By Reginald Rogers/ParaglideSeptember 3, 2010
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Each day Fort Bragg Soldiers wake up, don physical training or Army combat uniforms and perform their specified duties before returning home. Their daily experiences often are a mystery to their teenage children, until now.
More than 20 Fort Bragg teenagers arrived at the Tolson Youth Activities Center Aug. 24, to theoretically, trade in sneakers for combat boots as the post held its annual Teen Soldier for a Day event.
The event, which is in its third year, originated from one the post's youth leadership conferences, similar to a teen Army Family Action Plan, where participants discussed what the post could do for its kids, said Gerhardt Guevarra, who headed the program.
"One thing that was mentioned was that there wasn't anything for them to understand what their Soldier-parents do on a day-to-day basis," he said. "Based on that . . ., we came up with Teen Soldier for a Day, which gives them an opportunity to see some of the training that their parents go through."
Guevarra explained that they had a full day of events scheduled for the youth, including a trip to the engagement skills training simulator that gives them an opportunity to experience shooting at "enemy" Soldiers.
"In that engagement skills training area, they do the engagement skills training, which is a giant video game basically," he explained. "You've got a big screen and a line of rifles and here come the bad guys and you start shooting away. It saves on the ammo."
Guevarra said the teens also had the opportunity to experience the convoy training simulator, which features a simulated look at driving a humvee during convoy operations.
"They'll also get a chance to observe the humvee rollover training," he said. "We're not going to put them in the humvee and roll them over, but they'll get a chance to see that."
Some of the teens who arrived at the Tolson Center said they were excited about the chance to see what their parents do on a daily basis.
"I'm looking to have a lot of fun and to see what it feels like to be a Soldier," said Kerstain Carter, 15, a sophomore at Overhills High School in Harnett County. She said it was her first year participating in the Teen Soldier for a Day event, but she's hoping the experience will help in one of her high school classes.
"I think it will help me with JROTC," said Kerstain, who attended the event with her brother, Kameon.
"I'm looking forward to having fun and meeting new people, said Kameon, 14, a ninth-grader at Overhills High School. Kameon said he was excited about waking up early to sign up for the event.
The event began with the a trip to the post's airborne training towers, but damp weather and safety concerns cause the event to be scrapped. Instead, the teen converged at the obstacle course at Range 85, where they spent several hours navigating the various obstacles.
"It was a great experience," explained John Vwiek, a 14-year-old student at Hoke County High School. "Joining the military is one of my objectives after I get out of high school. It's what I want to do for a career and hopefully make something out of it. (This experience) basically shows me what a day-to-day consists of for military and it shows me how to push myself harder than I normally do," said Vwiek.
"It's really good for the kids to come out and get experience of seeing how the obstacle course and the other events work," explained Sgt. 1st Class Rodney Harris of the 37th Engineer Battalion, who served as noncommissioned officer in charge of the day's event. "It gives them a chance to see what their parents go through daily and it also gives them a picture of how a different side of the military works."
Harris said many of his subordinate NCOs were excited about working with the teens at the obstacle course and ensuring that they were knowledgeable about the obstacles. They were also on hand to answer any questions the teens may have had about Army life.
"The teenagers have an opportunity to see a lot of leadership from a lot of my young NCOs," Harris said. "They see how young these guys are and how they conduct themselves and I think that gives them motivation. It's important for them to have leadership and discipline, it is a key to success."