KINGWOOD, W. Va. — The West Virginia National Guard is hosting two youth camps this week at Camp Dawson in Kingwood, W.Va.
While Youth Leaders Camp and Kids Kamp each provide significantly different experiences based on the age range of their campers, both are coordinated and supported by West Virginia National Guardsmen.
The 49th annual Youth Leaders Camp, open to children ages 15-18, is a military-style camp that offers an opportunity to develop leadership, teamwork skills, self-discipline and more. All campers are placed into a leadership role and challenged to develop leadership and teamwork skills. Youth leaders participate in a variety of activities including the confidence courses, athletics, barracks inspections, drill and ceremony and water survival.
“I like the camp, because it helps a lot with leadership,” said Parker G. Surface, 17, a third-year YLC camper and a student from Teays Valley Christian School, “I wouldn’t say it changes your life, but it certainly changes a lot about your perspective.”
West Virginia Guardsmen, referred to as TACs (Train, Advise, Counsel), guide participants through their transformation from high school kids to community leaders. “The change that you see in these kids in just one week is remarkable,” states Air National Guard Master Sgt. Victor L. Perry, a senior TAC and a member of the 130th Airlift Wing in Charleston.
The 24th annual Kids Kamp, open to elementary and middle school-aged children of members of the West Virginia National Guard, gives campers an opportunity to participate in activities that their military parents have experienced throughout their military careers. Activities include rappelling, archery, marksmanship, and drill and ceremony.
“The camp gives these kids a glimpse of what mommy and daddy do, but in a fun way. They get to march in their boots,” said Capt. Christopher Tusing, a Kids Kamp counselor and director of inspections for the 167th Airlift Wing in Martinsburg.
Kids Kamp began during Operation Desert Storm to provide a positive camping experience for children of West Virginia Guard members whose parents were deployed. The camp is now open to children of service members of all military branches.
Military members, family members and former campers of Kids Kamp support participants and lead them through their week.
“I think it’s important for us as military parents to give back to the kids who serve in their own way,” said Tusing, explaining that the military kids make sacrifices since their parents often miss important life events due to their military obligations.
Both camps encourage the kids to be leaders in their communities and to make smart life decisions.
Army National Guard Sgt. Maj. (retired) and Lead Camp Director, Gary Conley, said “If I can help one kid make the right choices in life, then it’s all worth it.”
Visit the WV Youth Leaders Camp Facebook page for more information.