|By Capt. Jacqueline Guthrie, 84th Division Public Affairs
MCCOY, Wis. -- At least 200 young people will have something exciting to share at
school this fall when asked, "What did you do during your summer vacation?"
The youths, sons and daughters of Wisconsin servicemembers, are recent graduates of the
eighth Annual Wisconsin Youth Camp. Held annually at Fort McCoy, the youth camp is
sponsored by the Wisconsin National Guard's Family Program and took place Aug. 11-13.
"The purpose of the program is to give kids the opportunity to see what their
parents do on a drill weekend," said Lt. Col. Ken Grant, youth camp director.
Participants, ages 8 to 17, get a taste of the military by marching, rappelling, eating in
a military dining facility, sleeping in Army barracks or tents and even doing push-ups for
drill sergeants, Grant said.
But this three-day summer camp wasn't all work. The youths also had the opportunity to
complete a confidence course, ride in a military personnel carrier, swim in the pool or
lake and participate in a variety of sporting activities.
"It's a lot of fun," said Stacie Ringelstetter, 17. Ringelstetter is the
daughter of Master Sgt. Brian and Sarah Ringelstetter. Ringelstetter has spent the last
seven summers at youth camp and said she wouldn't miss it. In addition to the confidence
she's gained through participating in challenging activities such as rappelling, she said
she's made friendships she thinks will last a lifetime. And while this is her last year as
a camper, she says, "I'll still be back next year as a counselor."
While the Wisconsin National Guard sponsors the program, Grant says it is only possible
because of the more than 200 volunteers, thousands of dollars worth of donations and the
hard work of soldiers and airmen. Among those providing support are 84th Division
(Institutional Training), U.S. Army Reserve drill instructors.
"They provide an added touch to the entire program," Grant said. And the kids
The drill instructors are from 3rd Battalion, 274th Regiment in Oshkosh; 2nd Battalion,
274th Regiment in Fond du Lac; and 2nd Battalion, 339th Regiment in Madison. All are part
of the 84th Division's 2nd Brigade (Basic Combat Training) headquartered in Beaver Dam.
This is the third year the drill sergeants have taught at camp, Grant said.
"The drill instructors added another dimension to our training," making it
more realistic, he explained. The drill instructors' job includes teaching drill and
ceremony and physical training to the participants. They also run activities such as the
conditioning and confidence course, rappelling and rope bridge crossings. And they help
the youth groups form teams instead of working as individuals.
"It's similar to pick-up and the first couple weeks of basic training," said
Sgt. Phil Heckl, an 84th Division drill sergeant, referring to the phase of basic combat
training when the drill instructors start training new soldiers. One of the 84th
Division's Army missions is to teach basic combat training to new soldiers at Army
installations such as Fort Knox, Ky., and Fort Benning, Ga.
"That's what we're trying to do," Heckl explained, "teach them the
The 84th Division's involvement in the camp is part of an ongoing partnership with the
Wisconsin National Guard, according to Capt. Larry Gnewuch. Gnewuch is commander of
Company B, 2nd Battalion, 339th Regiment. "We do a lot of missions with the Wisconsin
National Guard," he explained, including helping the Guard run a delayed entry
training program for new soldiers preparing for basic training.
"It's perfect in that it gives our drill sergeants people to instruct,"
Gnewuch said of the partnership. Otherwise they would be trying to improve their teaching
techniques by teaching each other. This is much more effective, he stressed.
However, the 84th Division's involvement wasn't limited to providing drill instructors,
some soldiers also gave up their free time and volunteered to be counselors, such as 1st
Sgt. Laurel Weyenberg, 3rd Battalion, 274th Regiment. "I love kids, I love being
around them," Weyenberg said. This was her first year as a camp counselor, and she
says she really enjoyed it.
Weyenberg was just one of more than 200 servicemembers, parents and camp graduates that
made the program possible by serving as counselors, activity leaders, medics, security
guards, cooks or staff.
"The success of the program is due to the volunteers," Grant said. While
participants pay a $25 registration fee, the funds don't cover what it would cost to pay
for all the personnel and resources needed to run the camp.
(The 84th Division (IT), is headquartered in Milwaukee
and has subordinate units and soldiers throughout the states of Wisconsin, Illinois,
Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Iowa, and Indiana. As an institutional training division, the
84th currently performs a variety of missions in support of the Army school system, also
known as TASS. Missions include providing basic combat training and infantry one station
unit training to new soldiers and officer training to ROTC cadets. The division personnel
also train active- and reserve-component servicemembers in combat-service,
combat-service-support, health services and professional-development courses. For more
information about the 84th, visit www.84thdivision.com.)