Devil Pups are celebrating their 60th anniversary this year and still accomplishing their mission to challenge, educate and help young boys and girls of all backgrounds to learn self-confidence and responsibility for their actions.
The organization’s concept started in 1953 when retired Marine Corps Col. A. Duncan Shaw learned that a group of teenagers had burned an American flag at a local Los Angeles high school. Along with other officers, Shaw approached the Commandant of the Marine Corps about forming an organization to help the youth. Camp Pendleton, Calif., agreed to help as long as Shaw and the officers formed their own non-profit organization.
When it came to naming the new organization, the Marines recalled the Germans referring to them as teufelhunds or Devil Dogs on the battlefields of France in 1918,
because they were in awe of their commitment, drive, determination and tenacity.
Since 1954 more than 51,000 children have graduated from the 10-day course at Camp Pendleton.
We do about 10-12 weekends of training here in the Antelope Valley before we send the boys and girls to Camp Pendleton, said Eric Lewis, Liaison Representative for the Antelope Valley. We go training crazy. Some Liaison Representatives don’t train at all, we probably over train but that is how we do it.
Opportunities have leaped in technology, information and opportunity over the past 60 years but yet many of today’s teens find it just as hard to be self-motivates and self-disciplined as the teens of the 1950s.
A lot of attention is focused on underprivileged kids but we go for those who are goal orientated – those that truly want to grow and change for the better, explained Lewis. When you are trying to get a scholarship or into a college, they look at extra activity and Devil Pups has great influence on a resume. More than 3,000 teens apply for the 600 openings each year.
Although the organization is modeled after the Marine Corps in the principles of discipline, leadership and teamwork, it is not a Marine Corps recruiting program. Teens are inspired and motivated to become the best at whatever they choose to become. They are taught to take life by the horns, building their dreams one day at a time instead of waiting and wishing that their dreams would someday come knocking on their door.
The philosophy of the program was that a young boy could be as rough and tough as any situation requires yet remain mannerly, physically and mentally adept and respectful of himself, others his flag and authority. In 1998 Devil Pups went co-ed and welcomed its first platoon of girls. More than 1,600 female Devil Pups have graduated the program.
Rio Duran, 16, from Pete Knight High School also completed the program and earned the Physical Fitness award for placing in the top five percent of her graduating class.
When she was approached by her mother with the assumption that Duran’s best friend Claudia Castro would be going to a boot camp for misbehaved children and was asked if she would accompany her friend for support, Duran was quick to take on the challenge and with confidence said, Sure, it sounds like fun.
She soon learned that the camp was for children who do well in school and are good products of society.†Though she did not like getting up so early in the morning she adjusted with ease.
Our trainers were young and it seemed as though they came straight from boot camp so I think they put us through some of what they went through. It was a challenge having five personalities coming at her but Duran stood strong. She once thought that what some refer to as back-talking was a form of expressing feelings, she now sees it as being disrespectful and has learned better communication skills and says she is more respectful of others.† I am grateful for the program; it has helped me understand a little bit of what I will go through whenever I go through basic training for the Navy. She plans on becoming a naval doctor.
It is important to give children an insight of a good challenge and allow them to seek goals for themselves, said her mother Blanca Duran, who has 24 years of military service with the Army and will soon embark on a new challenge working for the working for the Southern Regional Medical Command as Chief Operations Sergeant in Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas.
When Walt Disney heard of the program he was so impressed that he sketched out a figure of the Disney character Pluto on a napkin wearing a red cape and holding two pitch forks. To this day it is the only Disney character that is licensed to be used outside the Walt Disney Company.
At a recent Palmdale City Council meeting, Mayor James Ledford, Devil Pups President and CEO Richard Linsday and other official dignitaries presented 11 graduates with certificates.