The 782nd Air Force JROTC program, which is based at Valencia High School, concludes their training at Camp San Luis Obispo.
I went to Camp San Luis Obispo on Friday, July 4, 2008 to see how the CA-782nd Cadet Group Air Force JROTC fared after almost two weeks of summer camp. Capt Edward Colley, Senior Aerospace Science Instructor, and MSGT Fred Malcolmb, Aerospace Science Instructor, of the William S. Hart Unified School District, were in charge of the annual summer camp.
Camp San Luis Obispo is the home of the Army National Guard and serves as training ground for U.S. forces, as well as multi-national forces. Camp San Luis Obispo added some new training facilities this year.
From a study conducted by the government on the effects of heights, it was determined that the human mind will respond the same if the body is 35 feet or 30,000 feet high. The High Ropes Course is built at a height of 38 feet. It can induce a fear of heights. The course is designed to challenge mental ability as well as boost confidence with 14
elements, such as log walk, leap of faith, two cargo net climbs, two Burmese bridges, and a 260 foot zip-line.
The New Caroline Climbing Wall is a fifty foot, nine lane climbing wall designed to increase self-confidence, physical agility and strength. The level of difficulty ranges from ladder style to inverted and angle lanes.
The Alpine Tower is a fifty foot, hourglass, six lane climbing structure that facilitates the basics of mountaineering techniques and group problem solving skills.
During the intense encampment, the cadets marched several miles every day just to reach that day’s activities. One evening, they marched 20 miles through the night – every cadet completed the march. Cadets ran obstacle courses that included wall climbs, monkey bars and rope climbs. Each obstacle tested the cadet’s limits by putting them in seemingly impossible situations. They performed water safety and land navigation. The confidence course did just that – build confidence.
The pugil pit was a cadet favorite. The cadets donned protective gear to battle each other with “giant q-tips”. “The pugil pit forces the cadets into confrontation.” said SGT Edward Trinidad, an advisor and six year Army veteran. “It puts them into situations they’re not comfortable with. Life isn’t always going to be easy. Sometimes you have to fight for yourself, and pugil gives them the confidence to do so.”
Friday afternoon at 1600 (4:00 PM civilian time) marked the end of training. That evening a 4th of July BBQ was held for the cadets and their families. The BBQ was held at the Base Adventure Course. The advisors were there to supervise the various challenges: Alpine Tower, Swing-by-Choice, the High Ropes Course and the Carolina Climbing Wall. The cadets showed their families’ first-hand how to attack these challenges. Some family members got to try the challenges to see how well they could do.
During the BBQ I talked to MSGT Malcolmb and asked for his impressions of this camp. He said, “The NCOs (flight sergeants) were really outstanding this year”. MSGT Malcolmb also said that cadets Scott, Green, Barritt and Schiff distinguished themselves at this camp. I talked to Aaron Scott, 13, an incoming freshman, and he said he liked the obstacle course and PT, although he acknowledged that PT was hard.
Russell DiStefano, 17, Group Commander, will be a senior when school resumes in August. He said, “The advisors were intense this year”. LCPL Daniel Jones, USMC, an advisor and former JROTC Group Commander, said, “The role of the advisors is to pressure the cadets so they come together as a team because you cannot make it through camp as an individual”. Group Commander DiStefano said, “Leadership is getting cadets to follow you as well as delegating responsibility”.
The next day there was a Pass-in-Review with the cadets marching in their service dress uniforms, witnessed by friends and family. That was followed by an awards ceremony where cadets were acknowledged for leadership, physical fitness, superior performance, promotion, and one cadet was chosen Outstanding Cadet. Parents watched a video (while the cadets cleaned barracks so they could clear the base) and were able to view their cadet’s experience through the eyes of Cameron Stell.
Cameron Stell, 17, a senior when school resumes, affectionately referred to as “Half Staff” by the advisors, had an entirely different experience at camp this year. Stell, who is still a cadet, was the official video technician documenting every aspect of camp. With neither cadet nor advisor status, Stell was just a fly on the wall. Stell put in long days of filming and editing hours of video to make a memorable movie for the cadets to relive and share with family and friends
Nicholas Dergan, 16, a junior when school resumes, was selected as Outstanding Cadet because he excelled in all aspects of camp. At the BBQ, he said, “Camp was a challenge to see how much you can dig down, to see what you can do”. It was unanimous among all the advisers that Dergan was the Outstanding Cadet at this summer camp.
I wish I could have talked to all of the cadets to get their takes on summer camp. I had to settle for seeing them tell their families of the challenges they faced and how they thought they measured up. If you go by excitement and enthusiasm, I think this was a successful camp.
Written by John Jones