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Students come back for more at Camp Cadet

June 06, 1999|By DON AINES

FORT LITTLETON, Pa. - "What squad are you in?" Cpl. John Sechoka asked a cadet in high decibels at close range.

"Two! Number two! Pay attention!" the Pennsylvania State trooper admonished the cadet, thrusting two fingers in the few inches that separated the bills of their baseball caps.

That example of hard-nosed discipline was just for squad pictures on the first day of Fulton County Camp Cadet. Through this Friday, 21 boys and 19 girls will be rousted out of their bunks at the crack of dawn and rushed from one exercise to another until well past sunset.

Today, 20 events are scheduled, beginning with reveille at 5:30 a.m. and ending with lights out at 10 p.m. In between, there will be physical training, close order drilling and introduction to the firing range at Camp Sinoquipe, a Boy Scout camp north of Fort Littleton.

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Mixed in with the drills will be demonstrations of Indian folklore, the Pennsylvania State Police Mounted Unit and its Special Emergency Response Team and a mock investigation and trial staged by the FBI.

Four cadets from last year liked it so much they came back for more, serving as senior cadets this week.

Ashley Black, 13, of Hustontown, Pa., said she signed up last year for the challenge. "It made me stronger, mentally and physically," she said as the new cadets lined up for photos.

She said she signed up to be a senior cadet "to help other kids - maybe make it a little easier."

Katie Hann, 13, of McConnellsburg, Pa., attended the camp last year "because my cousin had come a few years before and my mom thought it would be good for me."

"I learned respect and I got stronger," she said. Nearby, members of the Red Squad were running, not jogging, to their next assignment.

Ryan Zeger, 14, of New Grenada, Pa., said he works on his father's farm during the summer "throwing hay."

When asked whether the camp is harder than farm work, Ryan replied, "Actually it is."

Last summer, he picked up a marksmanship trophy and won the Cadets' Choice award as the most popular among his fellow cadets.

"I learned to respect people more," said Richard Truax, 15, of McConnellsburg. The camp helped him see the state troopers as people, he said.

"Everybody told me it was a good camp. Nobody told me about the yelling," Zeger said about his experience last year.

"Ditto," said Truax.

The four will stay in the squad cabins this week, helping the students from the county's three school districts adjust to the strict regimen.

Now in its fifth year, Camp Cadet is co-sponsored by the state police and Fulton County's human service agencies, according to Jean Snyder, director of county Children and Youth Services. She said several other counties host similar camps.

While the camp is primarily for kids with an interest in law enforcement and military service, Snyder said the human service agencies also recruit "kids we think might benefit from the camping experience, .... the structure and the discipline."

"It's really enjoyable to see the kids pull together as a team," said Assistant Camp Director Kathy Kendall.

Snyder, president of the Fulton County Camp Cadet Association, said the squad leaders are state troopers from the McConnellsburg barracks and elsewhere.

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