Family Life Positive at CFOT
Cadet Families Thrive During Officer Training
by Frances Dingman –
What is it like for a family to pull up stakes and live for two years in an institutional setting? Three couples from the Faithful Intercessors Session graciously took time during finals week to tell us how it is. Though their backgrounds differ widely, their reactions are similar.
Cadets Keith and Robin Bottjen had owned their own home in Hesperia, Calif., for seven years. There was a lot to walk away from: almost an acre of yard, a pool–and a dog. As Keith’s job became less satisfying, they began to think about life as officers. Serving as corps helpers and camp directors for the Sierra del Mar Division was a valuable learning experience, and helped them feel that they were making the right choice.
How about their children–Nicole, 14, Koby, 11, and Rachael, 8. The youngest, Rebekah, 1, arrived while they were here at the school. The children were “excited about it, and adjusted fast.” They were soon involved in school activities, and Nicole plunged right into the choir at Peninsula High. Keith’s schedule allowed him to go for a weekend trip as a chaperone–another learning experience.
Though they admit being a little unsettled at first about living on the third floor, so far away, they now know “the kids are right here. We know who their friends are, and we don’t panic when we can’t find them right away.”
They note they were used to cooking for themselves, and sometimes miss that, but they find the menus good and varied. One wished-for convenience is a phone in the quarters, as cell phones don’t work here behind the hill.
Of course, children get sick, particularly the smaller ones, and someone must stay home with them. Mothers and fathers alternate at this time so they can keep up with their classes.
In many ways, Cadets Alex and Vicky Villanea had a different situation. Their family occupies five rooms at the cadet housing. Though the Villaneas had felt the call to officership in Chandler, Ariz., there were worries about taking classes in English. The first year was not easy, she confesses. On the other hand, Jean Paul, 15, Jean Pierre,13, and Stephanie, 12 found English no problem and happily entered school life. The children find living here fun, and enjoy the activities with cadets’ and officers’ kids such as the Crestmont Youth Corps. At Peninsula High, Jean Paul is “into computers and basketball.” Their parents enjoy the safety of life on the campus.
“It looked pretty spacious to us,” say Cadets Beau and Mandy Perez. Cadet life, we might add, offered no fears to a couple who had both graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. They came here from the Island of Guam, where they decided that The Salvation Army offered the best avenue of service for them. Their quarters seem roomy in comparison to their home on the island.
Both parents had done a little teaching on Guam, and were happy about the atmosphere of Point Vicente Elementary School here in Palos Verdes, which Lydia, 9, and Gloria, 7, attend. (Abigail is 3). They found the principal at to be very sympathetic to the Army and to their unusual schedule. Beau regrets that this same schedule prevents them from being as involved with the P.T.A. and other parents’ activities as they would like to be.
They are pleased with the education the girls are receiving, and the family rule is, “No homework for us until the girls have done theirs and are in bed.” Fortunately, their children are used to an early bedtime.
The Perez’s have no fears about their children being unhappy in family care. There are so many things to do after school, and besides, their friends are there. Another Perez is expected in August.
What is it like to be the children of a cadet couple? For many of their children, this is their first move–the first of many to come as members of officer families.
The family care center, under the watchful eye of Captain Gwen Jones, aims to give the parents peace of mind in which to go through training. “One aim of family care,” says Jones, “is to balance out the changes all of the children are having in their lives.” In the lower age classrooms this month the theme is transportation, with moving vans on the bulletin board and a large, 3-D passenger plane with children’s faces in the windows. Children had a hand in these displays, with some guidance from the teachers.
Children are divided by age, with an attendant for each group. Numbers vary from year to year, and at present there are only two little boys in the toddler room. They join the pre-schoolers for some activities.
The “middlers” room (third, fourth and fifth grade) has a foosball game along with other tables and seating. The goal is to have three computers for each classroom. There is a spacious room which can hold enough chairs for group meetings such as Sunday school assemblies and music practice.
When asked about their wishes for the future, Jones said an inside recreation area would be desirable, or part-time use of a cadet gym should one ever be built. Before the present family care center was built in the late ’80s, the children were in two rows of rooms now used as dormitory space.
What about older children?
Family care also accommodates children up through junior high after school. At present there is need of a roomier place for teens to gather in the afternoon. There is a classroom attached to the terrace (dining) room where there are some computers, tables and chairs for high school age, with some supervision. Officer and cadet parents take turns driving the vans that take them to their schools, and day care staff brings them back. Accommodation is made for after-school activities such as music and sports, and carpooling takes care of extra pickups. Some families come from small communities, and the teenagers find the large Peninsula High School both challenging and maybe a little scary at first–who wouldn’t? Children are encouraged to have schoolmates over in the afternoon when arrangements are made with their parents.
Like their parents, the children have made lifetime friends, and will take with them vivid memories of living at the College for Officer Training.
Photos by Sue Warner and John Docter