Kids Annual Training in 25th year, held at Camp Shelby

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WHLT) — More than 100 military children of Mississippi National Guard Soldiers and Airmen are marching in their parents’ footsteps this week.

The annual volunteer-led event allows military children experience a daily routine that shadows what their military parents experience while educating them a variety of services in the military.

Janelle Swilley knows first-hand what it’s like having a military parent.

“It’s a lot of your dad going back and forth in and out of the house,” said Swilley. “But it is fun knowing that my dad is protecting our country’s freedom.”

This week Janelle and other military children are given the opportunity to see just how fit soldiers really are.

“The hardest part really is the marching,” said Swilley.

Coner Dixon adds, “Just marching all the time, I’m not used to it.”

This year, Lieutenant Colonel Deidre Smith’s 9-year-old daughter is attending the camp, but she says the physical aspect does not compare to what she and other children will take away from this week-long experience.

“To watch them make new friends, connect with military families, kids that go through the same things is what I enjoy most about it,” said Lt. Col. Smith. “They know what it’s like for their parents to miss a dance recital or for someone to miss an all-star game because their parents had drill or they had annual training. ”

During the camp, participants will get a chance to ride in tanks, see vehicle demonstrations, learn how to properly salute the flag, hear experiences from soldiers and much more.

“It’s all really fun,” said Swilley. “And this is only Tuesday. We still got a whole lot more to do.”

Dixon says it has shown him a glimpse of what he might want to do in the future.

“They have airshows, and I want to be in the Air Force one day, flying high in the sky,” he said.

“So for the children to have a chance to understand what it’s like to have pride and patriotism, it’s a true honor. It’s just a blessing,” said Lt. Col. Smith.

Tuesday morning kids saw the U.S. Special Operations Command Black Daggers parachute unit jump out of one of the choppers.

The camp wraps up Saturday with a graduation ceremony.

There is about a total of 250 campers, volunteers, and staff.

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