Camp Cadet teaches students lifelong lessons
By Brett Kriebel
CLARION NEWS Writer
The Pennsylvania State Police Troop C Camp Cadet Program took place once again on the Clarion University Campus from July 28 through Aug. 2.
According to State Tpr. and program volunteer Bruce Morris, 2019's group of cadets enjoyed a multitude of activities and a wealth of information from various state and federal law enforcement organizations.
Troop C, which covers six counties (McKean, Forest, Elk, Clarion, Jefferson and Clearfield) has held annual summer camps since 1986. Morris has been a part of the program since 2002.
"The purpose is to introduce kids to a law enforcement and military environment," Morris said. "We give them a chance to meet men and women in uniform, learn about what they do, and put a face on the person in uniform."
This year, cadets arrived to Clarion University campus on Sunday, rooming in Campus View Suites. Their instruction began not long after settling in to their rooms.
"It starts right away when they meet the drill instructors," Morris said. "It's a shock to the system no matter what because it's structured military discipline."
Cadets were expected to address counselors as sir, ma'am, or their military title and move throughout campus in formation and march to and from varying locations. By the end of the week, campers learned how to march in a counter column arrangement.
Camp counselors worked to impart the importance of teamwork to cadets, which numbered 83 at this year's camp. Morris jokingly noted the cadets find common bonds throughout the process.
"They start to gel as a team even though they don't know each other because they have a common enemy, and that's those of us who are wearing camouflage," Morris said.
Numerous speakers from local and federal law enforcement agencies spoke to cadets, providing insight into their specific job responsibilities.
The FBI, U.S. Secret Service, a retired Navy Seal and numerous other individuals and groups took part in events during the week. For cadets to view in person, Secret Service personnel brought with them on Wednesday an armored SUV which had transported Donald Trump Jr. the day before.
Locally, the Clarion County DA's office and Defense attorney's office participated, as well as Clarion PSP criminal investigators and forensics unit personnel.
On Tuesday, cadets took part in a "mock trial." At Eagle Commons dining hall, 14 cadets were picked as jurors, with two others acting as alternates. The jurors were pulled from the scene of the fake crime before it occurred.
Meanwhile, criminal investigators interviewed cadets acting as witnesses. Other cadets worked with the forensics unit, processing the crime scene, collecting evidence and taking photographs. Cadets also worked in conjunction with prosecutors in helping to build a case.
From there, the cadets formed up and marched to the Clarion County courthouse, where Judge James Arner presided over the faux trial. This year, the defendant was found not guilty.
"I think that was the fastest verdict we've ever turned," said Morris. "Usually they're in their arguing longer than adults in a real case."
As part of Pennsylvania Game Commission participation on Thursday, cadets took a trip down the Clarion River on Canoes in Cook Forest State Park.
Cadets also learned how lie detector tests are administered. Several cadets were allowed to take polygraph tests during the program.
The ongoing test results were shown digitally and in real time on a large screen. Those who undertook the tests were given a set of baseline questions to establish the truth.
According to Morris, the final question asked of the volunteering cadets afforded an easy identification of a true or false answer from onlookers.
"The last question is, are there any cute girls at camp cadet,' then there's a pause which is followed by a no," said Morris. "Pretty soon, you see the line go all over the place."
Clarion County Corrections Warden Jeff Hornberger and Deputy Warden Daniel Blose spoke to cadets on the camp's final day inside Clarion University's Hart Chapel. Cadets were educated on the jail intake process, cell extraction, and items used by corrections officers, such as riot gear.
"They get to see the whole gamut from front to back," said Morris of the camp programs.
The camp, which nears $25,000 in costs to put together, is funded through private donations and small fundraisers each year. Applicant campers need only to pay a $20 registration fee.
Children living in school districts located within Troop C jurisdiction are eligible to apply for attendance.
Sixteen members of the Camp Cadet Program staff work to make sure the week goes smoothly. The group is comprised of State Troopers and members of various other law enforcement agencies. Former campers have also become counselors, teaching cadets the intricate details of proper military courtesy.
"We're seeing a benefit of this that was never originally intended," Morris said of the program. "A lot of guys and girls go onto the state police who were in this camp."
Morris said the experience is positively imprinted on cadets. A camper's outlook on their week as a cadet in Clarion could change in a big way.
"These kids don't really understand the structure of it all, and they might not like it at the beginning but they want and need it," Morris said. If you had taken a poll of the 83 kids here and asked them who wanted to go home on Monday, the majority would have said yes. If you did it today, some of them wouldn't want to leave.