JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - Being a military child has its challenges. One of those challenges is understanding their mom or dad's role as a Soldier. At least one group of children at Joint Base Lewis-McChord is ahead of their peers in doing just that.

Fifty-two children, ages 5 to 12, participated in the third annual deployment camp, hosted by 555th Engineer Brigade. The two-day camp gave children a closer look at what their Soldier-parents do on a daily basis by teaching them the basics of Soldiering and by sending them on a mock deployment.

Campers were divided into six companies, each one equipped with a company motto and guidon. Each company had enlisted Soldiers play the roles of company commander and first sergeant, with a camper selected as the guidon bearer.

Camp started off bright and early Aug. 5 with an enlistment ceremony and physical fitness training and a course teaching them how to march and call cadence.

Once the training was completed, campers learned about the significance of a casing ceremony by having one of their own in conjunction with a deployment ceremony. Following the ceremony, children "deployed" by bus from 555th Engr. Bde. Able Field to the Danger Zone Paintball Range, where they received a kid-friendly version of Basic Marksmanship Instruction. Armed with paintball guns and marshmallow guns, campers received the first of many lessons on what it takes to be a Soldier.

"The purpose of the camp is to give children better tools and a heightened ability to cope with the stresses of multiple deployments, and give them a better understanding of the hard work their Soldier does on a daily basis," said Erin Tarpley, 555th Engr. Bde., family readiness support assistant.

After completing the BMI portion of training, campers moved out to "Bahji-Ville," a mock city in what seemed like miles away from JBLM. Tasks at Bahji-Ville included a scavenger hunt (in lieu of land navigation), physical training, writing letters home and eating Meals Ready to Eat.

Campers spent hours practicing movements and cadences in preparation for their return to Able Field, where they were reunited with their parents during a welcome home ceremony. Each camper received a fleur-de-lis medallion, symbolizing the successful completion of deployment camp, and was treated to a pizza party.

For Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Young, playing the role of command sergeant major for the battalion was a fun way to teach children about what their parents do.

"They're still young and don't always understand what (mom and dad) mean when they say they have to stand in formation or why they have to wake up and take off for PT at 5:30 in the morning," Young said. "I think they got a general idea now and had fun doing it."

Young also said he sees a lot of potential in the campers as future Soldiers.

"Some of them actually took it pretty seriously," Young said. "There are quite a few that are really good and right on it."

Laura M. Levering is a reporter with Joint Base Lewis-McChord's weekly newspaper, the Northwest Guardian.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16