With no TV, cell phones or tablets allowed, and curt answers of ‘yes ma’am and no sir’ in the air, you might think Camp Cadet is a disciplinary camp. But, to the contrary, kids with good report cards are lining up to get in the doors of the camp, sponsored by PA State Police, Troop K, which gives them a weeklong, up-close-and-personal taste of law enforcement.
The camp is held on the expansive grounds of Camp Kweebec in Schwenksville.
Seventy-two cadets graduated Friday and many said it’s an experience they won’t soon forget.
“I was really interested in the camp because I want to be active duty military or police,” said 15-year-old Tim Hobold of Green Lane, who has brothers in various branches of the US military. “I like to do the physical stuff like in PT (physical training). We do pushups, a lot of pushups, run and do sit-ups.”
Fellow cadet Michael D’Annunzio, 12, said he too loved the physical training, but also enjoyed meeting all the other campers and men and women in law enforcement. D’Annunzio said his dream job is to be a Navy SEAL or Marine Corps scout sniper.
“This is not necessarily for kids interested in law enforcement but we do put them through a mini academy,” explained Camp Cadet Director Tpr. Morgan Crummy, noting it mirrors municipal and state police training. “Maybe they have an interest in it, maybe they don’t, but it’s a reward because they are seeing things many adults don’t even get to see in their lifetime. We show them what we go through.”
“We are helping them find the good traits they already have.”
“We stress team-building and working as a group,” noted counselor Tpr. Dean Wright, who also coaches track at Upper Perk High School. “You always want the kids to have positive interactions with law enforcement so they know they can deal with me being a state police officer in a good light other than being in trouble.”
Cadets, ages 11-14, or 15 if they were on the camp’s waiting list, experienced a busy week of activities that saw them wake up at 5:30 each morning to lights and sirens. Each camper then completed a barrage of PT, including a 1 ½ mile-run, before breakfast.
The remainder of the day was spent swimming, scaling the camp’s enormous climbing wall, traversing the zip line or participating in team-building activities.
Cadets also took part in archery and a gun range, where they learned safe handling and operation of a .22-caliber rifle.
“For most of them this is their first time handling a firearm,” said Crummy. “We want them to be comfortable and safe if they ever encounter a gun.”
In the afternoons and evenings, cadets were treated to demonstrations by different police and emergency service organizations, including K-9 demos by police agencies, the state police mounted tactical unit, Montgomery County Bomb Squad, Philadelphia Highway Patrol and Telford Diving Unit to name a few.
They also witnessed the re-creation of a vehicle rescue, took part in a smokehouse (where a fire scene is recreated) and learned about what a Hazardous Materials Response Team (HazMat) can do.
“It absolutely is a collaborative effort between many different law enforcement agencies,” Crummy noted. “And if the cadets do choose to get into this field, they are learning how to interact with other groups.”
One of the favorite activities of the week proved to be a staged crime scene and investigation. Cadets were schooled by detectives and retired state police officers on crime scene procedures, arrests and effective questioning.
“The crime scene was my favorite,” said Paul Van Fossen, 13, of Blue Bell. “We opened up the doors, looked for the bad guy, secured the scene and then processed the evidence (a bottle with fingerprints).”
After arresting the subject and reading him his rights, the cadets moved on the next day to a mock trial, complete with a judge and a prosecutor.
At the close of camp Friday night, cadets performed a “call of honor” where they announced their ideals and what they stand for in front of parents and police. They received a pin for their efforts.
As for their time at Camp Cadet, the campers said they were tired but proud of what they accomplished.
“It was a wonderful experience,” said Tim Hobold. “I would definitely come back next year if I could.”