“Check your ego at the door.”
At 6 AM I woke up bleary eyed and exhausted, although much to my surprise all of the staff and candidates had already packed up and were down at the community center. Quickly, I was reminded that this wasn’t some bush league event, so I grabbed my gear and hauled it down the road to make the 7AM start time.
When I walked into the community center I was greeted by a large projector screen, rows of desks, and a binder so thick it would have given War and Peace a run for its money. All of the candidates were scanning through the material trying to glean some insights on what they could expect over the next few days, and the instructors were busy discussing the day’s plans. Having been out of college now for a few years, the whole experience was very reminiscent of a college classroom environment. The only difference was everyone was here to prove their ability to train and teach others.
Chris and Bill started off the morning with some quick introductions and one quote, “check your ego at the door.” You see, each and every candidate was present due to their prior history and background in the 4-wheel driving training community. Some of the group was made up of ex-military professionals, and others were veterans of the 4-wheel drive community. Yet there was only one thing that they all had in common, they were all invited and vetted by current I4WDTA trainers.
What came next is what I can only describe as a proverbial fire hose of information. The first round was adult education, because one can’t be an effective instructor without knowing how to impart knowledge and skills to their peers. I can tell you the information that was shared was in-depth, precise, and way over my head. This would continue to be my experience with a lot of the information that was shared over the next few days.
After covering adult education, we transitioned straight into vehicle recovery. Although it wasn’t the type of practical recovery discussion I was expecting, instead it was the science and math behind performing safe recoveries. Many of you have probably head of Recovery Resistance Calculations. If you haven’t, all you need to know is that it allows you to estimate the load required to recover a stuck vehicle. For example it will tell you why your Jeep can’t pull a loaded dump truck out of a ditch.
Later in the afternoon we moved down the road to the Uwharrie Off-Road training center to the practical portion of the TFC. Candidates were put through the paces and were expected to explain recovery situations, practice giving instructions, and lay out the framework for a safe and efficient recovery. They were also assisted by consistent rain, and the trainers, who would enjoy throwing a curve ball or two to keep them on their toes.
After a long 10 hour day, we all returned to base camp for the evening. The days were always ended by a group meal where candidates were encouraged to share their thoughts and experiences. Here it became clear the TFC was a constantly evolving program and changes were made based on feedback from both the candidates and current certified trainers. It also highlighted the camaraderie in the 4-wheel drive community even though the candidates were constantly being evaluated by their peers.
I finished off the evening with a few hours by the fire discussing the TFC and I4WDTA with all of the instructors, and getting some details on what the candidates could expect to be hit with tomorrow.