Calif. camp gives cadets taste of life as cop, firefighter or EMT

By Dan Judge
Vallejo Times Herald
Copyright 2007 The Times-Herald
All Rights Reserved

VALLEJO, Calif. — Tyler Watson of Benicia always thought he might want to become a police officer.

After attending the California Cadet Academy summer camp - which gives students a taste of what it's like to be a police officer, firefighter and emergency medical technician - the 16-year-old Benicia High School student is certain now of his career choice. And he has a realistic plan for reaching that goal.

"I had pretty much made up my mind, but this just reinforced it," Watson said. "You get to go out every day and solve problems when someone needs your help." He said there is great satisfaction in a career like that.

Cadets attending the week-long, nonprofit camp at Pacific Union College in Angwin get hands-on training in fire science, law enforcement, basic first aid and CPR.

"We expose them to the careers and allow them to see what it's like firsthand," said American Canyon police officer Tony Heuschel, an academy instructor and chief financial officer. "We allow them to wear the uniforms - the whole nine yards."

The academy, established in 2005, is the brainchild of Heuschel and his wife, Nicole, who had been involved in previous programs for young people. Heuschel said they wanted to create a summer camp to help set young people on positive career paths.

"We basically transform them into cadets," Heuschel said. "It's the equivalent of going through a mini police or fire academy."

Students spend Monday through Saturday using the dormitories and classrooms at Pacific Union College.

Students first spend several hours in a classroom learning about the day's topics. They then head out to the field, where the lesson plan can be anything from defensive driving techniques to hooking up fire equipment and putting out fires.

The day doesn't necessarily end after they've gone to bed. An alarm may go off during the night, requiring the students to rush out to handle a staged emergency.

Once back in their beds, they might hear another alarm that sends them off to check out a call reporting a prowler. They may even have to chase the suspect down.

"It's really pretty cool," Heuschel said. "A lot of it has to do with fun, but it gives us an opportunity to get in their heads and say, 'These are the kind of things you need to focus on.' "

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