FORT BENNING, Ga., (July 16, 2014) -- When Staff Sgt. Rob McEver, a combat veteran with 20 years in the Army, returned home to Marietta, Georgia, after a deployment in 2011, he noticed many of the programs available to him as a youth were simply gone.

"I grew up in (Marietta) and I had a difficult childhood," McEver said. "Had it not been for the mentorship of several programs and people along the way, who knows where I would be today?"

McEver, with the help of others, organized the Recon Warrior Challenge for ages 9 to 18 years old. The program teaches first aid, land navigation, battle drills, customs and courtesies, and basic life skills. The idea is to foster teamwork, confidence, creativity and the ability for team members to think more independently.

"I knew that I had to do something to give back to my community, I wanted to mentor these kids like I had been mentored," said McEver, a Calvary Scout who was an advanced rifle marksmanship instructor before being assigned the Maneuver Center of Excellence's Headquarters and Headquarters Company. "You are either a part of the problem or part of the solution, so after a phone call to a recruiter friend of mine from Marietta, I was in contact with SAS Black Ops, an Air Soft arena company, and the Recon Warrior Challenge was born."

Most of the kids' perceptions of the military were from playing video games and Hollywood movies, McEver said. So he arranged a tour of Fort Benning for them. They visited Eagle Tower on Sand Hill, the Wood Simulation Center on Harmony Church, saw a static display of helicopters and toured the National Infantry Museum July 1.

"The goal is to inspire kids to dream, and through mentorship, have that dream turn into reality. The motto of Recon Warriors is that today's youth will be tomorrow's leaders. We instill the Army's Warrior Ethos and enforce strict codes of conduct with our members.

"The Army has been great for me and it is exactly what some of these kids want and need," he said.