Screaming Eagle Camp: Army kids, Soldiers team up for week
July 3, 2013
- "You've got to try new things. I just tried something new and it was awesome." - Skylar Stouffer, camper
- "Last year, I really connected with some of the kids and it impacts your life." -- Sgt. David Beadles, Soldier-counselor
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- 101st Airborne Division
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FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. -- High atop Fort Campbell's Sabalauski Air Assault School rappelling ramp, Skylar Stouffer slid his running shoes to the edge of the platform, holding tight with gloved hands to the green rope wrapped around his waist.
"I won't let you fall," said Sgt. Ben Huck, instructor, as he hooked Skylar to the ramp's rappelling rope. "It's impossible, the rope won't let you. Just lean back and start walking down."
The 11-year-old Skylar leaned back against the rope, testing it, before looking down the 14-foot structure to the ground. Seconds passed before he took a step of faith -- left foot, then right down the ramp, until he reached the earth, smiling.
"When you have to lean back, that's the scariest part," he said, after reaching the ground. "You've got to try new things. I just tried something new and it was awesome."
Skylar was among 50 children ages 10-12 at Screaming Eagle Camp last week. The trip to the Air Assault School Friday morning was the capstone to a week of fun for children of deployed Soldiers.
"My goal was to bring them out here, get them busy, keep them busy, keep them involved, keep them safe and let them be kids," said Shirley West, executive director of Armed Services YMCA, which hosts the camp. "Let them not have to focus on the fact that Mom or Dad is gone."
The week started June 23 and included activities at the campsite and off-site trips to Hooper Bowling Center on post, the Adventure Science Center in Nashville and Tie Breaker Park and Family Aquatic Center in Hopkinsville.
"Screaming Eagle Camp is more of a team-building camp, teaching kids to work in teams," West said. "We want them to learn how to work together and have fun at the same time."
The camp is headquartered at Camp Hinsch, located off Jordan Springs Road outside Gate 10. ASYMCA started taking applications for the camp in April. Priority is given to children who have a parent deployed. The 101st Airborne Division Association sponsored the camp.
Campers were divided into five teams of 10 students, ages 10-12. Each team selected a color -- orange, blue, red, yellow and green -- designed a flag and adopted a motto.
"That's how we work to build that team spirit -- being part of a unit," West said.
Teams also were assigned 25 Soldier-counselors from 1st and 2nd Brigade Combat Teams, 101st Airborne Division.
Sergeant David Beadles, 2nd BCT, was the only Strike Soldier at Screaming Eagle Camp. He volunteered to return this summer after being a counselor in 2012.
"Last year, I really connected with some of the kids and it impacts your life," he said. "Not only are we here to help them, it makes us feel great."
For camp counselor and mother, Pfc. Abby Roberts, 1st BCT, "it's really important to get military kids together…they have a lot more in common, more to talk about."
"The No. 1 rule, that's the most important thing -- that you have fun," Roberts said of the camp. "I hope that they get an experience of a lifetime."
Courtney Jones, 12, returned to Camp Hinsch this year because she enjoyed it last summer.
"I wanted to experience the outdoors again. It's fun to go on field trips," she said.
Matthew Decker, 11, heard about Screaming Eagle Camp from his mom and decided to check it out for the first time.
"I thought it would be really cool, so I signed up for it," he said. "[It's] awesome."
Bryce Payne, 12, said he was happy to be at camp again, but this time with his 10-year-old brother, Johnathan.
"My Family is moving to Germany in July. All we're doing this week at my house is packing," he said. "You get to be with friends that you may have already known; you get to make new ones. From my experiences last year, you can have a lot of fun on the field trips."
On Friday, Bryce and his fellow campers headed to Sabalauski Air Assault School, where they met Sgt. 1st Class William McBride, chief instructor.
The first stop on the two-hour tour was the 34-foot tower, where Air Assault instructors showcased several rappels. Then, McBride showed the group a 14-foot ramp nearby for them to test their rappelling skills.
"We want them to experience something they haven't experienced before," McBride said before the tour. "A little bit of rappelling [on the ramp]. It's kind of like a confidence builder that they'll be able to overcome [their fears]. Having a Family member in the military, they can have a better understanding [of their training.]"
While waiting to rappel, teams ran a timed obstacle course, viewed a static display of a Howitzer and Humvee and watched other campers go down the ramp.
Private 1st Class David Lindblad joined camper Lucas Wiesemann on top of the ramp.
"Come on Lucas, you can do it," Lindblad told the 12-year-old.
A little hesitation didn't last long as Lucas put one foot in front of the other and guided his body down the ramp with both hands on the rope.
Halfway down the ramp, Lucas glanced up so Lindblad could snap a photo as a memento of the feat.
"I have a massive fear of falling, so I was so afraid," Lucas said after the rappel. "Once you start stepping down, it's so easy. You just fly down. Now I know that nothing's gonna happen and how fun it is, I would definitely do it again."