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Camp Cadet earns a hearty salute

June 13, 1998

By RICHARD F. BELISLE

Staff Writer

FORT LITTLETON, Pa. -- The kids lined up like tin soldiers, shoulder to shoulder, eyes straight ahead, white t-shirts bright in Friday's late morning sun, contrasting against the muddy splotches on their black shorts.

The mud, splashed up from running through the woods in tight squad formation, is a badge of honor earned during Camp Cadet. It's been held every year since 1995 at Camp Sinoquipe Boy Scout camp.

Camp Cadet is a week of military orientation, inspections, drills, lectures and programs for 40 students,12 to 15 years old, from all three Fulton County school districts.

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The students sign up for the camp, run by Fulton County State Police and civilian volunteers. More than 100 students apply, but only 40 get in. "We try to pick those who we think can get through it," said Cpl. John Sechoka of the Fulton County barrack.

The cadets arrived Sunday. By late Monday many of the students had had enough. "There was homesickness and crying, but no one gets to leave," Sechoka said.

By Wednesday the students were well into the routine, Sechoka said. By Friday, graduation day, they were having the time of their lives.

"I'd do it again," said Katie Hann, 12, a seventh grader. "It did me a lot of good."

Celina Seacrist, also 12, said the week, with counselors who acted more like Marine drill sergeants, taught her respect.

"I like the challenge," said Ryan Zeger, another eighth grader. "I liked the snake man too. I got to carry a boa constrictor," he said.

Ty Divelbliss, 12, said he liked the camp so much he wants to come back next year as a senior cadet and help the younger children.

The counselors organized programs from swimming and water rescue to first aid and CPR training. State police mounted units and K-9 units were brought for demonstrations. The FBI staged a crime scene and the Department of Environmental Resources put on programs, including a live black bear that had been trapped. The animal was sedated so the kids could pet it, counselors said.

Mostly the students liked the firing range best.

They shot just about every weapon in the state police arsenal - from fully automatic rifles to 12-guage shotguns to handguns.

"I liked the AK-47 best. It was fully automatic," Divelbliss said.

There are 22 such camps run by state police in Pennsylvania. Troopers and other volunteers often give up a week's vacation to serve as counselors.

It costs about $6,000 to run the camp every year with money is raised through local fund raisers, Sechoka said.

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