There's a saying leaders aren't born, but forged. And at Porterville Military Academy, the saying is true to their cadets who attend the school that offers more than just an education. But the willingness to grow goes far beyond the traditional school calendar. That's why this past summer, 72 Porterville Military Academy cadets made their way to San Luis Obispo for summer training at the California Cadet Corps’ Summer Encampment and Advanced Summer Encampment sessions.

Attendance isn't mandatory, PMA Cadets took 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 two weeks, the cadets watched themselves growing into stronger leaders through instructions and promotions while exploring a unique topic which they were able to take back to their home units to become a greater asset for their battalion or brigade, said Lorelei Santa Maria, CACC 10th Corps Commander.

Such was the case with a couple of PMA students. Cadet Braden Martin returned with “The Flash” – a lightning bolt added onto his red beret – and with the title of being a “Survival Instructor” following his training. PMA Cadet Sgt. Tyler Mitchell returned as a medic, which earned him a red medical bag, a patch, a medal and the privilege to be a medic at the school site.

But none of it was easy, they said.

Over the past summer I was given the opportunity to partake in the California Cadet Corps Advanced Survival Field Training Exercise,” said Martin. “What I can tell you is the mental challenges and what made me enjoy it so much. Now many of my peers would call me insane and crazy for going to this Advanced Survival Course.”

All of it's due, he said, to completing the basic, week-long course which was modeled after many military survival trainings.

Then to go through those seven harsh days once more for what some would call a ‘Simple Lightning Bolt’ on my Red Beret,” Martin said. “What they don’t understand is that those of us who have earned the coveted lightning bolt is that we look at adversity and simply smile. This past summer has taught me that the sense of family I felt with those 11 other teenagers who came from all walks of life, all kinds of backgrounds, was something that will stay with me forever. It showed me who I really was and put life in such a different perspective. To any of my basic survivalists reading this, you’ll never know if you can do advanced (survival camp) without trying.”

Martin also completed a leadership unit with an approximate 230 cadets.

Martin said he started with a basic week on leadership prep, basic standardized training (BST).

Survivor camp was very mentally challenging. It quite literally was like trying to herd cats and showed me who I really was as a leader and as a person,” Martin said, adding it felt odd to reacclimate to a stressful and frustrating environment. “It was a good opportunity to grow and mature.”

He returned quieter, he said.

I spoke less and thought more,” Martin said.

On the third week, Martin participated in Reconnaissance Commando Training, structured after the Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol in Vietnam, which is something his great uncle was a part of in Vietnam, he said.

It was one of the hardest courses,” Martin said. “While doing it, I thought, ‘This is what my great uncle went through.’ He doesn’t like to talk about it but now I can be somewhat like him.”

But the advanced survival camp really shows one who they are, he said.

It’s all the aspects of survival and a whole lot of skills that can save your life,” Martin said. “You are physically and mentally challenged for five to six days. The entire time you want to go home. It’s that mentally and physically challenging.”

But in the end, Martin was one of seven survivalists and one of those earning the title of Survival Instructor.

Mitchell also returned to PMA with a title under his cap.

After completing three to four months of work in seven days, Mitchell returned certified in CPR and as an Emergency Medical Technician.

Cadet Medic is really a good choice to pick because it can teach you things that can help with your future,” Mitchell said. “It is a three to four-month class at a normal school and we had to learn and take a variety of tests in just seven days at an above speed learning capability. You had to stay up late studying in your tent and wake up early. Most nights they would give us homework to go do back at our tents at lights out. But over all, the studying and taking the test, it was a really fun course.”

Mitchell said he learned about trauma and CPR, how to take care of someone if hurt badly, and how to address the situation.

I am really glad I chose to go to Medic camp because now I can say I passed the hardest course in the cadet core,” Mitchell said. “Also (it) will help me with my future job in the military and can help me pursue my dream.”

In the future, he said, he would love to be a PJ — Paramedic Jumper — jumping out of helicopters and landing wherever he's needed.

His uncle, he said, is a Navy paramedic actually serving in the Marines who don't have their own medical personnel.

It is something that caught my eye,” Mitchell said. “I did research on the challenges of it.”

But in the meantime, he said, he can be of assistance to PMA.

When we do local events, state events, school events, entrance camp — I can be the medic on site and can help until emergency responders arrive,” Mitchell said.

Currently, he said, any PMA student with a medical condition wears a white bracelet on campus and at events. It's his responsibility to know each and every one of those students’ medical conditions.

But getting there was hard, he said, calling the class “intense.”

It was intense. It was hard — taking a lot of first aid and stacking it,” Mitchell said. “It was more mental than anything. There was a lot of memory. A lot of late nights — one of the hardest courses in the California Cadet Corp.”

Only 12 percent of those taking the course passed, he said, including four from PMA.

And once he graduated from the summer program, Mitchell said, he earned the red medical bag, a patch, and a ‘Medical’ medal for his uniform.


Recommended for you

Load comments