then over the course of the training – which will be physically easy for you – you can consider it a form of a taper and rest prior to your more challenging training programs the ATF, DEA, Secret Service, Border Patrol and like Special Ops in the military provide.

As far as which group to start your career, research the various groups on the law enforcement and think about how you want to advance in your career. Some ideas for you to consider are:

- Local or State Police and advance to SWAT or Special Ops Teams

- Perhaps Public Safety Diver Training

- Federal Law Enforcement such as FBI can advance to HRT (Hostage Rescue Team or Field Office SWAT Teams

Depending on state you are in, some of the police forces require an intense water confidence course to pass into SWAT Teams. You may consider that if you are skilled and comfortable swimmer, surfer, SCUBA Diver, or boater.

The bottom line is you cannot make a bad decision to serve your country, just show up with an above average fitness level. Be able to run 6:00-7:00 miles for several miles, be able to do 80-100 pushups and sit-ups with ease, and 15-20 pull-ups. To get in that kind of shape, check out some of the articles from the Stew Smith / article archive for more ideas or visit the Fitness eBook Store for programs that will prepare you for any of the programs in the military or law enforcement.

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