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Before they wear a badge and carry a weapon for the state of Iowa, Department of Public Safety recruits have to survive twenty weeks of basic academy.

The 5:30am workouts are grueling for a reason.  “We give them a lot of stress,” says drill instructor Matt Struecker, “in law enforcement there’s a lot of stress, so we want them to be able to cope and deal with that the best they can.”

It’s Struecker’s job to make sure recruits are physically ready for the job. “As far as physical fitness, they come in here and there’s a wide range. Some are real fit, some aren’t.  We start at a level working on good form and the basics and functional movement for law enforcement. That might be running and firing a gun, or fighting a bad guy.

The job is dangerous and unpredictable and anything can happen.  That’s why recruits do everything from defense drills to carrying each other during their daily workouts. Trooper Struecker explains that the training is meant to serve them long after the academy is over. “When they leave here, they’re on their own, so we give them tools to stay fit on their own. We live in remote areas where there aren’t a lot of fancy gyms so we’re giving them the tools to stay fit.”

Having the physical skills to get through the academy is crucial but being strong and fast aren’t the only characteristics the Department of Public Safety is looking for. Leaders say mental toughness may be even more important. “Your body’s going to tell you to stop way before your brain does so it’s about getting yourself to fight through that and push.”

Because surviving the academy is one thing. Surviving on the job, is another. “As state peace officers we operate with little or no backup and no supervision. We’re out there on our own.  It takes mental focus and the will to survive. You have to be a warrior and decide you’re never going to quit. You’re going to go home no matter what.”

The recruits graduate on February 28th.

If you’re interested in a career with the department of public safety, you can apply for the next academy through the end of the month at