Cadets return to Crestmont campus—and the field

The 2020 fall quarter looks to be unlike any other.

By Karen Gleason–

The cadets arrived at the College for Officer Training (CFOT) at Crestmont in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, for the 2020-2021 school year with modifications for the COVID-19 pandemic. Perhaps the most notable difference: the new cadets of the Messengers of Reconciliation Session will not see much of their sister session. 

While the first-year cadets are taking classes online from the campus, the second-year Messengers of Grace remained on campus for one week before leaving for service and study in the field through Dec. 23.

“With COVID-19 continuing to put schools and colleges in jeopardy of in-person gathering, we decided to have the second-years return to their summer assignment or new assignments based on need,” said CFOT Training Principal Major Nigel Cross. “They will remain in these assignments through Christmas. Instead of having the cadets take online classes in their apartment on the CFOT campus, they can be associated with a corps, undertake all classes online and participate as they can in the corps. We view this as a win-win for the corps and the cadets’ training.”

The second-year cadets responded positively to this opportunity, noting the advantage of more field experience and remaining optimistic about the challenges of online classes.

“It is one thing to learn theory and how to apply it to our future ministry and it is another to learn the theory and be in ministry and actually put it into practice,” said Cadet Carl Esquivel, who returned to the Riverside (California) Corps, where he served this summer. “In a world that is changing every second, it is wonderful to see our capacity as an Army to adapt, including the ways in which we train and teach cadets. It is a wonderful feeling to be able to be in the field and do what I love doing the most, while still being trained.”  

Cross said they gave careful consideration to the second-year field assignments, making sure the corps have adequate housing and a vehicle for the cadets and their families. The CFOT classes are mandatory with online attendance required. All assignments and reading for courses are to be completed per the class syllabi.

“We do not want a short-term win at the corps to interfere with the long-term goal of a cadet being commissioned on time,” Cross said. “Corps officers will work with the cadets in scheduling participation at the corps taking into consideration CFOT classes and coursework requirements.”

Cross noted the special circumstance of this school year.

“With an open campus, and ‘shelter in place’ recommended, having the cadets based at a corps provides opportunities for corps ministry and training that would not be able to occur at CFOT,” Cross said. “If the cadets remained on campus, they would be confined to their apartments most of the time. We believe this distance learning approach is worth trialing under the current circumstances and better for the well-being of the cadets. We are not considering at this stage this approach to be normalized for future years.”

To keep the session’s sense of community strong, cadets gather online for a weekly assembly, discipleship group and Salvationism lectures. Other extracurricular activities will not be required. Their Christmas assignment begins Nov. 9, and they will be fully vested at the corps until their Christmas break begins on Dec. 23. The second-year cadets will report to CFOT Jan. 2, 2021, to complete their residential training.

For the cadets, then, “normal” does not in any way describe 2020.

“This year has been exceptionally unusual for our session, but it has strengthened our reliance and trust in God, as well as made us very flexible,” Cadet Adrianne Sherman said. “It is my greatest desire to be used by God, in any way he sees fit. Loving God and loving others is what it is all about!”

Cadets report from the field

Esquivel recently testified to The Salvation Army’s impact in the Riverside area.

“The corps is a huge part of the community,” he said, noting its partnerships with both private and public organizations that help fund its rental, utilities and food assistance programs. It also serves in Moreno Valley, where it runs an extensive homeless to work program.

“In this program, the relationship is very important,” Esquivel said. “The staff member recruits willing individuals experiencing homelessness and takes them around town cleaning the city; this in partnership with Waste Management.”

Cadet Matilde Esparza said the El Cajon (California) Corps, which opened the East County Red Shield Community Center last year, has been busy helping people affected by both the pandemic and the Valley fires. In addition to supplying meals for seniors, food boxes, pet food and diapers, the corps provides children with books and toys “with the vision to encourage youth despite difficulties during the pandemic.” 

Esparza expressed gratitude for those who help the corps support the community.

“It is a true blessing to see how 70 percent of all this process is most done by volunteers who are very dedicated to support The Salvation Army El Cajon Corps,” she said.

A lot is happening at the Santa Ana (California) Corps, where Cadet Nayeli Mercado is stationed. The corps is holding its Sunday service in the parking lot, with attendance averaging 150–200 people; the service is also available on Facebook. Several projects are underway: remodeling of the conference room, fellowship hall and nursery; and painting the red kettles.

Mercado said the corps is preparing for a double celebration: the kettle kickoff and the corps’ 50th anniversary. To raise funds, it’s planning a Mexican lunch.

“We will do two events—one on Nov. 8, more for the congregation, and the second for the community on Dec. 5,” she said. In both, we will sell tacos, and everything will be in the parking lot…to follow all the safety rules.”

Cadet Charles Copeland is serving at the Inglewood (California) Citadel Corps. 

“We are a small congregation with a large recovery, veteran and senior population,” he said.

Currently, the corps is preparing for the holiday season. For Thanksgiving, it will continue its tradition of partnering with the LA Lakers and the Lakers Foundation to provide 300 holiday food baskets to local families, and for Christmas, it will continue with the Angel Tree program, Adopt-A-Family and the Red Kettle Campaign.

“We are looking forward to partnering opportunities in the community for the Rescue Christmas campaign,” Copeland said.

Meanwhile, the corps has had virtual success. “Online worship service viewing has reached record numbers, putting attendance into the thousands since the pandemic started,” he said.

Cadet Christopher Rockwell said he has been “extraordinarily blessed” in his assignment at the Lodi (California) Corps. 

“I have grown profoundly and passionately in my recovery ministry here at the Lodi Hope Harbor emergency shelter,” he said. “I have been hosting 12-step Bible study meetings as time has allowed me to assist with corps ministry opportunities.”

He is looking forward to serving at the corp full-time during the Christmas season.

“The beauty is that God has placed me in the right corps, with delightful officers, and in a community that loves The Salvation Army and values our role here,” Rockwell said. “I have focused on growing my relationship with God as he provides me with a smooth balance of fieldwork combined with Crestmont schoolwork. I cannot express my joy enough, and it shows that God knows what I need when I need it by placing me here in a vibrant corps that serves a dynamic community.”

Here are the Fall/Christmas assignments for the Messengers of Grace:

Cadet Matilde Esparza—El Cajon Corps (California South)

Cadet Charles Copeland—Long Beach Citadel Corps (California South)

Cadet John Rodriguez Mercer—Redondo Beach Corps (California South)

Cadet Carl Esquivel—Riverside Corps (California South)

Cadet Andrielli Santos—San Pedro Corps (California South)

Cadet Nayeli Mercado—Santa Ana Temple Corps (California South)

Cadet Michele Dell’Olio—Chico (California) Corps (Del Oro)

Cadet Christopher Rockwell—Lodi (California) Corps (Del Oro)

Cadets Amber and Johnathan Herzog—Reno (Nevada) Corps (Del Oro)

Cadet Adi Sherman—Seattle Temple Corps (Northwest)

Cadets Jeff and Kristin Boyd—Tacoma (Washington) Corps (Northwest)

Cadet Melissa McQuade—Phoenix Kroc Center (Southwest Division)

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