Investing In Our Next Generation: Air Commandos partner with FWBHS football program to build expert teams

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Miranda Mahoney
  • 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

The Fort Walton Beach High School Vikings football team recently took part in a three-day Youth Athletic Camp in collaboration with the U.S. Air Force's Air Commandos at Hurlburt Field, Florida.

The camp, organized in partnership with Hurlburt Field’s school liaison, Ms. Lacey Allen, and the Okaloosa County School District, was held on July 19, July 26, and August 2, 2023. The primary goal is to invest into the next generation and enhance their teamwork skills while educating them about the Air Force Special Operations Command mission. The football camp also aimed to bridge the gap between the military and the local community by promoting teamwork and collaboration through various activities.

Col. Allison Black, 1st Special Operations Wing commander, stated that the team wanted to create an engaging experience that would have a long-lasting impact on the young athletes. She also emphasized that the skills they were reinforcing would help define their future success.

The first day of the camp focused on Basic Military Training exercises led by our AFSOC Airmen who were former skilled Military Training Instructors, providing the students with a glimpse into the dedication and discipline required in the military. During this time, athletes completed a circuit workout including push-ups, weighted vest runs, tire flips and more.

On the second day, the football team joined the Air Commandos for a formation run, highlighting the importance of unity and teamwork. The athletes then participated in rigorous military-style drills in the sand and surf that tested their endurance and resilience.

During the final day of the camp, the Vikings learned how to build military tents with the 1st Special Operations Squadron’s Mission Sustainment Team. They also engaged in a friendly competition, racing against the clock to set up their tents with precision, further strengthening their teamwork skills and attention to detail.

At the conclusion of the camp, Okaloosa School District superintendent Marcus Chambers and Col. Black presented each participant with 1st SOW patches and offered words of encouragement to the team members.

“These athletes are part of a team. They’re committed! Their energy and enthusiasm is contagious." said Black. "Our hope is that this program will continue to grow, involving our local high school athletes from all sports. Through this, they can experience the grit, determination, perseverance, and teamwork that it takes to be an Air Commando."

“The Okaloosa County School District is fortunate to have an amazing partnership with the Military installments in our community and with that comes the opportunity for experiences like this one,” stated Chambers. “These athletes will remember this experience for the rest of their lives. They have gained so many valuable life skills in the sessions spent with the Air Commandos that will be used both on the field and off the field. We appreciate Col. Allison Black, Chief Master Sgt. Joey Meininger, and their troops, for the time and effort they poured into our student athletes this summer as it not only had a direct impact on them but will have a lasting impact on the friends they interact with.”

The Fort Walton Beach High School Vikings football team left the camp with lasting memories and a deeper understanding of the power of teamwork and unity.

Col. Black and Mr. Chambers expressed that this was just the beginning of a deliberate effort to connect the base with the next generation of leaders and problem solvers in the community. The Hurlburt Field Community Engagement Council is actively exploring ways to engage meaningfully with the community.

For now, the bonds formed and lessons learned during the training camp are expected to empower these young athletes to overcome any challenges in the future, inspired by the spirit of the Air Commandos.