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Gallery: Devil Pups Give Teens a Taste of Life in the Corps

The non-profit organization has been teaching teens self-confidence and teamwork since 1954.

Thursday was Day One at Camp Pendleton for introducing teen Devil Pups to the Marine Corps lifestyle, but Mark Arambula of Lemon Grove had already shown his determination by dropping 50 pounds to pass the program’s fitness test.

The 15-year-old who attends San Diego High School exercised daily for a year to meet the physical requirements, and Thursday joined 300 other youth from throughout the California, Arizona and Nevada who will be encamped at Camp Pendleton for 10 days of discipline, leadership training and team building.

“I want to be a firefighter,” Arambula said, "so I want to learn from this environment.” Although he anticipates “a lot of yelling,” he said, he expects to have fun.

Thomas M. Vetter, a retired lieutenant colonel who has been with the Devil Pup program for 51 years, said teens from 14 to 17 learn self-confidence, teamwork and respect for themselves and others. The program began in 1954.

“We each core values and ethics,” Vetter said. “It’s more of a mentoring system. We teach them to become better citizens.”

The participants get up before dawn, listen to speakers, run one to five miles near the coastline, maneuver obstacle courses, and climb a high peak, Old Smokey. Jumping from a 30-feet tower into 15 feet of water below has been an obstacle that have kept some youth from finishing the program on Day 8, instructors said.

“We don’t want them to give up,” said Sgt. Lakin Booker, who has taken on the role of drill sergeant this summer. “We give them support and help them push past (mental) walls.”

But they do try to give the participants a “boot camp-like experience,” Booker said, adding, “Every kid should go through this program. It instills discipline, and they learn to work as a team.”

Volunteer Katherine Kinnear , 17, of Newport Beach went through the encampment last month. “The hardest thing for some kids is adapting to people telling them what to do,” she said.

Kinnear said she liked the program because “I now have confidence in myself and my abilities.”

The Devil Pups is a non-profit organization not sponsored by the Marine Corps.

Ed Sorrels July 21, 2012 at 09:10 PM
"HURA" What a wonderful program for these young people, They will get insight to what goes on in the real world and be betterf for it, When my grandson is old enough I hope to get him into the program as the values taught to these young people will stay with them for the rest opf their lives as they have with me, (U.S.M.C.52/60) they will help shape their lives for the better and increase their belief in themselves. Last year was the 236th. birthday of the Corps and we Marines have truely served this country on every shore and in every clime for all those years, I say to all our budding young Marines, SEMPER FI and welcome aboard.
Paige Austin July 21, 2012 at 11:41 PM
Great photos! You can practically smell that sergeant's breath!
Eric Bergstrom July 22, 2012 at 05:46 PM
My son Alec went through this program 2 years ago and it was one of the most memorable "summer camp" experiences of his life. They push the kids more than they've ever been pushed in their lives. They shave the boys' heads, make them dive off of a 40' tower. March them until they have blisters and can't go anymore. And it all culminates in a long march up a steep hill called the widow maker or something like that. AND HE LOVED IT. It was a very emotional and bonding experience for the kids. HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS.
Mark Arambula April 08, 2014 at 12:22 AM
Definitely one of the greatest expieriances of my life knowing i failed once and didnt give up and came back next year and tried again and passed Thank You Devil Pups :)

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