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Kids flock to Camp Beauregard for annual training

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 The children, aged 8 to 13, had a jam packed schedule. Divided into platoons and directed by their sergeant, just like military units, the kids began a week of learning about the military. The kids conquered obstacles, such as rock wall climbing, shooting rockets, swimming and most importantly, connecting with other military kids.

Kid’s Annual Training opened in 1997 and is for children, who are dependants or siblings of Louisiana Guard members.

Angela D. Ott, child and youth coordinator for the state's Office of Family Programs explained that the program’s intent is to help youth with feelings and experiences that are unique to children of military service members.

“We want these kids to learn that there are other military kids out there. We want them to interact with kids that have deployed parents,” she said. “The nature of the National Guard leads to these kids being spread out across the State.”

Ott said another goal of the camp is to teach children important life skills that build confidence.

“We want them to learn more about themselves and how to adapt to new situations," she said. "It’s about them learning leadership and life skills."

Each platoon has youth counselors, ages 14-18, who are also children of National Guard members, that help guide the younger kids during the week. The youth counselors spend a few days prior to the arrival of the kids at Youth Camp preparing for their leadership roles.

“We (counselors) do a bunch of teamwork activities, CPR training, first aid and learning about treating kids with respect, prior to attending Kid’s A.T.,” said Kelsey L. Roach. “I think this is a great experience. You learn leadership abilities and I always like seeing the kids have fun.”

1st Lt. Cody L. Paulk, deputy commandant of Kid’s A.T., helped coordinate the non-stop activities that helped teach the overall theme of leadership building.

“It’s great to be able to watch the different youth’s leadership abilities come out at such a young age. Anyone who is a Soldier and has kids should participate,” he said. “There is no better way to have a direct impact on the future of our Louisiana Guard then to be able to share with, support and develop our future leaders.”

At the conclusion of camp on June 18, the youth gathered for an awards ceremony. One of the most celebrated honors given is the W. Collin Ratcliff Memorial Award. The award went to the child that shows the most improvement and begins with ‘an abundance of desire and ends with the courage to realize their dreams.’

Winner for 1st platoon was Andrew Roehm, 8, son of 1st Lt. Jeremy and Sgt. Rebekah Prince of Pineville, La. This was Andrew’s first year attending camp and Prince said she cried when she dropped Andrew off due to the realization her little boy was growing up.

But there were only beaming smiles of pride when Andrew won the prestigious award.

“It’s awesome,” both of his parents echoed, “to be chosen his first year at camp out of so many kids!”

Andrew said spending time with his friends and shooting his rocket were among his favorite activities at annual training, but winning the award sure wasn’t bad either.

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