I left DC mid morning and started heading south not really knowing what to expect over the next few days, but I’d packed enough underwear and SD cards to handle whatever this trip decided to throw at me.
The 6 hour drive down to the Uwharrie Off-Road Training Center in Uwharrie, North Carolina gave me plenty of time to mentally prepare myself to cover the International 4-Wheel Drive Trainers’ Association (I4WDTA) Training for Certification (TFC). The only problem was I quickly realized I knew surprisingly little about the organization. All I really knew was that our good friend’s Tim Bleau and Chris Cole had graciously allowed us to attend this event, and that I would get the opportunity to witness the most professional level of 4-wheel drive instruction available in the US, if not the world.
I finally rolled into the Eldorado Outpost a little after 3 and quickly recognized some familiar faces. Richard LaRusso had arrived minutes earlier, Chris was easy to spot in his Unimog, and the infamous famous Bill Burke came out from his traveling headquarters to introduce himself and break the ice.
As we swapped stories and made small talk, the rest of the candidates and trainers started to trickle in and I started to get some clarification on what I could expect during the TFC.
The first thing that was made clear was that the TFC was not a traditional training event. All of the five candidates who were selected to participate in the TFC were there because of their strong background and experience in 4-Wheel drive instruction and training. So they weren’t here to further enhance their skill set, they were here to prove they had the skills to effectively train others. In reality, the TFC is more of an interview, and selection board is made up of highly experienced I4WDTA certified trainers.
The second was that all of the candidates could/should expect to be thrown out of the comfort zone both in the classroom and when in the field. Yes you read that right, not only are candidates expected to have in-depth knowledge of all the facets of 4-wheel drive training, they are also expected to be able to safely perform all of their skills in the field while under pressure.
So how do you pass? It all ends with a rigorous written examination (no multiple choice nonsense here) and a field practical where every trainer puts you through the ringer.
As we hit the sack for the evening, you could tell that everyone was going to have a hard time sleeping due to the anticipation of what the rest of the week would bring.