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Why be a Cadet in Middle School?

Walter Reed Cadets talk about what they've learned being in the Cadet Corps—and their state awards.

Eric Gallagher teaches English at Walter Reed Middle School. A former Marine, Gallagher volunteers his time to run one of the half-dozen cadet corps in a middle school in the San Fernando Valley. He penned a story about his program and what his cadets get from joining it.

The mission of the California Cadet Corps is to provide California schools and students with a quality educational and leadership development program that prepares students for success in college and the work force.

The mission is accomplished through the six core objectives of the California Cadet Corps:

To develop Leadership

To engender Citizenship

To encourage Patriotism

To foster Academic Excellence

To teach Basic Military Knowledge

To promote Health, Fitness, and Wellness

The 2010 school year was one of many new experiences for the members of the Cadet Corps. This year we held many new events, and a lot of the new cadets got to experience being away from home for days at a time, for the very first time! The first trip of the year took the cadets to Camp Trask in the San Gabriel Mountains where the cadets learned map and compass reading and basic orienteering.

As cadet Alondra Sandoval says, "The most exciting time this year was the first bivouac (a military term for being in the field, or camping out). This was my first time camping out, and it was an experience I'll never forget!"

Cadet First Class Mark Alvarez adds, "My best experience was when I learned to use a map and compass. It really was not th hard, and learning to use them to find points on the orienteering course was hard, but fun."

After this trip the cadets spent several weeks at school learning about leadership skills and what it takes to be in a position of leadership over their peers. It is hard to tell your friends what to do, but if done correctly, and with tact, it becomes easier.

The next trip was the Leadership School where the cadets spent three days putting their classroom skills to work. There were more classes and cadets got the opportunity to actually be in charge and see how difficult leadership can be.

Cadet Corporal Joseph Serrano says of the event, "I loved the Leadership school, as being in charge is really cool! I did a good job, and won first place on the basic leadership exam."

Following this it was back for more time in the classroom at Reed. While at the school, cadets perform various jobs around campus. These include keeping the hallways cleared, and greeting teachers in the mornings, putting up and taking down the flags in front of the school, assisting during school events like open house and back to school night, reading the bulletins in the morning and assisting during emergency drills. All of this service to the school earns cadets ribbons that are worn on the dress uniform.

Drills and marching are a basic element to any military type organization, and the cadets spend a lot of time learning how to march and perform stationary drill movements. They spend a full weekend learning a drill routine that they then use to compete against other school's cadets. This year, Reed's cadet drill team placed second overall, and did really well!

While at school, cadets can earn the opportunity to learn how to march with rifles, and learn how to do different rifle drills.

As Cadet Nikita Ermakov put it, "The most awesome thing I have done is learn to use the rifles. It is so cool to learn to use them while marching, I just wish we could do more  with them."  

During the year, one cadet is selected to represent all the local schools in an individual competition. Cadet Sergeant First Class Victor Martinez competed as the middle school Junior Officer representative, and placed third best in the state of California.

The next event was three days of learning basic first aid. All of the cadets who attended this event learned how to treat everything from insect bites and scrapes to more advanced skills like moving injured people to CPR. Eventually this will earn them American Red Cross certifications.

Cadet Staff Sergeant Matthew Smith did really well at this event and says, "It was really fun to learn how to help other people by learning new things. I was one of only three cadets to score 100% on the tests, and it felt really good!"

Cadet Robert Blanco was another who scored perfectly, and was very proud of his accomplishment. Cadet Corporal Fred Barats also says, "This trip really taught me something that I hope I don't have to use, but will be ready if I have to."

The final event of every year is the Cadet Ball. This is a formal event where the cadets can relax and have a fun night of dinner, awards, and dancing. This event is like the prom, where the cadets celebrate a year of hard work and learning. Most cadets eagerly look forward to this event the most, because all cadets, regardless of their rank, get to enjoy themselves together.

Cadet Sergeant Daniel Claudio says, "I can't wait for this year's Cadet Ball! The best this about it, other than the food, is that you get to dance until midnight!" 

There is a lot that the cadets do both at Walter Reed, and off campus. The chance to become a leader of other students and earn awards and recognition is a goal that most cadets share. The program is intended to help students learn skills necessary in life regardless of future plans.

The class is not easy, and a lot is expected from the cadets, however the pride you can feel when you accomplish things you never thought you could is well worth it. 

Just ask a current cadet what it's all about. And, for more information, come by room 130 at Walter Reed Middle School and speak to the Commandant Major Gallagher or contact by email:  ejg5073@lausd.k12.ca.us.

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