FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — Twenty-eight aspiring public servants from across the country got a taste of Army Initial Entry Training here last week as part of the 2022 Public Safety Cadets National Leadership Academy.
Hosted this year by the U.S. Army Military Police School and the 14th MP Brigade, cadets between the ages of 15 and 20 with the nationwide Public Safety Cadets program spent July 23 to 30 building their leadership skills alongside Soldiers from Company E, 701st MP Battalion. Public safety cadets are individuals who volunteer at their local police departments or public safety organizations in some capacity and show an interest in public safety as a future career path.
The week-long experience focused on exposing the cadets to different aspects and styles of leadership found in the MP Corps and the Army through leadership classes, lectures and team-building challenges, said 2nd Lt. Carlos Paiz, an Echo Company platoon leader.
“We planned and resourced this training just like we would do for any basic training cycle,” he said. “Every single cadre member put in a lot of work and a lot of hours preparing leadership classes, tactical training, law enforcement classes, law enforcement training and resourcing everything.”
Staff Sgt. Robert Schofield, an Echo Company drill sergeant, said the primary mission was a little different than IET.
“The mission was not to turn a civilian into a Soldier, it was to educate young cadets on potential opportunities, leadership and what we do here in the MP Corps and the United States Army,” he said. “There was a fine balance between executing leadership classes and allowing them to partake in some events that trainees would, like the Physical Endurance Course, Team Development Course and getting hands on with weapons systems at the Engagement Skills Trainer.”
Cadet mentor and Sheriff's Officer Alexandria Kern with the Ocean County Sheriff's Office in New Jersey brought three cadets with her, hoping each would learn something different from the event.
“I brought three kids here for three different reasons — one to work on his confidence; one to work on leadership skills; and one to help bring them out of their shell,” Kern said. “I saw all three do exactly what I brought them here to do.”
It wasn’t just the cadets who learned from the program, she said.
“I thought this was incredible,” Kern said. “I’ve only been on as an officer for three years, and this was probably the coolest thing I’ve done in my very short career so far. It was not only a good opportunity for the cadets to grow as leaders, but for me to grow as a leader as well.”
Kern attributed the success to the Soldiers of Echo Company, the program they created, and how much they cared about the cadets — something Kern said was obvious.
“It can be hard to get adults interested in working with the kids in our program,” she said. “Some adults who are in law enforcement just want to do law enforcement, so I thought maybe this would be similar, but, these guys were so interactive with our kids, and you could tell that they so badly wanted to be here, and that made such a difference in the success of this program.”
Matthew Pelcher, a public safety cadet with the Ocean County Sheriff’s Office, who came here with Kern, agreed.
‘’The training staff here really care about their trainees,” he said. “The drill sergeants are great leaders — they’re real people, who have good advice.”
Pelcher said he appreciated the opportunity to interact with other cadets, as well as public safety and military professionals, and observe their leadership styles. He especially enjoyed the structured nature of the program.
“It was strict, but in a good way,” he said. “Not a lot of teenagers get to have this opportunity, so this was a great way to instill some discipline, and hopefully we can bring that discipline back to our units.”
Cadet Adrianna Rizzotto from the Winthrop Police Department in Winthrop, Wisconsin, also found benefit in the discipline provided by the drill sergeants.
“I could use more discipline sometimes,” she said. “I think it was very helpful that they were yelling at us, because it motivated me to push through and finish.”
Rizzotto said her favorite event was the PEC, because, as an obstacle course, it presented a challenge for her, and the opportunity for the cadets to support each other and cheer each other on.
The course was a pivotal point for many of the cadets, Kern said.
“(That is) where we saw the change in the kids,” she said. “They went from being tired and hungry and hot on Monday and Tuesday, to coming together as a group and having a ton of fun on Wednesday. It totally changed everybody’s tune. They all worked together as a team, and it was awesome.”
Thanks to the program, Rizzotto suggested there may be another MP drill sergeant in the future.
“I’ve always wanted to be an MP, and this pushed me more to want to do that and now I want to be a drill sergeant,” she said.
For Schofield, that meant mission accomplished.
“I think we accomplished what we set out to do,” he said. “I hope they took away the idea that anything is possible. I have nothing but respect for them, and I hope whatever route they choose, that they don’t sell themselves short and go the distance.”
More photos from the cadet visit are available on the Fort Leonard Wood Flickr page.