Ramstein youths embark on BRAT outdoors adventure
Stars and Stripes April 8, 2009
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — Despite its acronym, BRAT camp is not a training mecca for tantrum-throwing youngsters.
A few groans were reported on the first day of the camp Monday when Ronnie Juhans, the adult in charge, announced no electronic devices were allowed — including cell phones, iPods and video games.
But by the end of the afternoon, 16 sweaty, tired young people seemed to be enjoying what was the start of their weeklong adventure with Juhans and camp volunteers Robert Scott and Jon Harnden.
BRAT stands for Basic Recreation Activity Training. In just five days, campers will learn to use GPS navigation and go canoeing, kayaking, indoor climbing, bicycling, swimming and hiking, among other activities, said Juhans, an outdoor adventure programmer with 435th Services Squadron’s Outdoor Recreation.
He wants children to learn outdoor skills and safety while working together as a team.
"It’s something to do away from home, out of trouble and away from gaming," he said.
When asked about their early impressions, the young campers bubbled with enthusiasm and sounded like professional marketers trying to sell a product:
"There’s only one thing I can say: BRAT camp is awesome but tell them to bring lots of water," said Kensly Gasbarro, 11, a fifth-grader at Ramstein Intermediate School, including a word of advice to future campers.
"I would say if you see one of these and you’re not interested, still come," said 10-year-old George Silvanic, a fifth-grader in German school. Any adventure camp is fun, he figured, "unless it’s ballet for a boy."
"I think in the future this camp might be pretty good for other people because (there’s) lots of exercise and lots of fun," said Mark Collins, 10, who is in the fourth grade at Ramstein Intermediate School. And yes, if not at camp during this week’s spring break, he’d probably have a video game in hand, he said, "but I’m on punishment right now, so I can’t play them."
Juhans has been involved with the camp for the past four years. He said the camp fills up quickly every year and "we always have a waiting list."
He plans to put on six similar weeklong adventure camps this summer, with registration beginning at Outdoor Recreation sometime in May, he said. The program is open to children ages 10 and older and costs $200 per camper.