Rappelling, water survival and weapons training are not your typical activities at summer camp. But for 85 young men and women, this week is a chance to learn a lot about themselves.
The West Virginia National Guard Youth Leaders Camp wraps up Friday at Camp Dawson in Preston County. The 15-18 year olds selected to participate are not lounging around the pool or taking leisurely hikes. This week is a type of boot camp mission to find out what they have buried deep inside of them.
Senior Master Sgt. Greg White is one of the platoon leaders. "In almost every camper that comes up here, it goes from ‘I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing’ to ‘Look what I’ve accomplished!’"
Camp Director Captain Allen Tackett, Jr is a former youth camper. He says the goal of the week is simple.
"We try to give them a taste of the military life. We teach them discipline, teamwork. We put them in a barrack situation where they have to clean up after themselves. It’s about valuable skills in life and problem solving."
One of the first things the campers learn is how to correctly make a bed. It’s something simple, but a lesson in discipline and a skill they can take home to impress their parents.
Tackett says many of the staff members at camp know what it’s all about.
"I have several people on my staff that are previous campers that are now RNs, they’re flight nurses, they’re working security forces at our base, they’re in the Army National Guard as well."
Cpt. Tackett and Senior Master Sgt. White say they hope the campers take home a new found respect for the military and a desire to serve their country by joining the National Guard.
White says the camp can really change lives.
He remembers a former camper who had been verbally abused much of his life. At the beginning the week, the camper cringed every time he was corrected, but "By the end of the week, this young man was leading the entire company."
The campers are made up of teenagers from West Virginia, Virginia, Ohio and North Carolina.