It was a day to remember for 43 focused Yosemite High Cadet Corps members in their clean, crisp uniforms and shiny black regulation marching shoes. It was a long-awaited and highly anticipated day - March 26 - the four-hour Annual General Inspection of the Yosemite High School Cadet Corps by three soldiers from the National Guard Camp San Luis Obispo - Lieutenant Colonel Denver Tate, United States Air Force (ret), Sergeant First Class Dustin Dionne, United State Army (ret), and Staff Sergeant Ryan Rogers.
About 30 hours of classroom and field training by the students prior to the formal inspection paid off for the students in a big way - a “Superior” rating - a rating achieved by only 5% of the 80 California schools with nearly 7,000 cadets - and the highest rating the YHS Corps has ever achieved.
The corps, under the leadership of Commandant Ellen Peterson, and Sergeant Major David Archer, boasts the largest number of cadets in the 11-year history of the program at Yosemite High.
Samantha Archer, a freshman at Glacier High, who’s a member of the corps, comes from a long line of family members in the military, including her great-grandfather and grandfather who served in the Navy, and her father who was in the Army.
Archer, who plans to be a member of the YHS Cadet Corps all four years of high school, said it was phenomenal to hear the group received the ‘Superior’ rating.
“Before the inspection, I was a little nervous knowing a Lieutenant Colonel was gong to be inspecting us,” Archer said.
In addition to family tradition, Archer said she joined the Cadet Corps because she heard the corps teaches responsibility and leadership skills.
“These are skills that help you get ahead of your peers,” Archer said. “I feel the skills a person learns in the Cadet Corps are more important than what one learns on an athletic team.”
Archer said the members of the corps are very close and everyone helps each other out.
“We’re like a family,” Archer said.
The California Cadet Corps is a leadership development program for youth under the auspices of the Defense Department and the California National Guard.
The state requires that the units throughout the state be graded each year in the areas of cadet knowledge, curriculum-based instruction, physical training, cadet appearance and discipline, school and community involvement, and service, administration of cadet files, issuing and maintenance of state issued property, and most importantly that the senior ranking cadets are the ones who properly manage each of these areas.
During the inspection, the unit will actually get a lower score if the adult staff seem to be the ones who have done most of the work. It is the cadet leaders and staff that sit with inspectors as they meticulously go over every aspect of the program. Interviews with individual cadets is also art of the inspection.
“I feel that our Cadet Corps is an often overlooked ‘gold nugget’ at the school,” Peterson said. “Through this organization, students are exposed to and required to learn and live the very principles that many inaccurately feel are gone from the public school system. Saluting the American flag, learning about our founding principles, honoring the brave men and women who have fought for our freedoms, and living out these same principles each day is ‘alive and well’ at Yosemite High School.”
“This is truly a high point in the lives of the cadets and in the careers of Ellen Peterson and other school personnel involved in the YHS Battalion,” said Linda Champion, a para-educator for the group.
The corps is open to all Yosemite students, qualifying as a valuable elective and as a physical education course. The YHS Cadet Corps provides a quality curriculum embracing leadership, patriotism, academic excellence, school and community service, basic military knowledge, physical fitness, leadership skills, responsible citizenship, and self-discipline.
Peterson said the goal of the program is to prepare students to succeed in today’s society, whether that will be in college or business or in military service.
Prior to the inspection, the corps spent three days and nights at a bivouac (survival and wilderness training) March 13-15, an event completely organized by Cadet Corps staff and cadets.
The cadets created a training schedule, had cadet instructors develop lesson plans, developed a risk assessment plan to mitigate any possible injuries, worked within a budget to feed the cadets during the event and then ran the event for two and half days with only adult staff providing the proper supervision.
Captain Tyler Pierce, the corps student commanding officer, said the bivouac (his Senior Project) was about much more than the two nights camping under the stars.
“It was about the weeks of preparation ... it was about carrying on a legacy from before me ... it was about giving back in the ways I’ve been given to years ago ... and it was about learning management and preparation for events involving numerous people. To me, this wasn’t a senior project, it was an experience in life.”
“A big aspect of the event is junior cadets were given the opportunity to serve in leadership positions for the first time,” said Archer, who assists Peterson. “They were given 4-5 cadets each and then were charged with many responsibilities, including their group’s safety (properly hydrated), arriving on time and prepared for classes, and making sure the team got to sleep and woke-up on time.”
After initially marching five miles into the camp site, cadets were taught classes on how to use a compass, building a shelter, first aid and triage of patients, and team building exercises.
The cadets also got to maneuver around a 40 acre property at night in an effort to find a cadet strategically placed in a ‘down-pilot’ scenario.
“One of the inspectors commented that by far, our cadets had the largest role in day-to-day unit operations of any other unit they had seen,” Peterson said.
The group also participates in drill competitions, parades, Patriot Day, and Veteran’s Day observances. Each year, some of the cadets travel all over California to compete in athletic, and academic competitions, and summer camps.
“We are a family,” Peterson said. “Cadet Corps members are part of a team that builds strong bonds of friendship and loyalty. We care about each other, and our bonds of friendship extend beyond the classroom. Our fellow cadets become brothers and sisters to us.”
Upcoming events for the corps include helping at the April 11 Veteran’s Stand-Down at Sierra Pines Church. Sponsored by Concerned Vets of America, this bi-annual event distributes supplies to Mountain Area veterans and provides assistance from the VA and other organizations. The corps will assist at the Ronald McDonald Shoot at Sun Mountain Gun Club on April 18. This is an annual fundraiser for Ronald McDonald Charities.
NOTE: For additional photos, see sierrastar.com.