Over the summer, 72 cadets from Porterville Military Academy chose to attend Summer Encampment sessions held by the California Cadet Corps. in San Luis Obispo. Among the attendees were Cadet Diamond Carrillo and Cadet Daniel Gutierrez who returned with new titles and new caps.
But it was no easy feat. The days were long, starting at 5:30 a.m., with vigorous programs all day, and ending with lights out at 9 p.m. each day. Though exhausted and ready to sleep, the day was truly not over as homework had to be completed.
Cadet Carrillo, who was ranked up to Corporal during the summer program, spent most of her time outdoors, working on marching cadence and footwork, and perfecting and performing the 15 count with a rifle before moving on to “engineering” in her second week which consisted of jumping and rappelling down the sides of cliffs, including a 90-foot-cliff.
“It was so much fun,” Carrillo said. “First I did one big jump. I had gloves to hold on to ropes as I went down.”
Carrillo said she also enjoyed a “Tap Out” competition where they had to follow fast movement commands or be eliminated from the competition.
“It was really fast,” she said, adding they started with an approximate 30 cadets and she made it to the top 10. “It was a lot of fun.”
Aside from the strenuous workouts and performances, Carrillo was handed a lot of paper work and a book, so she also had plenty of work to do in her tent after “lights out.”
Everything at the Camp ran smoothly, she said. But the showers at the camp were chaotic as they were only given 5 minutes most days to shower.
Upon returning home, her family noticed a difference with her, she said.
“They said I seemed more mature. They were proud of me,” Carrillo said.
They were also surprised to see her returning as a Corporal.
“That first week was miserable,” she said but one big change she said is being able to say she achieved it.
As a plus, along the way she met and made numerous new friends. And once it was all done, she was able to march away with a yellow cap for Drill and Command — and her new title.
Cadet Gutierrez returned as a Drill Instructor and the right to wear the famous “Smokey Bear” hat.
“Being a drill instructor is no easy task,” said Lt. Corporal Fred Dohnke, PMA Commandant. ”It involved an incredible amount of attention to detail. The movements have to be perfect.”
And perfect is what Gutierrez wanted.
“I was tasked with learning how to teach Drill and Command, including learning all the regulations and details,” he said.
Included in the tasks were learning different facing movements, and knowing and teaching what foot goes where.
“It all has to be in sync. It required not giving up, always giving my best, and finding a way to do it,” Gutierrez said.
Gutierrez also said he returned as a different person.
“I came back more of a different person,” he said. “Upon returning my family noticed I was more ‘adult like.’”
Getting “Test Qualified” also qualified him for the honor of wearing a Campaign Hat — a hat referred to and recognized by many as a “Smokey Bear” hat.
“It’s coveted and recognized by all,” Dohnke said. “It identifies him as a drill instructor. Generally you don’t get that kind of experience in one week.”
In all, 72 Porterville Military Academy cadets attended the California Cadet Corps’ Summer Encampment and Advanced Summer Encampment sessions which allow the PMA Cadets to grow and to take the initiative to leave home to “practice being a cadet” while obtaining additional leadership and instructional skills during a few weeks of strenuous exercises and training.
Through the weeks, the cadets watched themselves grow into stronger leaders.