Hall County Sheriff’s Office Jail Division Capt. Jeff Shoemaker recently drove from Virginia to Hall County with his good friend in the passenger seat. But it wasn’t just any friend, it was a man who traveled from across the world to attend the same training in Quantico that Shoemaker was attending.
The men weren’t friends before their FBI National Academy session started Jan. 7, but after being roommates since then, 1st Lt. Hamdan Ahli, an assistant expert from the Crime Scene Department of the Dubai Police, and Shoemaker have become just that.
“We have become very close friends,” Shoemaker said.
The two made the nine-hour trip so they could get off the Marine base they’re staying at and so Shoemaker could show Ahli how his county operates.
Shoemaker showed Ahli around the Sheriff’s Office Headquarters Saturday, explaining how each division works in a county that holds a fraction of Dubai’s population, which sits above 3 million people. As of July 2017, Hall County’s population was just under 200,000.
“This is a small town kind of atmosphere,” Shoemaker said.
Ahli said he’s enjoying his time in the states and especially Hall County.
He was most interested in the Crime Scene Investigation area at the Sheriff’s Office. Deputy Hillary Tolan, a crime scene technician, showed Ahli around the crime lab and explained the processes she goes through each day, giving examples of recent cases she’s come up against.
As they made their way out to the crime scene unit van, Ahli stood outside, peering inside as Tolan explained the layout.
He asked questions like, “What kind of crimes do you go to,” and, “Do you collect all the evidence yourself, or pass it on to other experts?”
Ahli, dressed in a gray suit with a red tie, nodded his head as Tolan answered each question.
He was the one person chosen from the United Arab Emirates to attend the FBI National Academy. He said he did the best on his exams during a course he took back home, so he was the only person given the opportunity
“I’ve liked my time and I’ve enjoyed every moment here,” Ahli said. “Me and Captain Jeff, we have talked a lot every day and we have discussions every day. I’ve learned a lot from the U.S.”
Shoemaker was one of five from Georgia chosen to attend.
According to its website, the FBI National Academy is “a professional course of study for U.S. and international law enforcement managers nominated by their agency heads because of demonstrated leadership qualities.”
It’s a 10-week program that offers university-like classes on subjects like law, behavioral science, communication, terrorist mindsets and more. Shoemaker said he and Ahli are both taking a course on counterterrorism. They’re not in the same class, but they’re learning the same things and are able to talk about it when they get back to their dorm-style housing.
“We’re the odd couple in our room,” Shoemaker said, laughing. “We’re really a lot alike. We’re pretty quiet, we’re not loud, we don’t stay up really late. We get our work done, we don’t argue, we clean … and we haven’t had an argument yet, so that's good.”
Shoemaker said it’s a college atmosphere, but it’s still similar to bootcamp in that there is mandatory physical training almost every day.
But that training in addition to the shared living arrangements offer those attending the academy the opportunity to network and get to know each other, just as Ahli and Shoemaker have.
“You must get a lot of experience, and you must know each country and each culture,” Ahli said. “I’m very proud to be in the U.S. and in the FBI National Academy. And I know our agency, they sent me here because they saw in me, there's something special. And I came to learn a lot and go back, and what I learn here, I will make it in our country.”
As the two continue their friendship over the next few weeks — the academy’s graduation is March 15 — they hope to stay in contact for much longer. Ahli said he wants Shoemaker to take a trip to Dubai so he can show him around his own city.
“We’ve been learning a lot from each other over the past six weeks,” Shoemaker said. “It’s just been a great experience. I’m going to be sad when it’s over.”