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La. Guard’s youth camps foster leadership and resilience

By Sgt. Danny Hough, Louisiana National Guard Public Affairs Office

PINEVILLE, La. – The Louisiana National Guard’s Child and Youth Program hosted its annual military kids’ Youth Leadership Camp and Camp Pelican Pride events at the Louisiana National Guard Training Center Pineville, June 12 – June 21.

Dependents of Louisiana Soldiers and Airmen spent ten days attending fun, military-style summer camps, going through different tracks, which included leadership training, painting, axe throwing, archery shooting, self-defense, as well as resilience and disaster preparedness training.

“Our goal for both camps is to provide an environment where the kids can build relationships with other military kids while learning resilience, life skills and teamwork. The camps also introduce the kids to what their parents do while in the uniform, such as marching and time management,” said Mrs. Mikelle Ricou, lead Child and Youth Program coordinator.

Prior to Camp Pelican Pride, teenagers, ranging from 14-18 years old, who are dependents of LANG Soldiers and Airmen, spend five days attending Youth Leadership Camp, attempting to become a Junior Support Staff for CPP.

“Each year, the teenagers are evaluated on leadership skills, work ethic, attitude and their want to make a difference in the campers’ lives,” said Ricou.

Throughout the week, the teenagers are given leadership opportunities while being taught life skills. While enjoying their own camp, the teenagers are evaluated on each task they perform and must achieve a certain score to become a JSS at CPP. Each task given to the teenagers, such as flag detail at Reveille and Retreat or acting as squad leader, is designed to prepare them in assisting their platoon leaders at CPP.

Third year JSS Brianna Fogleman said her goal as a JSS is to help the campers grow as individuals, and for her, the importance of camp is that it provides military kids an environment to bond with others who understand what each other goes through.

“The most challenging thing about being a JSS is getting your campers to trust and listen to you, but I enjoy bonding with the kids and watching them enjoy camp,” said Fogleman.

At the end of YLC, the selected teenagers begin to prepare for Camp Pelican Pride. Camp Pelican Pride, LANG’s annual military kids’ camp, often called Kids’ AT, began in 1997 and allows youth to build relationships with other children who understand experiences that are unique to children of service members, both deployed and stateside.

Campers at Camp Pelican Pride, ranging from 8-13 years old, are divided into age-specific platoons with adult leaders, just like a military unit. The week is full of events that teach the youth about the military and what it’s like to be a Louisiana National Guardsman.

“I enjoy being able to see other people from across the State, with different accents and different lives,” said Adeline Guidry, one of the fourth platoon campers. “This is one thing that we all connect with, and in other camps, you might not get that connection.”

This year, approximately 150 military youth attended the two camps, and many were recognized each day for their efforts, including special recognition for their kindness, leadership, and work ethic, by Brig. Gen. Michael Greer, assistant adjutant general of the Louisiana.

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