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Boot camp gives youngsters a chance to experience military life

BOALSBURG — James Snyder’s husky stature and deep voice was enough to intimidate anyone.

When he yelled “clean up the garbage!” and “get off the course, now!” a group of kids jumped to their feet with no hesitation.

The retired Marine Corps lance corporal was a volunteer at the fourth annual Boot Camp for Kids at the Pennsylvania Military Museum on Saturday.

Sponsored by the Friends of the Pennsylvania Military Museum, its mission was to let children ages 8 to 13 experience a day in the life of military personnel.

“We’re teaching them to pay attention to details and to work as a team,” said museum educator Joe Horvath.

In its first year, the event had 35 kids, Horvath said. This year there were 38 attendees, and at its peak, the program had 60 who registered.

“We’re seeing a lot of repeat kids,” Snyder said. “That tells us we’re doing something right.”

The day began around 8 a.m. and lasted through the afternoon with three stations of physical training obstacle courses, a rifledrill and a final test.

Jake Tanner, 12, of Huntingdon, and his partner, Joe Barnish, sat on the ground with their backs to an industrial tube.

Together the two had to roll the tube from one checkpoint to another as fast as possible by pushing from their feet and using their backs.

“That was the hardest part,” said Jake, who was in his third year of the program. “You learn to communicate and work together to get things done. We needed to be quick, but steady.”

Chyanne Jones, of Wellsboro, enrolled in the program for the first time this year. It was a surprise for the 9-year-old who has a birthday at the end of the month.

“It’s super duper fun because we get to play games, and meet new friends and learn from each other,” she said.

Chyanne, who is also a junior ranger at Acadia National Park in Maine, where her family annually camps, was able to run through a water and mud pit, and make it through the net crawl without touching the net.

“We make them do the drills over and over again so they learn it,” said Bob Johnson, a volunteer and former Marine Corps corporal. “We tell them how to hold the rifle or what to do; they do it and repeat it. These are just some of the basics.”

Riley Myers, 11, of Lewistown, said he wants to follow in the footsteps of his father, who is in the Air Force.

The same goes for Jake, the veteran of the camp, and Devon McCalips, 11, of Lewistown, who said he’s most interested in the Marines because he likes what they stand for.

But a majority of the participants said they joined the program for two reasons: to get military experience and to give back to a museum they enjoy going to on family field trips.

“You support the museum,” Jake said. “That’s probably the most important because it does a lot for the community and lets us be in this event. I think it’s a way to give back to teach us stuff like this.”

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