EPISODE 2 – CHAOS
Laura Reed | January 25, 2024
Fittingly titled, CHAOS, Episode 2 starts with a bang as cadets are being pushed to their limits, sweating profusing, and breathing heavily while trying to lift and hold wrestling mats in the Academy gymnasium. Immediately, you know this episode is all about PT. Let me pause to clarify, to the average citizen like myself, “PT” stands for Physical Therapy which most of us are accustomed to if you’re over the age of 30, have ever been injured, had a child, encountered stairs on the wrong day, or played sports. THIS IS NOT THAT. At the CHP, “PT” stands for Physical Training [Unit] and when I tell you that the most in-shape person I know would struggle with this both physically and mentally I am not exaggerating.
Cadets line up in the quad, sneakers in hand headed to the gym to begin PT. As Cadet Martin frames it, “You see exercise videos on the internet and they give you breaks. There are no breaks [here].” Back in the gym, we see the cadets straining to hold up the mats, arms shaking, bodies shaking, and sweat pouring onto their white ring-tee shirts. The goal, spelled out by Officer Eric Boyd, PT Staff, is for the cadets to carry the blue mats on top of their heads and shoulders. Cadet Illescas says she felt so weak, and she had already gone through a prior Academy with the Sheriff’s Department and was in the Army for three years thinking she was in shape – nothing compares to this. Repeated drills of pushups, situps, and burpees continue in the gym, and then it’s onto the Challenge Run.
Cadet Martin points out that most cadets have no prior knowledge of the Academy grounds and the Challenge Run is conducted by cadets following their PT instructor’s lead, running behind them. They have no concept of how far they’ll be running, where they’re going, or when the route ends – it’s always unknown which I’m sure is by design. We see Cadet Lopez struggling to keep up. After the run, one of the PT instructors paces between the lines of cadets who have their hands behind their heads, just trying to catch their breath. “Take a look up here at these five cadets,” he says. “They’re the only ones out of 60 who prepared and took the time to train for this place. Most of you have been in the process for well over a year and this is the shape you come in?! No excuse to not work out and train for something you want.”
We learn a bit more about the backstory of Cadet Mendoza. She’s referred to as a “retrain” – a cadet who failed out of the Academy once before. For Mendoza, it was week 18 that did her in she explains. This is when we start to understand why – we’re introduced to the Work Sample Test Battery (WSTB), a grueling physical ability test that includes dragging a dummy simulating someone incapacitated for 30 ft, running sprints, and jumping over THE WALL to name just a few of the obstacles. Cadet Takenouchi describes how she practiced the wall a few times in other places but this one “was different – I did make it over the wall but not in the amount of time allotted”. Officer Boyd explains that cadets have three chances to pass the WSTB during their time at the Academy – if they fail this test, they fail the Academy. Cutting back to Cadet Mendoza, the “retrain”, she triumphantly gets over the wall this time and says, “It was like coming back and facing your worst enemy right in the face.” You find yourself cheering for her, and all the others, sighing a breath of relief that the struggle is over, at least for now, until the journey towards the badge continues next week. Episode 3 airs next Wednesday, 1/31 at 4:00 PM PST on CHP’s YouTube channel.
BEST QUOTE OF THE EPISODE:
“I keep telling myself, ’11-99. Officer Needs Assistance.’ You need to push harder because there’s still work to do and so much to learn before you can even think you’re close to becoming a CHP officer.” – Cadet Jasmine Lopez, 28 yrs old, San Diego, CA