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Jul 25, 2012 10:43:00 AM

ASYMCA campers take on Air Assault School

Fort Campbell | The Leaf Chronicle | July 25, 2012

FORT CAMPBELL, KY.— Armed Services YMCA campers got a small taste of something all of their military parents have had to do when stationed at Fort Campbell, which is to rappel off a tower at Sabalauski Air Assault School.

About 50 campers showed up at the school around 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday for an event that was part of a week-long “Screaming Eagle Camp” sponsored by the 101st Airborne Division Association.

The campers were all children of parents who are currently deployed, have recently deployed or are going to deploy.

Twenty-five counselors, along with nurses and bus drivers – all soldier volunteers from various Fort Campbell units with the exception of one civilian worker – came along to cheer the youngsters on as they geared up and ascended in small groups to the top of the Air Assault School “short towers.”

Some campers, like 10 year-old Alissa Rowe, were raring to go without hesitation. Others looked at the rappel ropes as though they were snakes ready to bite. Occasionally, “I’m scared” and “No, I don’t want to go” were heard.

However, the counselors were consistently encouraging and understanding, as were the Air Assault instructors. The majority of the campers successfully completed their rappels and were awarded Air Assault wings at the end of the event.

Spc. Darius Barnes of Charlie Company, 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, and Spc. Alex Highfield of Bravo Troop, 1st Squadron, 61st Cavalry, seemed to be enjoying themselves as much as the children.

Asked what it was like working with the campers for a week, Barnes said, “Fun... and exhausting, all at the same time. But I’d do it year-round if they’d let me.”

“This is the best job ever,” said Highfield. “This is all about them,” he added.

Camper Nicholas Carnaghi, 10, gave a thoughtful response to the question of how it felt to come off the wall successfully. “A little bit scary,” he said in a soft voice, “but once you got used to it, you were able to calm your fears down.

“Some of my group members are kind of scared of heights, but you have to conquer your fears.”

To that, the only possible reply is a loud and thunderous, “Air Assault!”

The Screaming Eagle Camp was the third Armed Services YMCA camp event held this summer. The other camps – a survivor outreach camp for children who had lost parents in military service and another focused on environmental education – were sponsored by Penn Federal Foundation and American Freedom Foundation.

Philip Grey
Military affairs reporter