Children put through paces at Boot Camp for Heroes
Elianna Crain, 11, center, points to her target, taking aim with a water balloon, as Spc. Garrett Hillers, 4th Sqdn., 4th Cav. Regt., 1st ABCT, left, and Elizabeth Crain, 6, right, look on during Boot Camp for Heroes June 11 at Custer Hill Parade Field. Photo by: Julie Fiedler, POST.
Story by: Julie Fiedler
1ST INF. DIV. POST
"Get ready. Get set. Go, go, go, go, go, go, go!"
As Soldiers sweated the competition across a variety of sporting events during Victory Week, children got a taste of Army life as they ran from station to station during Boot Camp for Heroes June 11 at Custer Hill Parade Field.
"Basically, it's kind of like esprit de corps for Family members and their children," said Capt. Victor Fields, fire support officer, 4th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, who organized the event. "We didn't want to make it as realistic as the Army but just a fun event with some Army tasks in it ... Everyone here is excited to see smiling faces on little children."
First, children had to report for a briefing where they learned the lay of the land.
"Your No. 1 rule is you've got to have fun," Sgt. 1st Class David Thetford, 4th Sqdn., 4th Cav. Regt., 1st ABCT, told a pair of fresh-faced recruits, ages 2 and 8, before sending them off to various stations spread across the field.
Children were taught how to salute and report for duty, which they had to do at every station.
Then children learned the 1st Infantry Division song, which they had to sing nicely and loudly before they could head to get their faces painted, Fields said.
"You got to get prepared for combat – get your war paint on," he said.
From there, children navigated an obstacle course featuring a low crawl, tire run, physical training like jumping jacks and squats, and an inflatable bouncy house obstacle course before heading to a water balloon station.
"We made bunkers out of tires and put up a target out there they try to hit," Fields said.
For Elianna Crain, 11, the water balloon station was her favorite.
"It's really fun," Elianna said. "We went through the obstacle course and that was fun. I learned that Army men do that to get fit and go through … any place and not be seen."
Children finished out the boot camp experience with some light refreshments.
While the activities were fun for the children, the event provided a way for the Soldiers to give back, said Chief Warrant Officer Michael Wyderka, 601st Aviation Support Battalion, Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Inf. Div., and president, mid-America chapter, Warrant Officers Association.
"So much focus is put on our deployments and how much time we spend away from home, that when you do something like this for the kids – that their parents can come and then watch them do it and see what mom or dad might do, whether basic training or just doing physical fitness – it's just something that puts the spotlight on the kids," Wyderka said. "Since the Army cares about Families as well as mission, they always tell us to put Families first, and kids are a big part of our Families."
The event provided an engaging and fun way for children to learn about the Army, said Maura Gondek, military spouse.
Gondek brought her three daughters out to enjoy the festivities and give them a taste for what their father does as a Soldier.
"I thought it would be a good exposure … to some of the Army stuff that their dad does," she said. "They seemed to enjoy it all."
The event was made possible thanks to support from the Soldiers of 4th Sqdn., 4th Cav. Regt., 1st ABCT; Warrant Officers Association; Survivor Outreach Services and Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office, Fields said.
"These guys put their heart and soul into this, making it what it is. These guys really rise to the occasion," he said.
"I'm so glad that (4th Sqdn., 4th Cav. Regt.) was tasked with this to make it a success," Wyderka added.