Along with 2017 graduate Faith Melton, seniors Seth Taylor and Kort Bravo spent time at CHP boot camps this summer

While many of their peers were sleeping in this summer, Taft High seniors Seth Taylor and Kort Bravo and 2017 graduate Faith Melton were getting up at 3 a.m. to the screams of drill instructors. Five of them. By 5:30 a.m. they had run two miles and sweated through a couple of hours of boot camp-style exercises including hand-to-hand combat at the CHP Academy in Sacramento.

During the weeklong boot camp June 18-24, they learned a great deal about respect, they changed they way they live their lives, and they picked up a couple of great nicknames. One hundred high school seniors from Bakersfield to Redding to Ventura attended the cadet-training program.

The trio was the first from Taft High to attend the summer CHP academy but more students plan to go and “we might even go back,” Kort said. They learned of the opportunity through Tom White’s law enforcement class. Neither boy plans on becoming a CHP officer, even though Seth’s dad is one. Both thought it would look good on a resume and be good for character building. Seth wants to become a firefighter and Kort wants to earn a business degree in college.

After the rude awakening in the middle of the night in their dorms, and the rigorous physical training outdoors, the students spent much of the day in the classroom learning about different laws. Then there were the marching drills, like soldiers. There were the push-ups and the standing. They learned to bend their knees so they would not pass out.

What stood out to the boys were the extreme precision required and the no excuses allowed. “Everything was set a certain way. You had to sit clockwise in the dining room. Hold the tray a certain way,” Seth said. “Everything was organized,” Kort added. “Very organized,” added Seth.

“You could not look the officers in the eyes,’ Seth said. If you did they would say things like: “Are you staring me down. Do I owe you money? Are you mad dogging me.’ You had to look through them.”

Then there was the screaming. The night after the first day “it was quiet but you could hear them screaming in your head,” Seth recalled. “It was an experience. How far I can push myself physically and mentally?”

Cadets were only allowed to use their cell phones for one or two hours a night, IF they asked for them correctly starting with “Explorer cadet Taylor, sir.” If cadets made any mistake like wearing a cap indoors or not wearing one outdoors, they had to write essays on blank typing paper but writing in super-straight lines. Kort should know about respect. He wrote five pages about it.

As the week progressed, the instructors eased up. Sergeant Franklin was the coolest, they agreed. He was the one who came up with their nicknames. “Cadet Taylor, you have some long eyelashes. What do you use on them?” Seth knew he had to agree and come up with something so he said, “Maybelline.” A nickname was born. Kort Bravo became the cartoon character “Johnny Bravo.”

“Physically and mentally it was the hardest thing I have ever done,” Johnny Bravo said. “You have to stay clam even when people are yelling at you. It changed us for the better.”

All three Taft students graduated from cadets to Explorers, White said.