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Get An Inside Look At Trainees In The FBI Academy

Posted November 26, 2001

— The name alone has a certain mystique to it -- the FBI Academy. At the Academy, the nation's best train to protect our country's interests.

Trainees take part in 16 weeks of intensive training at the FBI Academy at Quantico, Virginia. Last year, 100,000 people applied at the academy, but only 300 were accepted.

Trainees spend a lot of time on the firing range. Instructors say firing a gun has to be second nature, because when facing extreme pressure, they have to be ready for anything.

"It's the most important training they can ever get," said firearms instructor Bill Gannaway.

Driving also has to be second nature. Trainees practice all types of driving, including skid control. It can be valuable information when it comes to pursuits. The FBI actually modeled part of its track in Virginia after the North Carolina Highway Patrol's track.

The driving course is fun for most trainees, but things get serious when they walk into Hogan's Alley, a fake town used for field training. It can be used for trainees to simulate searching a house, a business or a residence.

The trainees come into the house and search around, but if they are not careful, they could get hit by paint balls. The exercise teaches them to be more careful, but to also keep going if they get hit.

FBI trainees also take part in the Firearms Training System. It simulates different scenarios, which can be changed midstream by the instructor. It pushes trainees to make split-second decisions.

"We try to focus them very quickly on what's going on," Gannaway said.

Trainees also learn the art of interviewing witnesses and suspects. For most of the trainees, the FBI is their second career. Their average age is 30. They come from a variety of backgrounds, from professors to biologists.

"They bring to the FBI some experiences, skills and knowledge that we really need for the complexity of what we do," said Kathleen McChesney, assistant director of the FBI Academy.

The training is taxing for both the mind and body, but few fail. That is because the people who come to the Academy are motivated. They want to be part of an elite group.

"Tremendous opportunities lie within our organization for people to do very challenging things that they would not be able to do in any other kind of profession," McChesney said.

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