News: W.Va. Army National Guard Teach National Guard Legacy During Mountaineer Boys State
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — With precision and patience, Eric Lundstrom draws thick black lines under Christopher Radcliffe’s eyes. He wipes his finger and dabs it in the forest green paint, slowly tracing over Radcliffe’s cheeks and painting along the contours of his friends jawbone. Applying face paint is a basic task of all military personnel and this is the first phase of Lundstrom and Radcliffe’s education about the National Guard.
The camouflage face painting, marching, handling M-16s and raising of the American Flag are all components that many citizens associate with the military, including the teenage boys participating in Mountaineer Boys State at Jackson’s Mill, this summer. Unlike the Challenge Academy at Camp Dawson and other structured military schools or camps, Mountaineer Boys State is not focused on developing discipline or correcting behavior, but rather it emphasizes the rights and responsibilities of being a citizen and this includes becoming knowledgeable about the National Guard.
The American Legion Mountaineer Boys State was created in 1936 andhas the distinction of having the 2nd oldest charter in the United States. The participants of Boys State are selected from a large pool of high achieving high school juniors and the selection criterion is rigorous and competitive.
Once selected, the participants, referred to as citizens for the duration of the camp, choose to participate in one of six career paths; political, legal, newspaper, banking, law enforcement and National Guard/Homeland security. These courses expose them to the rights, duties and responsibilities of being a citizen. The camp becomes its own state, and the citizens are elected to various offices where they conduct legislative sessions, court proceedings, bands and recreational programs.
“We emphasize that being in the National Guard means you have that responsibility as a soldier and we focus on supporting the state of West Virginia and the role the Guard plays in doing that,” explained Sgt. 1st Class William Parks, a National Guard recruiter and instructor at the camp. “The kids are at an age where they’re interested in the National Guard, whether they want to join or not, and we teach them basic information such as rank, weapons training and drill and ceremony so they get a taste of what National Guard soldiers are trained on.”
The weeklong camp is very structured and the National Guard instructors, all volunteers, waste little time teaching the citizens all they need to know about the responsibilities of being a soldier.
“We’re training them to be leaders in all aspects of government and life,” explained Parks. “We try to emphasize that the National Guard plays a much more active and positive role in the local, state and national government than many people realize.”
The citizens loved learning about the National Guard and their eyes lit up when the National Guard instructors taught them how to conduct litter carries use a compass and stay in step while marching.
“We have fun with the National Guard representatives and we do a lot of stuff unique to the rest of the camp,” said William Mohr, a senior at Petersburg High School. “There was a lot of incentive to choose the National Guard career path at camp because we all knew almost anything we would do would be unique and fun.”
From morning wake to evening chow, the boys are 100 percent military participants. They raise the American flag each morning according to military customs and lower it each night. They even tried on gas masks and learned to operate as a team during the litter carry portion.
“From start to finish, the boys look forward to all the training we do,” said Parks. “They are very eager to put the skills they have learned to use in the scenarios at the end of the week. They can’t wait to get involved in everything and have the rest of the camp see what they have done and what they can do.”
The camp ended with a two-day scenario, in which all the different career paths united to conduct realistic scenarios. The different responsibilities of each career became increasingly obvious to the students as the scenario played out. As a result, the students learned the importance of working as a team to ensure the nation prevails.
As the sun set and the citizen soldiers retreated to their bunks for their last night, the National Guard instructors hoped their challenge of educating today’s youth about the full extent of the National Guard was accomplished. Whether in war time or peace time, the National Guard’s role is ever evolving and the responsibility entrusted in the citizen soldiers of West Virginia is what Parks and others hope to pass on to the generation of tomorrow.
Date Posted:06.19.2012 20:53
Location:WESTON, WV, US
Hometown:BECKLEY, WV, US
Hometown:CHARLESTON, WV, US
Hometown:ELKINS, WV, US
Hometown:FAIRMONT, WV, US
Hometown:HUNTINGTON, WV, US
Hometown:LEWISBURG, WV, US
Hometown:MORGANTOWN, WV, US
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