Base students explore their world

Camp Eagle gives military kids new experiences

By Kevin Knodell on June 9, 2016

Children looked on in silence Tuesday as Boris, a working dog at Joint Base Lewis-McChord's K9 unit used his keen senses to seek out an "bomb" - in reality a toy. Boris's trainer, Kennel Master Caleb Christie, had told them to stay as quiet as possible as they watched so that the dog could focus on his task.

When Boris found the bomb, the crowd of children cheered. "Good boy" Christie remarked. The children were getting a special look into inner workings of JBLM as part of Camp Eagle

Camp Eagle is held during the last week of the school year for students at JBLM's Carter Lake Elementary School. Since Tuesday, kids have been going on a series of field trips and learning from visiting guest presenters

The event has a wide range of participants from The YMCA, The Tacoma Public Utilities, American Red Cross, Madigan Hospital, JBLM Fire Station 101, the JBLM Lewis Army Museum, JBLM K-9 and others. Camp Eagle also features Hawaiian and Native American culture and dance presentations by JBLM family members of Carter Lake students

"You can just see the joy on their faces" said librarian Peggy Iwagoshi. She explained that the camp gives the children lifelong memories, and she hopes, perspective for later in life. She said that when they're older they may remember something they learned about personal health, or get inspired to pursue a career they learned about from one of the many presenters

"We did this last year, the kids loved it and we loved it," said Christine. An experienced K9 officer, he regaled his captivated first grade audience with stories about the job - such as the time he helped provide security for the pope. The children got to watch the dogs demonstrate basic obedience, as well as how they would take down a hostile suspect in the field

The affable cop answered the slews of questions the children had as officers went through their demonstrations. "Can we pet him?" one hopeful audience member asked him after Boris's demonstration

"Unfortunately no," Christine replied, explaining that working dogs like Boris can be uneasy around new people and are very protective of their handlers - and might perceive movements by a stranger as some sort of threat.

Christine said that Camp Eagle has a twofold benefit. First, it's an opportunity for the K9 team to engage with the JBLM community, and educate them about the role they play as law enforcement officers on base. But it's also an opportunity for them to practice. The time they spend working the dogs for their demonstrations for the kids counts toward their training hours.