Young 'soldiers' shown ropes during boot camp at JBLM
Elias Figueroa sprawled out behind the sight of an M240B machine gun, looking about as long from head to toe as the rifle from muzzle to butt.
His moment behind the weapon did little to change his image of his dad, Spc. Frank Figueroa, 25, as the gun-slinging hero of any number of military movies.
“It’s really cool. I wish I could have one,” Elias, 7, said after he finished looking over the weapon.
The Figueroas and about 80 other families from Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s 593rd Sustainment Brigade gathered Thursday for the “Kids’ Boot Camp,” an annual event intended to give Army children a taste of their parents’ work.
They fell in with pushups under the direction of young soldiers who guided the kids through obstacles and explained the weapons and vehicles that troops use overseas.
Several kids were especially fond of the booming horns in the heavy trucks used by soldiers in the 593rd. Honks echoed through the brigade’s headquarters area in a relatively new part of Lewis-McChord.
Each honk sounded fresh for the kids even as the blasts sent parents reaching for ear plugs.
“This gives them a chance to see what their parents do,” said Sgt. Daniel Long, one of the soldiers who led the kids through the boot camp drills. “They look like they’re having fun.”
The 593rd is a brigade with some 4,000 soldiers who often deploy in small units to manage resources, from food to weapons to all the supplies needed to fight a war.
Its commander and about 80 soldiers from its headquarters are in Afghanistan now, working to bring home American equipment as the number of U.S. forces there draws down.
Deployments are a big a part of why the brigade wanted to host a kids’ boot camp this summer.
“In the Army, we go away for awhile,” First Sgt. John Powell told the kids. “We miss you guys and you miss us. We want to take this time to show some appreciation for the hard work you do while we’re gone.”
The participants were between the ages of 5 and 12. They competed in an obstacle course to be declared “strongest kid” and took “verbal judo” lessons to learn how to sidestep a bully.
Long, 29, of Lacey acted as a drill sergeant in motivating the children under his watch. They filed in behind another group of kids on the obstacle course, and Long encouraged his charges to “watch what they do; I want you to do better.”
Many of them did, hopping through tires with wide smiles and leaping to touch a flag hung from a gym set.
“They look like they’re having fun,” he said.
The kids had a trickier time following marching commands like “Right, face.” Giggling, they broke formations and tripped over each other.
“We’ll work on that,” the soldiers said, laughing right along.