By Chuck (LASD ret. 2004) and Patty Norris (LASD ret. 2005)
The Sheriff’s Department has been able to send exemplary boys and girls to this program because of the generous support of the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs (ALADS), the Los Angeles County Professional Peace Officers Association (PPOA) and Sheriffs’ Relief Association (SRA). We are so very grateful for their financial support. We couldn’t do it without their generous assistance!
This summer camp prepares young men and women, ages 14 to 17, for what life will bring. The training takes on a new meaning when it is instilled by sweat and active-duty Marine Corps instructors yelling and hurrying these teens throughout their day and guiding them through their training.
This is exactly what happened for 319 teenagers from California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton July 13–22 this summer. The 10-day program ended with an impressive graduation and awards ceremony at the 1st Marine Division Parade Field on July 22.
Our Department sent 20 teenagers this summer. Nathan Solis, an Explorer from ELA, won the Enthusiasm Award and a $250 cash award; however, every teen who completed this incredible 10-day leadership training is clearly a winner!
The Devil Pups Youth Program for America was created in 1954 as a better way for teens to spend part of their summers in a military environment. The U.S. Marines were referred to as “Devil Dogs” in World War I by enemy troops for their battlefield accomplishments and their “never-give-up” spirit. The Devil Pups name is descended from this rich Marine Corps heritage.
The physical fitness test consists of a 1-mile run, sit-ups, pull-ups and push-ups. Specially screened and selected Marine Corps instructors encourage camp participants to complete tasks like working up from a 1-mile run to a 5½-mile beach run, 15-foot and 25-foot tower jumps into a swimming pool, and the legendary hike up Old Smokey, a mountain overlooking Camp Pendleton and the Pacific Ocean. At the culmination of the hike, a challenge coin ceremony was conducted at sunset, presenting each successful participant with a keepsake of their accomplishments during camp.
This year’s event was held at Camp Talega, a base within Camp Pendleton, where the teens were housed in historic Quonset huts seen in the 1986 movie Heartbreak Ridge starring Clint Eastwood. These Quonset huts also housed South Vietnamese refugees in the summer of the 1975 during Operation New Arrivals.
Most days at camp began at 0500 hours. Running, hiking, close-order drill, leadership training and swimming were followed by role model speakers and more physical training. They learned problem-solving techniques and team building. One night was spent on bivouac, which is much like a campout under the stars but without the campfire songs and marshmallows.
The participants come across other teens from around the western U.S., and many develop lifelong friendships from these shared experiences.
The Devil Pups Program is behaviorally oriented and tailored to build self-confidence and discipline through a series of mental and physical challenges. The program strives to develop in its participants qualities of confidence, courage, self-control, discipline and good citizenship. Teens also attend classes on history, first aid, leadership, teamwork, and respect for others, their family and their country.
Retired Marine Corps Colonel Trace Deneke, the Devil Pups Encampment Commander, stated that graduates realize they can accomplish much more in life than they even felt possible. He said commitment and perseverance are two valuable traits the program seeks to instill in those who ultimately graduate from camp. He also stated the program’s goal remains the same today as it was in 1954: “To develop better citizens, based on the philosophy of growth through challenge.”
LASD orientation, tryouts and applications for next summer’s Devil Pups Camp will begin Sunday, April 28, 2024, at Biscailuz Regional Training Campus.