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More than just another summer camp

  • Published
  • By Phillip Hackett
  • Air Force Reserve dependant
Just outside the small town of Dahlonega, Ga., there is a 4-H center dedicated to helping kids. For a week in June, the center was used to teach leadership to 125 military teens.

The Air Force Reserve/Air National Guard Teen Leadership Summit is open to all 14-18 year-old dependents of Airmen currently in the Air Force Reserve or Air National Guard.

The five-day camp focused on fostering leadership skills, self confidence and developing an awareness of programs and services available to Air Force dependents, as well as building an appreciation and sense of belonging to the Air Force community.

As soon as we stepped off the plane and grabbed our luggage, the warm, humid, Georgia air greeted us. We left the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and boarded the bus for the two-hour drive to Camp Wahsega.

After unloading our bags and going to the opening ceremonies, we headed back to our cabins and freshened up for night recreation, which included dancing, sports and hanging out until it came time to lower the flag. During "retreat" we learned to line up according to height and follow routine orders for the flag lowering.

The second day set the mark for how things would go for the week - wake up, raise the flag (reveille), eat breakfast, attend leadership workshops, eat lunch, go recreation, classes, eat dinner, enjoy night recreation and go to bed.

During our training sessions, we studied "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens," military traditions and how to work with local community partners on service projects, such as 4-H, American Legion and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

On Wednesday, we hiked in the Appalachian Mountains. The hiking was grueling. Leg burns became common, but the awesome sights of the trees and the waterfalls helped ease our ailments. Once we reached the top, we refreshed ourselves with water, lunch and a 30-minute break.

Thursday was the most fun-filled day of the camp. The day was entirely devoted to whitewater rafting on the Ocoee River in Tennessee. Lined with towering trees and filled with brown rocks, the Ocoee River is one of the most beautiful sites in the country and definitely a great rafting site. The ups and downs of the river added to the excitement and the surrounding environment added awe and breathtaking moments.

The rafting course was a five-mile medium-difficulty rafting trip. The leadership and teamwork skills we learned from our training sessions were definitely put to use as we navigated the rapids. The rafting, like all the activities we enjoyed during the camp were designed to test our boundaries and push limits.

Friday, the final day, was like Sunday in reverse, with campers saying goodbye instead of hello. Participants took pictures and exchanged hugs and Facebook accounts before the trip home. This was my best camping experience. Next year I will apply to attend the Teen Survival Summit in Boulder, Colo.

Editor's Note: The Teen Leadership Summits are offered at no cost to the participant's family. Look for information about 2011 Leadership Summits at the beginning of next year. For more information, visit: