The U.S. Army recently held a boot camp for soldiers’ kids, some still in kindergarten, at a German post. “It’s a little tough being a soldier,” a 10-year old said following his three-hour stint. “But it’s worth it.” The tykes were led by real soldiers, who enjoyed the experience, too. “The idea of bringing the kids out and doing a boot camp and letting them see what we do as soldiers, I thought was an awesome opportunity,” says Command Sgt. Maj. Tony Winters at the Army post at Hohenfels.
And some think Cub Scouts are too militaristic. You have to sympathize with military moms and dads. They have been at war for a decade, dragging their kids hither and yon, and leaving them for year-long combat tours. A Rand Corp. study released earlier this year found that kids with military parents “were experiencing relatively high levels of emotional or behavioral difficulties.” And while it may be isolating to be on a large Army base inside the U.S., it’s far more lonely to be in the middle of Germany than Georgia.
So more than 170 kids crawled under nets, leapt over barriers and marched in formation April 30 at the Girl Scouts/1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment Boot Camp, “aimed at giving young ones a taste of a soldier’s life,” according to the Army. “Sometimes with the deployments and the other stressful things that go on with kids, if they can just have fun with something that mom and dad ‘do,’ it would be really a positive thing for the whole community,” scout leader Karissa Borders said.
The kiddie boot camp reflects the growing separation between the U.S. military and the rest of us. The military is increasingly drawing into its ranks the sons and daughters of former military members, increasing the distance between the defenders and the defended. “The nearly four decades of all-volunteer force has reinforced a series of demographic, cultural, and institutional shifts affecting who is most likely to serve and from where,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates said last fall. He added that he was “struck by how many young troops I meet grew up in military families, and by the large number of our senior officers whose children are in uniform.”
Back in Germany, scout leader Tammy Koepke said she came up with the idea for a children’s boot camp after a chat between her soldier-husband and their 10-year-old daughter. “She asked him what college he went to in order to become a soldier,” Koepke told an Army reporter. “He said ‘I didn’t, I went to Basic Training.’ I thought how many other kids probably ask their parents the same thing. So why not show the kids kind of what their mom and dad went through to get where they are today?”
The children formed companies, ran through an obstacle course, did PT (physical training) and learned the basic of parade marching. They wrapped up their service by lining up and presenting themselves for inspection. No word on whether they were stop-lossed before heading home.