News: Army child camp: CAB helps pilot program
Story by Sgt. Jonathan Thibault
DECKERS, Colo. - Screams of joy and team mottoes resonated from more than 38 Fort Carson children, as they traveled to Camp Shady Brook in Deckers, with military volunteers and YMCA staff members, March 27.
Fourteen Soldiers from 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, volunteered to be chaperones for the YMCA’s first pilot military-child camp held in Colorado.
“This program is the first of its kind in our region,” said Drew Aquino, military outreach director, Armed Services YMCA Pikes Peak Region. “It is a camp to teach military kids about resiliency. We teamed up with 4th CAB unit ministry teams to pilot this program, to help military kids dealing with military life stressors caused by deployments, social and emotional issues. It’s not a counseling session, it’s just a camp experience to allow the children to enjoy Colorado and learn something while doing it.”
Camp Hero was designed and piloted at Fort Carson because it is one of the bigger installations in the Army, said Aquino.
“Originally, this program was designed to be an after-school program,” he said. “But when kids get out of school, they’re tired and most don’t have the patience to want to learn how to cope with stressors. This is why we take them out of their norm and into a fun learning environment. If we can assess the success of this program at a large fort like Fort Carson, we can assume that it will be successful nationally.”
Sgt. 1st Class Edgar Alvarado, head Camp Hero chaperone and battalion safety noncommissioned officer, 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion, 4th Aviation Regiment, 4th CAB, was in charge of the Fort Carson chaperones.
“I am in charge of the chaperones from 4th CAB,” said Alvarado. “Our responsibilities were to keep accountability of all the children and help the YMCA staff with some of the planned activities. We are also responsible for making sure they stay safe and make sure they are taken care of.”
Many confidence-boosting activities were used at camp to bring the children out of their shells and teach them how to approach their personal issues, said Alvarado.
“The teaching basis of all obstacles or ranges is to help the children learn to integrate with other military children and establish a team relationship,” said Alvarado. “Ultimately, we want the children to translate these skills into overcoming life obstacles that affect them physically, emotionally and mentally.”
Activities included rock-wall climbs, balance beams and archery ranges.
Sgt. Brian Gilbert, UH-60 Black Hawk crew chief, Company C, 2nd GSAB, 4th Aviation Regiment, and his wife, Jenn Gilbert, chaperoned the camp two of their children attended.
“It is awesome to see the children having fun with large smiles on their face,” said Brian Gilbert. “My children love this camp atmosphere. They are mingling with the other children and are enjoying nature with other military children. This is something that Jenn and I support because it teaches us, as military parents, just as much as it teaches our children.”
Capt. Don Fulton, chaplain, 52nd Engineer Battalion, taught the children classes on resiliency.
“The classes are centered on overcoming life’s obstacles,” said Fulton. “We set obstacles on a set path in which the children could walk down easily. But then we blindfolded them and had their teammates guide them through. This exercise teaches them that life’s events can change the way they maneuver in life, and sometimes we need help to overcome those changes to reach our goals.”