A group of high school students recently got a closer look at military life during a field trip to the state’s lone active-Army post.
Camdenton teacher, Paul Schaefer, organized the trip for the 16 students from the Horizons Laker Educational Center, along with Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Marr, a Missouri Guard recruiter for the Camdenton area.
“The intent specifically was to give the students, who have expressed an interest in the Army National Guard to Paul Schaefer, an idea of what they are going to go through in training,” said Marr. “Then they can make an educated decision on, ‘Is this something I’m truly interested in?’”
Schaefer is a retired Missouri National Guard sergeant first class who last served with the 140th Regiment, Missouri Regional Training Institute at Fort Leonard Wood.
This is the second time Schaefer and Marr have organized this trip.
“The protocol office here at Fort Leonard Wood is outstanding,” Marr said. “Anytime we call and say, ‘We’ve got a group of civilian youths who are really considering military service,’ and every time they get us a schedule to get these kids some hands-on experience.”
After the previous trip, Marr said he received a lot of positive feedback from students regarding the experience.
“This is something that gets into the school and they will talk about it for the rest of their high school years,” Marr said. “We put the Guard name on it because the Guard sponsors it, and yes, it helps us in our recruiting efforts. But it doesn’t really help us in a way that we’re trying to say, ‘Join the Guard only.’ It helps us in a way that says, ‘This is what you are actually going to be doing.’ Don’t just take it from the recruiter – these are actually activities that you’ll do in basic training.”
During the trip, students had the opportunity to work with the Reconfigurable Vehicle Tactical Trainer, which is a 360-degree virtual training simulator that allows up to four Humvees to participate in convoy operations. Participants, who are armed, can return fire toward hostile targets.
“This was actually pretty cool,” said senior Quinton Gilbert, who lives in Linn Creek. “We got to do the simulation of the Humvee and get the feeling of being out in the field. We got to see what it was like to be fired on.”
Although he doesn’t normally play video games, Gilbert still enjoyed using the multi-million dollar simulator.
Page 2 of 3 - “It was pretty fun,” he said. “It seemed like it was actually happening – it had great graphics. And you got to shoot at the people who were trying to harm you.”
Gilbert said he’s given some thought to joining the military and the up-close look has given him valuable perspective.
“I always thought it would be a good experience and that’s why I wanted to get an idea of what it would be like,” he said. “It looks pretty intense and kind of tough to handle.”
Students also were able to eat at a post dining facility and tour the John B. Mahaffey Museum Complex.
Several students said seeing the drill sergeants interact with the basic trainees at the dining facility was informative.
“I used to think that the drill sergeants were being mean, just to be mean,” said junior Kody Schelp, who lives in Camdenton. “But then I was talking to Mr. Schaefer and he explained they do that to prepare them for being under pressure, by keeping them under pressure the whole time they are in basic. That made it make more sense.”
Having seen a little of what a basic trainee goes through, Schelp said it gave him more confidence that it might be something he was capable of.
“I’ve been considering joining the Army for three years now,” he said. “But this trip has made me want to join more. I like the structure they have here and how respect is a huge priority to them. It makes me want to be a part of it.”
Schelp recommends his fellow students come on a trip like this and see what being part of the military is like. He added that the politicians should, too.
“They need to come here and see what they go through,” he said. “I feel like it would make them appreciate the military more.”
While some were seeing military life for the first time, sophomore Shianne Adams, who lives in Camdenton, said she was no stranger to it having grown up in a military Family.
“It was nice to connect to my old roots,” said Adams, whose step-father, Todd Adams is a retired sergeant first class in the Army.
During the visit, Adams said the Chemical Corps display at the museum was her favorite.
Adams said she was considering joining the military.
“I liked seeing it more on this trip because I’m used to the scenery,” she said. “The highlight has been sharing it with my fellow students.”
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