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.
FBI National Academy session #246