Six Houston cadets joined over 1,500 others who attended Cadet Camp in Vernon this summer.
Local cadets Jonathan Jaspers, Taylor Kopetski, Chase Wentzell, Rowan Vandenheuvel, Ashton Armstrong and Elijah Newell each attended different weeks, focusing on different skills such as band or marksmanship.
Ashton and Elijah went to general training for two weeks in July.
They practiced marching, shot pellet guns to refine marksmanship skills, pitched tents for an outdoor camp out, jumped walls and army crawled through an obstacle course, Ashton said.
Training for two weeks and sleeping in 50-person barracks, they were taught about things like what to do if you get lost and how to “polish boots in the dark with a flashlight.”
“Your boots have to be so shiny you can see your teeth in them,” Ashton said.
He added that he also learned “how to grow up to be like some of the people here [older cadets].”
“Yeah, maturity,” Elijah explained.
Asked about their highlight, both boys said it was making friends.
“Meeting tons of good people… it’s kind of hard leaving after you’ve met so many good friends,” Ashton said.
Rowan attended band camp where she made a lot of friends, had lots of fun and learned to play the tuba, she said.
Up at 6:30 a.m., cadets marched between barracks, meals and practice areas.
“It was kind of interesting to try and march with a tuba,” Rowan said.
Cadets had individual practice times and ensemble practices, playing together outside in clusters.
“It’s fun!” Rowan said.
In Vernon for three weeks in August with 700 other cadets, Rowan’s highlight was watching the “Military Tattoo,” a parade with a multicultural mixture of military and musical bands.
She hopes to play in the tattoo next year, as she was invited up to intermediate level next summer.
“I would be ecstatic,” she said.
Asked if she would go to band camp again, Rowan said definitely would.
“It was fun… You get to meet people, and you get to learn a lot of new things.”
Learning took a different shape for Chase, whose camp filled the air with gunshots rather then music.
“We shot stuff,” he said when asked what he did at camp.
Marksmanship camp was filled with targets, rifles and shooting lessons including things like breathing and follow through.
“It taught you a lot of patience because nobody shot faster then another. We basically fired between one or two seconds of each other and we’d reload our rifles at the same time and we’d all fire again,” Chase said.
There with 54 other cadets, Chase said the goal was to get into the expert shooting ranks, the highest level called Cross Rifle Crowns, which he earned on his last try in the third and last week of camp.
“It was fun… there’s a lot of friendly people,” Chase said.
Now back at regular cadets, Rowan says she looks forward to the outdoor activities and Houston friends.
Cadets kicked off in September with three new members joining the ranks, for a total of 12 members.
Meeting at the Community Hall Thursday nights, regular program includes marching drills and theory work about social responsibilities, team building and leadership, said Officer Margaret Murphy.
It also has hands on training in marksmanship, map and compass work and knot tying. There are also a few weekend exercises filled with hiking, camping or marksmanship.
“It’s lots of fun,” Murphy said.