[su_dropcap style=”flat”]W[/su_dropcap]HEN I ENTERED Law Enforcement it was in the early 70’s and as I stated in previous posts, women were a rarity in the field of Patrol and S.W.A.T. I wasn’t sure how things were going to go, but I knew one thing, I wanted to be the best woman officer as I could be.
After my training and vesture of the 5 year mark, being accepted by the “guys”, as one they could count on and depend on as a back up, regardless of what the situation was, I decided to apply for the S.W.A.T team, (Special Weapons Assault Team).
I knew I could handle a shotgun, service weapon among other things, so I went for it, but not without some resistance from the guys, including, and mostly, the “Brass”.
I submitted my request and within a week, I was called into the W.C.s office, (Watch Commander), and as I stepped in, I was told to close the door. Hmmmm, I thought, what now? “So Smith, he started off, I see you are putting in for the Special Weapons Team.” Yes Sir, I did, was my quiet, but firm reply. He continued, “well, we have to see as there has never been a female on the team, and I don’t know if the guys would be thrilled to start now.” I think what you’ll have to do is put it to a vote.
Yes Sir, (again was my reply), while he just stared at me, waiting for some further explanation, which I did not have, nor was I going to give. He said he would get back to me. Three weeks later I was called in again and this time, he seemed even more coy, having a smirk on his face, which I acted as though I didn’t even notice.
“Well Smith he said, we have decided that if you can pass the same physical tests as the guys, (which means we have an exercise coming up at Camp Pendleton) and if you can pass that, then they will take a vote and accept you on the team if the majority agrees”. I didn’t bat an eyelash, and said, yes sir, that’s fine.
For the next two weeks I ran and lifted weights, worked out, watched what I ate, just to prepare for the worst. Mentally, I was okay, but nervous and sure there was something that would be up their sleeves when I was not looking. The day came and it turned out I was paired with 4 of the newer officers that had come on board, who for the life of me I couldn’t figure out how they were able to apply for the Special Weapons Team with such short time coming onto the department. Hmmmm.
The morning of the exercise started early, I drove with a couple of other officers, not much conversation with me, but a lot of laughter and jokes flying out the window.
When we arrived, it was going to be a hot day, and I had no idea who I would be paired up with, but I was mentally ready. We met at the Command Post where all things were to start, and then came the announcements of who we would be with, (The names will be changed to protect the not so classy).
The Marine that introduced himself was giving us the dos and don’ts of the obstacle course. We were all told to button up our camouflage shirts and trousers; as we didn’t want to find ourselves getting cozy with snakes. “Snakes”? Who said snakes? I couldn’t show my fear, as I did have a fear of snakes, spiders, anything that crawls; (a story for another time). I began to perspire and not from the heat of the day…..
As the names were called out, I heard the name I would be paired up with and we will just call him, officer “C”. As we got ready to start in pairs of two, our turn came and off we went. The instructions were to get through the course, some of it on our stomachs as we would have to crawl through some bush, and if we at any time wanted to give up, we were to tie a white handkerchief to our rifles and wave it in the air. I said my quiet prayer to God, and my guardian angel, never going without wearing my scapular and Saints medal. I left it to God.
Half way through the course, and during intermittent conversation, I looked over to Officer “C”, and noticed he was not looking too well. He said at a rest point half way through the course that he wasn’t feeling too well. I said ‘what the heck?” you look flushed, like your going to pass out; your dehydrated. He let me know that he had made a bad decision to go out the night before and drink and did not get home until early this morning, on to turn around and make it here for the exercise.
With the medical training I had, I recognized Officer “C” was having a possible heat stroke. I had no other choice but to raise the white flag.
As I did, I heard something moving in the lower bush, and all I could think of that it was a snake. I held my breath, breathing as slowly hoping the Marine tracker would come soon and scare whatever it was I was soon to see. Then the tall uniform figure appeared and so did my Team leader, Supervisor. I breathed a sigh of relief, and then giving thanks to God for watching over me, I told my Team Leader that the medics should be called as I thought my partner was having a heat stroke, and sure enough, it was.
As we had covered a lot of ground, they decided that both of us would go back on the backside of a military jeep, so officer “C” went on a head, then I waited for my ride, which took about 10 minutes. The Supervisor and Team Leader gave me an at-a-boy for recognizing the condition of my partner, putting his physical state first. It didn’t make me feel secure enough to think I had made it on the team, but at least I know I did what I was trained to do, look after my partner.
As we went into the Command Post area, I saw the guys all gathered around at a distance, and jumped off the truck, tiptoeing over to the gathering of the guys to learn that bets had been placed on who would fail the course, and of yours truly was at the top of the list. When I got close enough, and they saw that I was walking, they wanted to know who came in on the other vehicle, and I said it was ‘officer “C”.
The looks I got were priceless. I made it into the center of the gathering and saw a pile of money. The guys had made bets as to who would be the first person to fail the course, thinking it would be me. So I picked up the money and said thanks guys, and walked away. Jaws dropped, words were exchanged and complaints were made. I never did drop the cash.
I found out a week later that I was accepted on the team as a medic, and it was decided that if at any point I could not finish an obstacle or exercise that I would have to resign from the team.
I slowly gained the trust of the guys, realizing I was the first female to make it on a Special Weapons Team in both Los Angeles and Orange County. Then two months later as I was home with my daughter, I was watching the news on a female member of the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department that they were interviewing as the first woman on the Special Weapons Team in San Bernardino County. I wasn’t upset, because I knew the truth and so did God. I just smiled. OOPS!
What I learned from this one incident, among many that I hold as memories went on to help other male and females who reached out regarding my faith and belief in God, which eventually formed Cops for Christ.