Every year, a select number of highly motivated first year NJROTC cadets give up a week to attend basic leadership training in the middle of winter at Camp Pendleton, California
Cadets stay in WWII era lodgings at Camp Talega’s Quonset Huts, famous for being a filming site of Clint Eastwood’s Heartbreak Ridge. Talega was also used as a refugee camp during the Vietnam War.
The conditions are a first for many cadets. “It’s freezing, and there’s no A/C!” says freshman cadet Damyja Coleman. “It’s pretty much a long hallway with bunk beds on both sides. It’s like you see in military movies but not exactly either.”
The training is both physical and technical. From Marine Corps martial arts to team building activities, the week is designed to both motivate cadets and build the future of the battalion.
“It’s a great opportunity for the cadets to learn basic leadership skills, and how to work as a team,” says senior cadet Abby Gonzales. Senior cadets on the trip mediate between new cadets and the Marines that teach the freshman cadets. Only four senior ROTC cadets were allowed to go and lead Clark’s battalion.
“Our role mostly was to watch them,” says Gonzales. “We weren’t in charge of every activity that took place, we were mainly there to support both the Marines and the 1st year cadets.”
The week consists of back and forth training, including going on a tour of the USS Midway to doing a Convoy Combat Simulator in the same day. “The days are long,” says first year cadet Britany Calderon. “All the training and history gives us a better understanding of the military. I never considered joining before, but now I am.”
Cadets who complete the training agree that the annual trip stands out as a crucial part of their ROTC experience. “I wanted to make sure that the freshman cadets had a memorable time,” says Gonzales. “Because when I was a freshman, it was really the senior cadets that made me motivated. This year, I wanted to pass down what I knew onto them, to motivate them in hopes that they will eventually run the whole unit.”