By: Cassidy Van Vooren
Sometimes students look in front of the School’s flagpole and see a line of cadets, with their shoulders back, and eyes up front, seemingly watching the sun set behind Fairview street. They see the disciplined young men and women shout back a booming, “Yes Sir!” as their commanding officer, Sergeant Brockman, continues to pace in front of them while yelling at them to get it together. Many people think that standing in a line, and having a military officer yelling orders at you is all that Special Operations is. But I’m here to tell you that it's so far from that. Special Operations Division (or SOD for short) is so much more than meets the eye.
This year I had the privilege of joining the Special Operations Division right here at Samueli. First of all, the burning question must be answered. What is SOD? Special Operations Division is a program/after school-club that is a great way to either prep for a career in the services, or simply learn better leadership skills and how to help out in your community. It’s a club that is often compared to ROTC programs and clubs that you may find at other schools. Fellow Cadet Clayton Diaz, said that the reason he believes SOD was started was to teach students confidence and self discipline. He also believes that that is exactly what he is learning.
Most students think that in joining a club/program like this, you’re pledging that you’ll join the military, and are automatically branded with a military insignia on your arm. But that’s definitely not the case. I joined SOD so that I could gain better leadership skills and to better serve my community. I also did it because I love my country, and SOD represents a willingness to serve it. The killer camo uniforms helped a little too.
What we do in SOD is meet after school at least three times a week, and do PT (physical training), learn how to function as a unit be it practicing drill or about faces, learn about the branches of the military and it’s history, occasionally do service projects, and plan fun outings together.
The first SOD function I attended, we had the privilege of joining the local PAAL (Santa Ana’s Police Athletic & Activity League) after school kids program, for a run from our school to their base of operation. There were a bunch of kids that we got to hang out and have fun with while we got over a mile of a good workout. The kids were excited to give us a tour of their League’s sight when we got there. It was a truly rewarding experience, getting to help the community and have while fun doing it. After that I knew I had joined the right club.
SOD’s ranks consists of Cadets and Squad Leaders. The particular titles, that go further than just Cadet and Squad Leader, based off of what year you are in, or if you’ve been promoted by the Sergeant. For instance, anyone who is a freshman cadet is called a ‘Boot’ and if promoted down the line can become a Squad Leader that’s a ‘Junior Platoon Sergeant’ which is the highest ranking title below Sergeant Brockmen. But just as anyone can advance in rank, anyone can lose their rank or position if they slack off in their duties or grades.
The Sergeant is an actual U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant, who devotes his time to this after school program simply to help those of us who want to join the military to be prepared, or help those of us who want to be good leaders and citizens become that. He has years of experience under his belt, and is very passionate about helping us gain confidence as a unit and as individuals. Sergeant Brockmen always tries to remind us that we can change the world, and that we will. The Sergeant, by his example, has inspired a deeper sense of pride in my country, as well as pride in those who have sacrificed to serve it. Sometimes if someone is walking by the unit too fast, may think our commanding officer is yelling at us, when in fact he is passionately giving an inspirational talk. His main currencies are Speed Intensity and Volume.
One of the many things that SOD has the privilege and duty of doing, that you may know of, is raising the country’s flag up to proudly to wave. We also have the responsibility of taking it down and ceremoniously folding it, as well as making sure it is flown half mast if tragedy strikes our community or country. Thus, you see SOD’s contribution to the school’s everyday routine when you walk past that flagpole on your way to class.
If you ever look up to that flag and spare a moment’s thoughts on joining Special Operations, know that the steps to joining are as simple as asking a member.
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