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Youth Camps at Camp Dawson

14 June 2008 -- CHARLESTON, WV - The West Virginia National Guard hosted its annual Kids Kamp and Youth Leaders Camp at Camp Dawson June 14-20th. Several members of the 130th AW volunteered their time helping out as counselors, medics, staff and instructors.
This was Kids Kamp's 18th year and Youth Leaders Camp went in to its 42nd year. . Both camps were started to give National Guard youth some insight to what their parents and family members do during drill, trainings and deployments. This exposure of youth to military life-style has proved to be a beneficial recruiting tool for the guard.
Staff Sgt. Eddie Shinn, of the 130th Fire Department and National Guard Chemical Survey Team, brought his son Eddieray. It was Sgt. Shinn's first experience as a Kids Kamp counselor. Some of his duties included assisting the campers to assemble Star Base rockets, watching carefully as they towered through the inflatable obstacle course, building team spirit, and many other daily activities. Mountain State University returned this year and put on a forensics display. Members of Kids Kamp often grow up with the camp and return to attend Youth Leaders Camp when they are old enough.
Campers for both camps were subject to extremely long, action-filled days that started around 6:00 am and didn't wind down until 10:30 pm. Counselors and staff endured some early mornings getting the kids up and preparing them for the day. Once the day started, they were on duty full-time until lights-outs. There was night-time staff to supervise overnight in the barracks where the kids stayed.
Staff Sgt. Kris Rader of the Medical Squadron commented, "The days were long, but went by quick and we got to experience watching the kids grow." He was an instructor, or a "TAC", as they call it for Youth Leaders Camp, where campers are high-school age. The week for these older kids is a quasi-basic training experience with some fun thrown in there. A typical schedule for them was waking up early for physical fitness, drill and ceremony training, and classroom instruction. Campers have almost no free time, as they are kept busy all day to prepare for their graduation competition at the end of the week. However, the instructors did squeeze in some well-deserved time for swimming, water balloons and a dance at the end of the week. The strong bonds formed between the instructors and the campers keep the same kids coming back every year. The confidence level in these kids from the time they arrive at camp to the last day is phenomenal.
Camp starts off the same and ends the same for both camps every year. The kids arrive and wonder what they have gotten themselves into. By the end of the week, they can't remember what life was like back at home.
Neither camp could have been so successful had it not been for the service members who gave their time and dedication. At the end of the week it was all smiles, hugs and even some tears as the campers started their journey back home with their families.
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