Something to shoot for; troubled youth given military perspective
By Staff Sgt. Phil Fountain , 149th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published August 26, 2011
SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- Members of the U.S. armed forces assigned to Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, paid a visit to the Hector Garza Residential Treatment Center to visit with troubled teenagers that are in the state's custody, Aug. 12. The service-members gained an understanding of the youth's experiences, as well as shared their own stories and insight to inspire them to become productive citizens.
Maj. Corey Hermesch, an F-16 instructor pilot with the Texas Air National Guard's 149th Fighter Wing, joined Chief Petty Officer Nikki Craig, a U.S. Navy independent duty corpsman (IDC) with Naval Technical Training Center (NTTC) Lackland, and U.S. Air Force Master Sergeant Jeremiah Ross and Senior Airman Norberto Chavez, both intelligence analysts assigned to the 624th Operations Center.
On a 12-acre campus, Abraxas Youth and Family Services operate the residential treatment center in coordination with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, the Texas Youth Commission, and county juvenile probation departments.
The children living on the premises are between 10 and 17 years old, and have "serious behavioral and psychological impairments," according to the facility's client profile. Each resident participates in various therapy programs and also attend an on-site middle or high school with the potential for them to earn their high school diploma or equivalent.
Emphasizing the importance of such visits as this, Chief Craig noted, "They need to know they can have a positive impact on society," and that they "have an opportunity to change their lives and give something back to the country."
Today's visit was the culmination of the student's participation in a 10-week program focused on preventing alcohol and drug abuse. In addition to sharing stories, the students showed the military members a mural they created depicting the negative effects of becoming involved with illegal narcotics.
"It's about reaching out to those kids now as a positive role model," said Chief Craig. As an independent duty corpsman, Chief Craig provides direct care to patients and has been trained to recognize the physical and psychological toll drugs take on people. "Even if we only reach one or two, it's a win-win situation. It's the military giving back to the youth."
Mr. John Silva, a quality and compliance inspector at the treatment facility discussed the benefits of the military visit on the residents. These types of constructive interactions "expose them to a lot of things, and lets them know there are options they've never thought of or thought they had access to," said Silva.
It is "a unique experience to visit with these kids because of their background," said Major Hermesch. "I hope we gave them something to shoot for."