How has COVID-19 Changed how Cadet Corps Operates?


Provided by Riley Balmaceda

Freshman C/SFC Riley Balmaceda (middle), and his NCOA squad, freshman C/SGT Michael Marr (left) and freshman CFC Isaiah Parker (right), cleaning up a park following CDC guidelines.

Ralph Guerrero, Journalist

The cadet corps is a school organization that is based around military style learning to give leadership skills and growth. They really focus on these six main components: leadership skills, better academic achievement, good citizenship, promoting patriotism, military knowledge, and encouraging health and fitness. They have a strict dress code and uniform to represent the cadets. Cadets are meant to stay in school, help with school security, and stay away from gangs. 

Over a year into quarantine, the lockdown has really transformed how the cadet corps program runs at UP.

Former Cadet Sergeant junior Juan Neri Avila claims, “We never really had the chance to perform any sort of training during COVID and it mainly consisted solely of lessons of basic to advanced things, such as how CPR is done to even how leadership is best conducted.” 

He goes on and says, “Outside of COVID, it was almost the same except we were also able to perform marching and drills such as PTE and Squad movements.” Neri Avila then talks about his training schedule, saying, “Training and drills as well depends on the day, sometimes it was just the first 10 minutes of class then we head inside to do a lesson, and other days we did it the full period, either doing squad drills to platoon drills.”

A current freshman cadet staff sergeant by the name of Riley Balmaceda Garcia says, “COVID has severely affected our training because usually in person, I can assist my cadets with drill, lessons, and other things that are usually done better in person with me there to assist in anything that they may not be very good at or have never done before.”

Balmaceda Garcia goes on and says, “Every Friday we have PT (personal training) sessions that are led by my NCOs (non-commissioned officer) and myself; they are done similarly to how we would do it in person, but we also incorporate self paced lessons, such as our recent Kata Karate lessons.” He teaches his cadets stationary drills, and other drills such as reporting into a board, reporting into Officers, or NCOs, although in the online setting, it has become harder. 

He states, “It has definitely made my job as not only the First Sergeant more difficult, it has also made my job as the S-1 more difficult.” He also has to keep in mind the safety, welfare, discipline, and morale of his cadets. “Maintaining orders and getting cadets promoted without losing the promotion packet in a sea of school papers is very, very challenging,” Balmaceda Garcia states.

Junior Julian Pineda feels that the coronavirus has made their training more verbal, rather than visual; they also do more presentations instead of the familiar drills. Students have to be more verbal since the camera on the device cannot show everything needed to be explained. 

Since a lot of students have limited space to train in their household Pineda states that “drills taught during online class are stationary drills.” These changes have their pros and cons of course. He says, “It has changed our practices not in the best way, we have to adapt to what the cadets can understand through the screen rather than going at a faster pace like we’re used to. It is definitely harder.”

Despite the challenges that have arised this academic year and last due to distance learning, the organization continues to be successful. Senior S-3 Cadet Officer candidate Kage Blakeney explains more about how they achieved their ‘Superior’ ranking. “MAJ Cook-Askins does a review on the battalion 276 and see what to improve on.” The ‘Superior’ ranking was based on an inspection of S-1 through S-5, which covers everything from administration, permanent orders, supply of uniforms and such, to community hours, leadership skills, and more.  With students starting to return to campus, next year will present new challenges that the cadets will have to adapt to once more.