By Carol E. Davis
TBILISI, Republic of Georgia — Stretching both arms over his head, a cadet at the Tbilisi Police Academy, located in what is now a centralized campus, is anxious for a break after an hour of sitting in a classroom learning fundamental police procedures.
In the center of desks arranged like a rectangle, Capt. Besik Galuashvili, an academy instructor, gives the final few minutes of classroom instruction on suspect apprehension, police codes, and policies in a newly-opened, newly-construction training building.
"I enjoy teaching in this classroom, it's very nice and comfortable," Galuashvili said. "The arrangement of the desks and the room helps to motivate the cadets and build a sense of team."
After a short break, cadets walk down a corridor to the new firing range where they don eye and hearing protection.
Here in this eight-lane, 554 square-meter range, cadets put their technical instruction to practical use.
The state-of-the-art firing range has movable targets, and a modular bullet trap and containment system that allow the bullet casings to be recycled. The air-powered and computer controlled targeting system is operated by instructors in the observation booth.
Additionally, next door there is a powder vault and ammo-loader room. In this room gun power is stored, and bullets and castings from the range are reloaded. A pistol cleaning room ensures weapons are clean and serviceable. Finally, a mechanical and electrical room keeps everything running.
On the range surrounded by his cadets, Maj. Iraeli Gerpedava, instructor, teaches cadets proper stance, handling and hiring of hand guns.
"This firing range allows us to teach techniques we couldn't teach at the old range," Gerpedava said. "In the old facility, the targets didn't move. Now they do, so we can teach cadets different types of training like friend vs. foe where we can turn the targets and cadets see the face of a women or a child. This teaches cadets to recognize a friendly from a criminal."
Stanley Young, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District project engineer, said he is proud to have managed this project; after all, the range is the first-of-its-kind in Georgia.
"This facility allows for the proper training of police cadets both in and out of the classroom," Young said. "The previous training range was falling apart and was only good for long-range rifle training."
The old dilapidated range, located only a few feet from where the new one stands. Its weather worn paint is chipped and cracked from stray bullets hitting the low hanging cement cross beams. After years of rain pouring into the roofless building, the shabby floors are worn, and stained.
Although the range is no longer suitable for its original use, it has been converted for another training purpose.
"We used everything available to us for training," Maj. Giga Urushadze, an academy senior instructor said. "Our cadets and our country expect us to make the most of this facility, so we can't afford to waste training space. Now we use the space to teach cover and concealment techniques."
On the same campus, less than 300 feet away from the range, cadets can learn, sleep and relax in a newly renovated classroom and barracks building.
The three-story building is designed to house both dorm rooms, on the second and third floor, and classrooms on the ground floor. Each floor provides 693 square-meters of space and provides the academy the ability to diversify its selection of cadets.
Traditionally, most cadets entering the academy came exclusively from Tbilisi, but having a barracks means cadets can come from regions throughout the country, Mark Cameron, Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Section director for the U.S. Embassy said.
"For a police force to be effective it has to be representative of the people it protects," Cameron said. "This barracks offers that opportunity."
The barracks halls are adorned with brightly colored pictures depicting scenes of the academy, its police and cadets drawn by Tbilisi children. The pictures are a testament to the pride and importance the academy has among the Georgian people.
Used by cadets and instructor, a nearly 1300 square-meter gymnasium, complete with basketball court, weight room, locker rooms, and showers, is a welcome addition to the campus.
"Having everything located within this one campus allows us to spend more time training and less time commuting throughout Tbilisi going from place to place to train our cadets." Gerpedava said.
The upgraded academy provides Georgian cadets with six weeks of police training.
"The academy is taking regular citizens and turning them into trained police officers whose job it will be to defend the rights and ensure the safety of their fellow citizens," Cameron said.