Officer training: we’ve come a long way…

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CADET BAND members from The Faithful Session, 1957 – top to bottom, left row, S/Captain Victor Newbould, Cadet Roger Craddock, Cadet Mervyn Morelock, Cadet Edward Covert, Cadet David Petersen. Top to bottom, right row, Cadet Rex McCulley, Cadet Fred Gibson, Cadet James Brown, Cadet William Phillips, Cadet Samuel Imai.
Photo courtesy of the Western Territorial Museum.


When the newly named Salvation Army expanded throughout the British Isles, organized training became necessary. In 1880 the Gore Road house was fitted up to take 30 women cadets, trained under the Booths’ 19-year-old daughter Emma. A year later, son Ballington was put in charge of a training home for men. The seven-week course was practical, and included slum work and peeling their own potatoes. Many had to be taught such social skills as eating properly with a knife and fork.

Training schools of the same order were soon established in New York and Cleveland. In 1888, National Commander Ballington Booth decided that each division should have its own training garrison.

The West’s first garrison was opened at 1630 Market Street in San Francisco, beginning with half a dozen “lads” and more to come. Captain and Mrs. John Willis were entirely in charge of their training as well as their meals. In 1890 the Adelphi Theater was leased to become the first garrison for women cadets. Staff Captain Libbie McAbee came from the East to take charge, assisted by Captain Clara Long.

Beginning in 1905, when a new Western headquarters was established in Chicago, some were sent there from the West Coast for training. The course then took nine months in a more formal setting, with a “side” system strictly separating men and women.

When Lt. Commissioner and Mrs. Adam Gifford came out in 1920 to establish the present Western Territory, no time was lost in training the 24 cadets of the aptly named Pioneer Session, housed in part of the headquarters building. Cadets plunged into open-air meetings around the city. At the time of their commissioning, 85 had been accepted for the second session.

Celebration greeted the dedication of the beautiful new training college on Silver Avenue in 1928. Unfortunately, the Depression moved in, and after six sessions the building had to be sold. There was no session in any of the U.S. territories in 1932-33 for lack of funds.

Wartime reduced the men in the class of ’42-’43 to just seven. The Liberty Session of 1944 had two men, both married. After 1947, cadets were allowed to have their children with them, rather than boarding them out with relatives.

When it became apparent that the nine-month course was no longer adequate, a two-year class was begun in 1960. With the doubled number of cadets and continued acceptance of married couples, housing became a priority. Though a dormitory building was leased, there was thought of relocating. The area of the school was increasingly unsafe, and a gunman shot two cadets on the street in 1974.

Commissioner Richard Holz sent Property Secretary Lt. Colonel Charles McIntyre on a quest for a new location for both headquarters and the training school. While nothing was found in the Bay Area, the Marymount College campus in Rancho Palos Verdes was chosen as a perfect site. The training college made the move in 1975, followed by headquarters the following year.

The most important changes since 1920 include elimination of the “side” system, the increase in technology, and the shift from mostly single cadets to largely married with children.

The West has helped lead the way among the territories in having the best technology available, the best computer training and office equipment, to help them face the complicated ministries of the outside Salvation Army. Most cadets earn an Associate in Arts in Ministries degree. Cadets come from a variety of backgrounds in preparation for the Army’s multicultural emphasis. A “Hispanic track” has been broadened to include supported classes for a variety of cadets having English as a second language.

With the new millennium came the designation as Crestmont College, offering continuing education and degree credits to officers in the field.

It appears that a cadet from 70 years ago would be comforted by some familiar aspects of training and amazed by other technological and social advancements of the present day.

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