First of all, I have a deep respect for our men and women in the Armed Services defending freedom. I admire and appreciate your dedication and the dedication of all those who have served. This comes from a former U.S. Army Military Police NCO. To our domestic warriors, the men and women of law enforcement; your service deserves praise as well. You have much in common. You all deserve respect for the stress and hard work you take on. You also deserve the occasional much needed R&R.
Prepare your Mindset for the Future
My father is a U.S. Navy WWII veteran and he was telling me recently of his and his fellow sailors' travails aboard the USS Yorktown. I respect their valor and service. But, my recruit readers, you are not so different. You will be similar to a war veteran in the future.
I was watching some of my officers preparing for their day on patrol. Did you realize that today's law enforcement officers carry on them a "combat load" of ammo? They wear armor, load themselves down with many pounds of emergency (if not combat) equipment, then patrol the streets in often hostile areas of the city. You will be in a combat readiness most of your adult life.
Prepare your mindset now, and don't let the stress get to you. We need you.
Always on Duty
I know our military combat veterans go deeper into harm's way, but there is a teaching point here. What is the tour of duty versus the career of a police officer? A police officer will work for 25 years, but it is not always an eight-hour shift. You carry off duty to protect yourself and others. You posture yourself always to be the protector, even at your kid's birthday party. When you travel on vacation, you slow down to see if the officer or trooper on the interstate needs a cover officer. You may take off the uniform, but you never lower your awareness. This can lead to stress.
One thing a young officer must accept is that you are never "off duty." Even at your friend's wedding, if somebody gets ill or hurt, you are the expected protector. This constant heightened state of alert takes a toll. You must learn to pace yourself and seek levels of comfort. A rubber band is resilient but it will snap if it is held at its breaking point too long.
Learn to Breathe
One of the survival tactics that we are taught is survival or tactical breathing. This is not what I am heading to now. When you are a young officer, you want to eat, live, drink, and only be a cop—all the time. As I was told once, it is not the years but the mileage that will wear you down. When you are working a stressful assignment, you can burn out. Don't let this happen.
Learn to take breathers. Get a hobby, go for some relaxation and refreshment. The military has done this for years and "R & R" works! You cannot solve all the crimes at once. (Save some for job security.) Nor can you go back in time to spend missed quality time with your kids (I missed far too many soccer games). All of this comes with a cost.
My goal today is to keep our best and finest officers together so we can go defend and protect. When the public calls for 911, it is our goal to deliver—but we can only do so if we have it together when we get there.
Train a little harder today, for it makes tomorrow easier.