Final Thoughts

Prior to attending the FBI National Academy, I searched for information about life in Quantico and what I should expect.  There was not a whole lot I found, so I am leaving this blog up for future students.  I attended FBI National Academy session #246, from July through September 2011.  I wrote this blog as a method of keeping my friends and family updated during my time away from them.  If you are a future student at the N.A. searching for information, I hope some of my prior posts are useful to you.  This post, though, is entirely for you.

My first piece of advice is to pack light.  You will come home with way more t-shirts and baseball caps than when you left.  Bring enough clothing to get through a weekend and one set of dress clothes (two if you are taking a media class).  If I had it to do over, I would pack fewer clothes and buy my souvenir t-shirts at the beginning of my session.

My second piece of advice is to get involved.  I volunteered to be my section’s photographer, but there are several leadership positions needing filled in each section.  You are here to get to know other people, and taking those leadership positions is a great way to do that.  If you do volunteer for the photographer position, I would specifically suggest putting the Picasa software on your computer and setting up a Picasa account online.  It is by far the quickest and easiest way to catalog, do quick and dirty post processing, and upload your images in an organized fashion.  I had more congratulations and expressions of thanks for my photo albums I shared online than I can count; plus I scored some hats and challenge coins and other gifts for the effort too!

Don’t sweat the academics too much.  You do need to put in the effort, but if you put in the effort, you are very likely going to get an A.  I did sweat the academics and spent the first several weekends doing nothing but school work; I would pace myself a little better if I had it to do over.  Take classes that interest you.  If I had it to do over, I would sign up for the Chemical Weapons class offered on Wed.  At the time, I thought it was crazy to sign up for an extra non-credit class on a day I could devote to studying.  After talking to the guys who took the class, though, every one of them felt it was the best class they had and they got to play with lots of the FBI’s coolest toys (including shooting Thompson submachine guns).  Be prepared to have group work assignments and speaking assignments.  They are a pain in the posterior but they are another opportunity to get to know people you might not otherwise have met.  Don’t complain too much and take advantage of the opportunity.

Bring plenty of cash.  This was the most expensive free school I have ever attended, by far!  There will be collections for different picnics and class events, field trips, counselor gifts, charity drives, etc. etc. etc.  There is an ATM on campus, if you run out. 

Do take time to work on physical fitness conditioning before you go.  There will be people there in a wide variety of physical conditions but it is only to your benefit to be in as good a shape as possible before you show up.  Our class was lucky, we did not lose anyone to injuries.  We did have several people in our session who were repeats due to injuries during a previous session.  The challenges ARE optional, but only one person out of 248 declined to participate in the running challenges that culminate in the Yellow Brick Road; you want to do these and you want to be as ready as possible.

Most importantly, do everything you can to emotionally support your family at home during this ten weeks.  They are the ones making the real sacrifice. 

This has been a tremendous experience and I am so blessed to have had the opportunity to attend.  There were people in my class who had been waiting seven years to get a slot at the FBI National Academy; I never in my life had expected to be asked to go.  If you are scheduled to attend, or just thinking of applying for a spot, I cannot recommend the experience highly enough.

If there are any questions I can answer or any help I can be to future FBI National Academy students, please reach out to me.  You can email me at tim at thelethbridges dot net. 

Tim
FBI National Academy session #246

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Home Again

This post is somewhat delayed, please forgive me but blogging about the National Academy dropped much lower on the priority list after I reached home.   Sunday morning we packed up the car and left our hotel.  It was probably the most efficient packing I have ever done and there was just enough room for James to have a spot in the back seat.  The poor Impala was riding real low in the back for the trip home.

We headed to the Marine Corp Museum next, as our train did not depart until 4:00.  I had heard very good reports on this museum but had saved going to it until James was there, because I knew he would like it.  Man, everything I had heard about this museum understated how good it was.  Even comparing it to the Smithsonian Museums, the Marine Corp Museum had amazing displays.  If you are headed to D.C., take the time to stop here, it is just off I-95 at exit 150; you can easily spend a day here.

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When we got to the train they had already begun boarding, so we got our passes and walked right to our room.  The family bedroom was much nicer than the accommodations on the ride up, there was plenty of room for us to spread out.  We did have a five hour stationary delay due to CSX’s signal going down, so we did not arrive in Sanford until 12:30.  My car was in the first group unloaded this time, though. 

This looked familiar
This looked familiar

 

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The hallways are quite narrow
The hallways are quite narrow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With a stop for a bite to eat, we were home by 4:30 or so.  In so many ways it seemed like I had just left but in other ways it like years since I had last been home.  The N.A. experience has been like that the entire time; when we graduated it seemed like we had just gotten there and also like we had been there forever. 

This is the end of my posts for my friends and family.  I intend to leave this blog up.  Prior to attending the FBI National Academy, I searched the internet for blogs or postings from previous students to see what I might expect, without much success.  Perhaps someone else will stumble onto these ramblings and it will be of some use to them.  Thank you all for your prayers and support of me and my family during this ten weeks, it has meant the world to me.

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And it is over . . .

Believe it or not, it has now been ten weeks since my first post.  My time at the FBI National Academy is now complete, Session #246 has come and gone.  Tracy, James, and Mom and Dad flew in to Reagan airport Thursday afternoon and I met them at our hotel.  I cannot tell you how great it was to  see my wife and son and know that this time, when it was time for them to leave, I was going with them.

The weather took a dramatic turn on the same day.  Thursday and Friday were a far cry from the 100+ July and early August we went through; it was downright chilly.   There was a reception Thursday evening which gave me an opportunity to show Tracy off to my fellow students, introduce my parents, and meet their families as well.

The graduation ceremony was very nice.  FBI Director Mueller was surprisingly personable as he presented our diplomas; several guys forgot to wait for the flash to pop for their photograph and Director Mueller would pull them back into position with a smile.  He also had a quiet personal congratulations for each of us as we walked up to him.  I guess I don’t know what I expected, but for someone with such an important position, I thought it was cool how he took personal interest in the graduates.

I did not take my camera to graduation (Greg from Hawaii did, it was pretty funny when he photographed himself right before he walked up to Director Mueller).  We got some pictures around campus after graduation though.   Leaving was harder than I expected.  For ten weeks I have gone everywhere with a lanyard and two ID cards around my neck.  To receive my actual diploma, I had to turn in those ID cards.  After turning in the ID cards, I would not be allowed back onto the campus.  Even though I have been looking forward to completing my training and working towards graduation day, it was still hard to turn over over those cards, knowing I was leaving for the last time. 

Packing the loot.
Packing the loot.
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Today we had a final Capitol Tour.  I was able to take my entire family on the tour.  There were about a dozen of my fellow students who were still around who also brought their families on the tour.  Going on the tour by myself was pretty darn cool, being able to take my family behind the scenes at the Capitol was uber cool. 

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Mom and Dad took the metro back to Reagan immediately after the tour and are safely back in Florida.  Tomorrow, Tracy, James, and I will take in the Marine Corp Museum and then load the car on the auto train for our return trip.  The end of this adventure is bittersweet.  I am so happy to be back with my family again but I will miss the new friends I have made here.  I am glad I came and I am glad to be going home. 

I think I have one more post in me.  I should be home in a little over 36 hours; that should give me time to think about how to wrap this blog up.

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Last Night on Campus

Man, is this place empty.  Lots of people have moved off campus already, earlier I saw a number of my classmates giving their families tours of the academy.  I thought last night was quiet but tonight I cannot hear a sound from anyone on my entire floor.  I wandered through two of the other floors and there were only a handful of people in.  I am sure there are still more people who just went out to eat or gather off campus.  I went with a couple of classmates to Five Guys burgers for supper myself.

I am two thirds packed now.  I THINK I have enough room to get Tracy and James back home without having to strap either of them to the roof.  If not, I have all my text books in one large box and I can mail it after graduation. 

Tomorrow after lunch I will move the rest of my stuff into the car and head for the hotel.  For once, I should be able to beat Tracy there.  Man, I am looking forward to seeing my family again, and this time, I don’t have to separate from them in just a few days.

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The beginning of the end

We had our last section party tonight.  My last academic class was also today, in Death Investigation.  One of my classmates presented on a serial murderer they had worked in their jurisdiction; we also had a pizza party.  Kevin, my roommate, moved out this morning as his wife had flown in.  He is not the only one and rooms are starting to look vacant as people get off campus and move into hotel rooms with their families.  I am still on campus until Thursday, but I have begun packing up my stuff.

The section party was nice.  There were a couple of cornhole games going, though I still feel more comfortable calling the game bean bag.  We presented Rachel with a motorcycle helmet with all of our signatures and a plaque of our appreciation. 

It is amazing how fast time has gone.  It seems like it was only a couple of weeks ago I was wandering lost around this campus trying to find my way to the classrooms.  I can’t wait to see Tracy and James and Mom and Dad on Thursday.

A few pictures from the section party:

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Final Fitness Test

This morning we did our final Fitness Test.  I weighed in at 184.4, almost exactly what I started at.  That was a relief, I was expecting to be up.  According to the caliper skin fold test, my body fat percentage is down to 9.5%.  I still have a hard time believing that is accurate.  I do know that I could do a few more pushups than before, I held the plank position for 32 more seconds, and I ran the 1.5 miles in 11:22.  That is almost 1:20 faster than ten weeks ago and I was not holding anything back when I ran it the first time.   We had several section people still recovering from Yellow Brick Road injuries, so I was able to hand the camera off during the run.

I gave my section the pictures I had printed, which seemed well received.  I added up the photographs I have posted of my classmates and academy functions; not including the family photos from the weekends my family was up here, and the total is over 5300 photographs.  I am glad I signed up to be one of the photographers, though.  We had a yearbook meeting at lunch time today and I saw some of the other sections are using some of my photos for their candid pages.

My second morning class and first afternoon class both finished last week, so I had the middle of the day open.  Not much I could do, though, and they are installing televisions in the rooms and my room has been one of the construction project rooms.  Anyhow, here are some pics from the last day of PT.

After two minutes, you have to raise one leg.  It is harder than it looks.
After two minutes, you have to raise one leg. It is harder than it looks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How unique, another photo of me running
How unique, another photo of me running

 

 

 

 

 

 

Presentation of the Yellow Bricks
Presentation of the Yellow Bricks

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh, and here are some videos Hawaii Greg has posted from various challenges:  http://www.youtube.com/user/gme32

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Blue Bricks

I am jumping back to Thursday afternoon here, because I forgot to post about the blue brick ceremony.  The blue bricks challenge is only quasi-supported by the National Academy (maybe because their pool is only six measly lanes wide!).  The FBI paint shop does create the bricks but a student needs to coordinate everything and the presentation ceremony was entirely set up and run by students as well.  Richard from Louisiana stepped up for our class and arranged everything; he did an excellent job.  We had four guys complete 100 mile swims.  I don’t remember the exact total, but there were around 75 people who earned a blue brick in my class, which explains why the pool was so crowded all the time.  That is apparently one of the highest, if not the highest, percentage of students completing the 34 miles.  Richard added up the total miles and it came to  3,723 miles swum by FBI National Academy session 246.  For a point of reference, I google mapped the distance from Central Park in New York to Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, that comes to 2910 road miles; the distance would be a lot less as the crow flies.  I am not sure if this total includes the miles swum by those who did not complete the challenge or if it is only those who completed the challenge.

These are actual bricks
These are actual bricks

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the board we tracked our progress on.
This is the board we tracked our progress on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Everyone who completed the challenge
Everyone who completed the challenge

 

 

 

 

 

 

The pics are kind of washed out because my lens kept fogging, it is very humid in the pool room. 

Today we went on our field trip to the National Archives.  We were only at the Archives themselves for about thirty minutes, then we had from 10:30 until 2:45 to ourselves.  I went with a group down to the American History Museum.  They have a temporary 9/11 exhibit set up but the line to get in was ridiculous and they were only allowing small groups in at a time.  None of us opted to wait in the line.  We basically decided on a meet time to head back and did the museum each person on their own.  It was kind of nice, I have been to American History a couple times now but this time I slowed down, only did a couple of the halls, but actually took the time to read everything, push all the multi-media buttons, and not hurry on to the next thing.  About the only other thing I did today was a 3.5 mile run. 

I realized today I am now in the week of lasts.  This was my last Saturday at the National Academy.  Monday morning will be my last PT session and Tuesday will be my last academic class.  This is not my last blog post yet, though, so stay tuned.

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