The Wisconsin National Guard hosted its annual youth camp at Volk Field Air National Guard Base in Camp Douglas July 26-28 with nearly 170 participants and more than 100 volunteers.
Now in its 26th year, the 2019 Badger Youth Camp brought military children together from across the Wisconsin National Guard to learn lessons in resilience and build friendships between kids who know what it means to serve and sacrifice alongside their service member.
“Honestly, children fall in love with camp right when they get here,” said Lily Burmesch, a former camper and now a camp volunteer. “It is my favorite part of the year, everyone makes friends, has a good time all while seeing what their parents are doing in the military.”
Badger Youth Camp is open to youth ages 8-18 who have a service member in their family — parent, sibling, grandparent, aunt or uncle. Camp activities educate and engage military children while also building resilience, self-confidence and connections with other military children.
“Camp gives the youth a sense of life in the military through challenging team-building exercises, helping them gain more confidence, citizenship, camaraderie and teamwork,” said Lt. Col. Peter Kitzhaber, camp director.
Campers are divided into three age groups, each with tailored events to help develop different core competencies. Children get a glimpse into what their service member does on a typical drill weekend through a multitude of activities — staying in military barracks, eating at the base dining facility, confidence and conditioning courses, rock climbing walls, swimming, M16 rifle military simulator training, rappelling towers, first aid, land navigation and much more. They also learn how to march and sing cadences.
“Counselors always make camp magical,” Burmesch said.
The camp gears its unique activities towards improving cohesion, teamwork and communication in an environment that allows military children to bond and try new things.
“Great job — the things you have accomplished are awesome,” said Maj Gen Donald Dunbar, Wisconsin’s adjutant general. “I bet you learned some new things — the things you learned were probably new, maybe a little bit scary, maybe you thought you couldn’t do it or were nervous at first. But you tried, you did your best, and you succeeded.”
Building that cohesion and resiliency helps build readiness among National Guard families and children, many of whom see their loved ones serve on state active duty missions during emergencies or deploy to combat zones in support of the National Guard’s federal mission as the primary combat reserve of the Army and Air Force.
“Everywhere you go in life, the things you learned this weekend and the friends you made can guide you to be successful,” Dunbar said.
The Wisconsin National Guard’s Service Member Support Division hosts the annual camp, and draws military and civilian volunteers from all over the state to support the event.
“If you are thinking about camp and are on the edge, I encourage you to jump off the edge and come,” Burmesch said.
Registration and photos of the annual youth camp can be found at https://www.facebook.com/WINGYouthProgram/?tn-str=k*F