By John B. SnyderJuly 31, 2012
WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. -- To see the Watervliet Arsenal commander dance and weave through an onslaught of questions during his recent visit to one of his operational areas this month brought chuckles to many who observed this spectacle and giggles to those who asked the questions.
No one ever said that command was easy and when someone on the installation asked Col. Mark F. Migaleddi during that question and answer session just what he does every day, a thinner-skinned commander may have cringed and buckled from the pressure -- but not Migaleddi. He simply smiled and responded back to the seven-year-old child.
"My job is to ensure that we manufacture products that will improve the chances of our soldiers coming home safely and to provide protection to everyone on the arsenal to include you," Migaleddi said to the inquisitive child.
During a twenty-minute visit to the Arsenal's Summer Camp program, Migaleddi provided an overview of what the Arsenal does to support the warfighter, as well as answered questions that ranged from Migaleddi's personal life to what color does the other team wear. The other team in this question referred to the uniform that is worn by those who are fighting against U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
One of Migaleddi's more interesting responses came from a question regarding if he always wanted to be a Soldier.
"When I was a kid, I wanted to be a dolphin trainer because I loved to swim," Migaleddi said to an audience that seemed delighted by his response. "In the end, however, I decided to follow in my father's footsteps and make a career in the Army."
About 45 children, ranging 6-14 years old, participate in the Arsenal's Morale, Welfare, and Recreation or MWR summer camp program that starts in late June and ends in late August. Some of the children have been coming here for five years and several of the camp's counselors have also made the Arsenal part of their summer for many years.
"It is such a pleasure to work with a great team and the kids are unbelievably great kids," said Jennifer Lewicki who is in her third year working at the summer camp.
Lewicki, who teaches 10th grade at Colonie High School, added that there is a special innocence with such a young group that is very refreshing to her.
Fellow camp counselor, Laurol Bartlett, echoed Lewicki's comments.
"I have been working the Arsenal's summer camp for five years and it truly has been great to see the kids grow," Bartlett said. "In many ways, the kids are like family to me."
Bartlett, who will be teaching at Rensselaer Park Elementary School this fall, said the kids come in every day excited about what we are going to do that day, as well as have a great sense of humor.
The thought of spending a summer with a teacher is not what most kids would yearn for, but here it is different.
"I love coming here and I don't know what I would be doing if I couldn't attend the summer camp," said Marissa Martinez, who is in her fifth year of attending summer camps at the Arsenal. "The counselors participate in all activities with us and they make sure that no kids are left out."
As Martinez shifted the conversation to the future, her broad smile disappeared.
"Because of my age, this is the last year that I may attend the arsenal's summer camp," Martinez said. "I hope that someone can make an exception because I can't imagine a summer without coming here."
This is the fifth year the Arsenal has offered a summer camp program to its workforce and in just a few years, the camp has grown from about 20 kids to nearly 50, said Kyle Buono, who oversees the Arsenal's summer camp program.
"This is a great inexpensive program that also offers weekly field trips to such activities as tubing and rafting, visiting the Bronx Zoo in New York City, and attending a minor league baseball game," Buono said.
Buono said the Arsenal's summer camp program is probably the best value in the community for a safe and fun place for kids in the summer.
At a weekly rate that may be as low as $40 to no more than $110, parents can drop off their kids at 6:30 a.m. and pick them up at 4:45 p.m. All activities, to include field trips, are included in the cost. When the kids aren't on a field trip, they are swimming, doing crafts, or playing games.
But what may be the best value to the parents is that the kids are at most a 10-minute walk from their workplace. On any given lunch period, parents are often seen having lunch with their kids.
As Migaleddi started to walk away from his session with the kids, he looked back once more at the swimming pool that was just a few feet away. It seemed as if he imagining what could have been if only he had become a dolphin trainer.