Kristijan Ilovača is not the first Croatian police officer to go through the training at the FBI Academy, located near Quantico, Virginia, but he has recently graduated from the 10-week program.
Elvis Sprečić writes for Večernji list about Kristijan’s experiences at the most world’s most prestigious law enforcement training facility, where each year around 750 trainees in three generations learn from the best FBI trainers. He’s the eleventh police officer from Croatia to go to Quantico for the 10-week training, and the most famous one of them is Mario Bertina, who did great things in his police career after Quantico, going to become the head of the special police USKOK unit (PNUSKOK).
Kristijan Ilovača starts his recollection of his weeks at the FBI academy by explaining how nothing can prepare you for how big the training complex is. The FBI Academy itself is located within the US Marine Corps Base Quantico, which covers around 250 square kilometers (for comparison, the surface area of the island of Korčula is around 270 square kilometers!). So, just the drive through what seems like a wild forest to the academy itself is the first shock.
But even before that, when he was applying to go to Quantico, he kept being surprised by the tests he had to go through to get selected to go. The application process was handled by Croatian MUP and the American Embassy in Zagreb, and the first testing included not the assessment of his physical condition, but rather he was given a pen and paper to write an essay in English on what the virtues of a police officer are. There were several more selection rounds, a complete medical check-up and a final oral interview with people from Washington, who asked curious questions, such as would he recommend someone to become a border patrol or a canine unit officer. There was a lot of paperwork involved, of course, and an FBI attaché from Vienna helped him with that.
He arrived at Quantico on April 1st, where he discovered he was one of the 35 international trainees among the 256-strong generation. They were divided into 5 classes, and were housed with a roommate – his was Rafael Gonzalez, a great guy from South Carolina, as Kristijan describes him, who helped him a lot with getting used to living in the States. Their every day was fully organized, there wasn’t much free time, they got to choose between numerous courses (in addition to two mandatory ones, each trainee picks four). The program includes a lot of physical challenges as well, including the iconic race on the course around the Academy, which can be seen at the beginning of the Academy (the other Academy!) Award-winning movie “Silence of the Lambs”, which every trainee needs to complete. However, Kristijan is especially proud of his completion of the unofficial “blue brick” challenge – he swam 36 miles (55 kilometers) during his 10 weeks at the FBI Academy, which is how far Quantico is from Washington, and each trainee who manages that gets the blue brick. In Kristijan’s generation, only seventeen trainees got their blue brick.
Kristijan says that meeting the best of the police officers from their countries and the US was the best part of the experience for him. He hopes that the prestigious program will help his ambition to use the knowledge he got there to make Croatia a better place, at a leadership position on either the national or international level within the law enforcement community.