Eighteen young cadets mustered to attention Monday at U.S. Coast Guard Station Brunswick, forming two smart lines of uniform purpose and determination, unflinching beneath a blazing mid-morning sun.
Then they marched off of the base in cadence to their leaders' commands, leaving the grownups who actually serve at the station sufficiently impressed with the discipline and intensity displayed by this group of middle school-aged boys and girls. This second class of the Brunswick Police Department's Summer Youth Camp paid a visit to the Coast Guard to kick off its final week, getting an immersion in the basics of maritime military service.
"It's awesome," said Allen Cantrell, Coast Guard boatsman's mate 2nd class. "It's great to get these kids in here to see what we do, and to get a hand in trying out some of the things we do."
Other activities in the two-week camp for local 12- to 14-year-olds included a mock crime scene investigation, a trip to juvenile court, gun safety and K9 demonstrations. On Monday, the boys and girls toured the Coast Guard base beneath the Sidney Lanier Bridge, where they went on board a Coast Guard boat, saw the inner workings of the communications center and tried their hand at tossing lifelines.
The youngsters caught on quickly with the lifeline drills, where they practiced tossing a floated line some 20 feet across the base's parade grounds to a target in distress. By the time the drill wrapped up, 13-year-old Keegan Carroll displayed a keen knack for the lifeline toss, not to mention an enthusiasm for it. Without too much of a lapse in discipline, he managed to play on Cantrell's generosity and get an extra shot at the target as the drill wrapped up.
"OK, it's your last one, so you better make it count," Cantrell said.
Keegan did so, bouncing the line's leader float off of a fish painted just below the swimmer in distress that was etched onto the wooden pop-up target.
"I'd say he grabbed that one," Cantrell said. "I think he's going to be OK."
The life support young Keegan threw to the target could serve as a metaphor for the lessons Brunswick police seek to instill each year through the annual summer youth camps. Campers learn responsibility and the discipline to meet it. They learn also about respect for their peers, elders and themselves during the 10 days of camp activities, which run Monday through Friday. The first camp took place in June. This session wraps up Friday evening with a graduation ceremony at Howard Coffin Park. The camp is paid for through community donations.
Young Keegan appears to have matured quickly during the past week.
"They are teaching me to be a better man," the Brunswick Christian Academy student said. "Always respect adults, always respect your parents. It's basically about being a good young man."
Ten-four, Keegan. This is Brunswick Police officer Evelyn Timmons' fourth year working with the summer youth camp. She was assisted by five high school-aged graduates of the camp.
And it was not all fun and games. Just ask Tyler Michael, 12, a likeable young man who in a lapse did not follow his answer of "yes" to officer Timmons with a "ma'am."
"What did you say?" Timmons replied. "Go ahead and get some water, but give me 10 when you get back."
With sweat pasting his sandy brown hair to his temples, Tyler accepted Timmons' directive for 10 push-ups in the good spirit with which it was intended.
"It's about displaying integrity and showing respect, even when no one is looking," said Timmons, as Tyler returned and dutifully knocked out the push-ups without fanfare. "They learn respect for themselves, for law enforcement and for the people around them. One young fella said, 'I like this because we all work as a team.' Hearing that did me a world of good."