Push yourself!

NZPA | Fri June 1st, 2018

A female sergeant who completed the tough Protection Services combined AOS selection course wants to encourage other woman to sign up for the challenge.

Karen EllisSergeant Karen Ellis likes challenges, which is good because there are few training regimes in Police that are as physically demanding as the four-day Tactical Groups Selection Course (TGSC).

It’s a precursor to attending protection officer and AOS qualification courses and Karen decided to have a crack at it soon after joining Protection Services (the old DPS) as a Residential Security Group team leader at PNHQ.

“Although it wasn’t a requirement for my current role, I decided the course was the right challenge for me,” she says. “It really helped that management were very supportive and encouraged me to do it too.”

First up, though, the 54 year old had to be prepared for selection, which meant getting into training, physically and mentally.

The physical side of the selection course includes the AOS standard PCT and Coopers test, six-minute rotating plank, a swim test and four-hour team resilience exercise carrying a jerry can, as well as mandatory firearms testing and scenarios for adaptability and decision making, stress tolerance/reactions and tactical awareness.

She had some company at the start of the process, with two other staff members joining her at the gym for early morning training.

“Unfortunately, the wheels fell off the training wagon,” she says. “First, there was a resignation and a move to greener pastures overseas. Next, the other member of the trio injured herself, straining both her Achilles tendons during sprint training.”

Karen pressed on. “I put together a folder of all things selection, studying for the written exam and ensuring that I knew exactly what was needed for the new combined selection course.”

Saturday and Sunday mornings were set aside for training, including heading up the Paekākāriki Escarpment track with a weighted vest – she worked her way up from 12 kilograms to more than 20kg – and the “jerry can carry walk” on Sundays, with swim training, running, planking and cardio training on week days.

She was introduced to the ALICE pack just after Christmas – All-purpose Lightweight Individual Carrying Equipment – the backpack used by all TGSC participants and developed in 1973 by the United States Army.

Karen says the term “lightweight” is debatable – “Forty-five years ago, maybe, but now not so much.”

Karen Ellis and Tui

Sergeant Karen Ellis and with her dog, Tui, and the jerry can that she hauled during her training for the four-day Tactical Groups Selection Course. Photo: ELLEN BROOK

The March 22 deadline seemed to come up very quickly, she says, and “so did my heart rate and level of anxiety”.

She was about to put her months of training to the test, and that test proved to be gruelling. To get through, she told herself it was just a “window of hard” and it would be over in a couple of days.

During the dark times, she says, she took inspiration from her adopted niece, who was born with foetal dependency issues.

“She has significant challenges, including being subjected to peer ridicule almost daily. As a teenager, it has become even harder, but her strength and determination were a guiding light for me. She doesn’t give up and neither would I!”

At the end of the four days, and after 27 years of policing, Karen says the course was a highlight of her career.

“I love my job, love being a police officer and was so inspired and proud to see the professionalism and calibre of the staff who completed this course. I was very proud to be part of it.”

However, she says, out of the 48 staff on the course, only four were women. “The course was ethnically rich, but regarding gender diversity, ‘we’ were not well represented.”

Having previously been a recruit instructor, Karen says she knows there are “loads of strong and extremely capable females out there” and she has a message for them and for Police.

“We need you to work at tipping the gender scale in Protection Services and AOS, working towards getting more than two females on each TGSC selection. What about 12 and 12? It may be too soon for this, but… how about 22 females and two males!”

Her post-course advice for anyone who wants to give it a go is to make a plan, find your inspiration, set your goals and give yourself time to train and prepare.

Karen Ellis

“Set achievable targets and, when you reach them, extend yourself and your body further. Train when you are tired, cold and hungry and, if you can, find someone to train with and push each other to make that commitment.

“Look out for the next TGSC selection dates and then go for it. There are no failures, just bloody good attempts, with lessons learnt. Don’t ever give up!”

Now that Karen has passed the selection course, she’s planning to do the qualifying course next month.

Police is keen for more women to join Protection Services and AOS. Anyone who is interested in finding out more about the PS role and subsequent courses can contact Protection Services or Karen Ellis.


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