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Annual boot camp teaches value of teamwork, offers physical challenges to children

Navy Petty Officer Sky Danskin, left, leads Elizabeth Tussey, 8, of State College, and other students in close order drills. The Pennsylvania Military Museum held a Boot Camp for Kids event where kids participated in activities simulating the rigors of military discipline August 1, 2015.
Navy Petty Officer Sky Danskin, left, leads Elizabeth Tussey, 8, of State College, and other students in close order drills. The Pennsylvania Military Museum held a Boot Camp for Kids event where kids participated in activities simulating the rigors of military discipline August 1, 2015. CDT photo

Isaac Cummings is only 10, but he already knows he wants a future in the military — either the Navy or Air Force.

That’s why he participated in his third Boot Camp for Kids at the Pennsylvania Military Museum on Saturday.

“It’s hard, but it’s also a lot of fun and prepares you for something we’re interested in,” Isaac said.

Sponsored by the Friends of the Pennsylvania Military Museum, the one-day camp allowed children ages 8 to 13 to experience a day in the life of military personnel.

“They’re learning to listen, follow directions and work as a team — a few things you need to get through camp,” said museum educator Joe Horvath. “It’s also a way for kids to get active. So many are couch potatoes in this day and age, and are interested in the military, but interested in it by video games and movies.”

The camp included three stations for physical training, marching and military etiquette, and rifle drill.

But in the camp’s fifth year, one new thing was more physical training activities that included a tube roll exercise, balance beam race and mud crawl, Horvath said.

Twelve-year-old Allie Grieco, of Tyrone, dangled from a bar and attempted 10 pull-ups. She was then required to hang from the bar for at least 25 seconds before having to run a trail around a field at the museum grounds.

If she didn’t count loud enough for Sgt. Jim Snyder, she would have to start over.

While physically the hardest part of camp, the training exercises were Allie’s favorite

“It’s just another thing to push your own boundaries,” she said.

This year’s camp had 32 recruits — including 11 children who returned to the program. Those “veterans” advanced in their rankings, while each new recruit was entered into the program as a private.

For a child’s second year, they were classified as a private first class; in their third year, they were listed as a lance corporal; and in their fourth year, were named to corporal. Those who aged out of the program, but still wanted to return, acted as student drill instructors.

“We hope this is going to teach young recruits to learn the ropes and get a glimpse of what real boot camp can be like,” said Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Seth Southard, who acted as a drill instructor Saturday. “It gets them off the couch or behind the computer, and puts them under a little more pressure.”

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