Tots get a taste of Soldier's life at Children's Boot Camp
May 11, 2011
HOHENFELS, Germany, May 11, 2011 -- Leaping over barriers, crawling under netting and marching in formation, over 170 children attended the Girl Scouts/1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment Boot Camp, a half-day event aimed at giving young ones a taste of a Soldier's life.
Tammy Koepke, junior and cadet Girl Scout leader, said the idea came to her after a conversation between her husband Sgt. Aron Koepke and their 10-year-old daughter Megan.
"She asked him what college he went to in order to become a Soldier," Koepke said. "He said 'I didn't, I went to Basic Training.' I thought how many other kids probably ask their parents the same thing. So why not show the kids kind of what their mom and dad went through to get where they are today'"
Koepke said the Girls Scouts had been brainstorming ideas for some new events to sponsor within the community.
"We live on a very small base, and the things that go on here are sometimes limited, and we were just trying to step out of the box a little and bring something new to the community," she said.
Girls Scout event coordinator and co-junior leader Karissa Borders said they also wanted to make military life seem a bit more enjoyable to the children.
"Sometimes with the deployments and the other stressful things that go on with kids, if they can just have fun with something that mom and dad 'do,' it would be really a positive thing for the whole community," said Borders.
Under the guidance of Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, children formed into companies, ran through an obstacle course, participated in physical training, and learned the basics of parade marching.
"The response from the Soldiers wanting to volunteer is just amazing," Koepke said.
Command Sgt. Maj. Tony Winters, 1-4th Inf. Regt., and 15 other Soldiers volunteered to serve as "drill sergeants" for the event.
"It's an honor to me," said Winters. "I enjoy working with kids and the idea of bringing the kids out and doing a boot camp and letting them see what we do as Soldiers, I thought was an awesome opportunity."
Winters said when he mentioned the project to his Soldiers, the response was overwhelming.
"They just started throwing up their hands saying 'sergeant major, I want to help,'" he said.
The event included children in grades kindergarten through middle school. Several girls from the German Girl Guides, the German equivalent to the Girl Scouts, also attended.
"It's a great event," said Mini De Lamarter-Lefebvre, whose daughter participated in the days activities. "Kids want to do what their parents do. They put mommy's heels on. They watch daddy go out in the field, so they want to emulate their parents."
"What a great opportunity for mom and dad to spend time with their children and get the community involved," she said.
Borders said she's hoping the event draws some attention to what the Girl Scouts bring to the community.
"We'd like to be known for more than just our cookies," she laughed.
The Girl Scouts creed involves caring, responsibility and courage, and Borders believes in helping foster these characteristics in children.
"I do this for the girls so that they can have a positive group to be around, and so they can learn to make good choices and be a positive influence on their community and their environment," she said. "Girl Scouts is about building them up as individuals and possible leaders in the future, making them confident in what they can do."
Sgt. Enrique Medina, Headquarters and Headquarters Company , 1-4th Inf. Regt., enjoyed watching his son Aurelio go through the drill ceremony and the obstacle course.
"He's learning to stay with a team and work together," Medina said.
Zerina Coley, whose husband Staff Sgt. Donyual Coley recently deployed to Afghanistan with the 527th Military Police Company, had three children running the laps and flipping tires.
"I wanted them to gain an appreciation for what their dad does all the time," she said. "Now that he's downrange and he has to do this around the clock - they only get a little time to do it - but they'll have an idea."
As the day ended, the children formed up as a platoon and presented themselves for inspection to Lt. Col. Rafael A. Paredes, 1-4th Inf. Regt. commander.
Ten-year old Zach Wooden summed up his experience at boot camp with a sentiment that is undoubtedly echoed by many in the armed forces.
"It's a little tough being a Soldier," he said. "But it's worth it."