Saturday, July 18, 2009

Teens train for future with airsoft guns

CEDAR CITY - It was 8 a.m. when a group of determined teens began an intense workout in a back room of the Iron County Sheriff's Office and another group started defensive tactics training in the basement.

In less than an hour, the basement group of nine boys and four girls had learned basic handcuffing techniques, a skill most parents would not think their children would know at age 16.

But for the 25 students signed up for the ICSO Junior Deputy Academy, this is just the beginning of a three-week, full instruction program geared toward those wanting a future career in law enforcement.

"We're going to teach you everything our officers learn in training," deputy Nick Gibson told his defensive tactics class early Wednesday morning, three days into the academy. "Some of this stuff hurts, some of it doesn't feel good - be responsible."

The students learn arrest control, combat and ground tactics as part of the defense class, Gibson explained to the group as they warmed up.

Other classes during the academy teach physical training, ICSO structure and chain of command, ethics in law enforcement, constitutional law, Utah criminal law, investigations tactics, evidence collection, narcotics investigations, emergency vehicle operation and firearms using Airsoft guns.

The students and instructors, all ICSO employees, have a busy daily schedule from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., leading to a graduation ceremony July 31, but so far there are no student complaints. Especially not with the use of Airsoft.

"I thought they were going to run our butts off (the first day)," 13-year-old Jordan Maxwell of unincorporated Iron County said. "But it wasn't too bad."

Maxwell joined the academy with friend and neighbor, Michael Matheson, 15, both planning to join law enforcement after their formal education is complete.

Maxwell's grandfather works for ICSO and Matheson's uncle is an officer in California, the teen said, inspiring them to follow similar paths.

Kaneasha Hiertzler, 17, decided to join the academy for the same reason, her father being a deputy who specializes in gangs for ICSO.

"I want to do what my dad does," Hiertzler said, noting her interest when she visits her dad at work or asks to drive his truck with the siren, which she has so far not tried.

Hiertzler's 14-year-old sister Joni is also in the academy, joining more for the chance to do something different over the summer.

Even at a young age, Joni and Kaneasha say the physical aspects and often-grueling schedules are not bad.

"I'm a soccer player, so that helps," Joni said, along with several other academy students who also play sports regularly.

Deputy Aaron Pallesen, who teaches many of the law classes in the academy and helps with physical training in the morning, said this is the first year of the day camp with plans to expand next summer.

The academy is open to all high school students, with minimal cost, having only to purchase uniforms.

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