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NEWS | July 15, 2016

Teens learn to BOUNCE back in first AF Teen Resiliency Course

By Staff Sgt. Jared Trimarchi Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

Twenty-four teenagers had the opportunity to participate in the Air Force's first ever resiliency teen camp, named BOUNCE, July 11 to 15, 2016 at the Joint Base Charleston - Weapons Station.

BOUNCE, which stands for Be optimistic, Observe thoughts, Use strengths, Never give up, Communicate effectively and Embrace you, is a week-long camp designed to teach teens the necessary skills to overcome daily stressors associated to military families.  Lessons focused on body image, mindfulness, finding purpose, goals, good listening and thinking before you act.

"Teens are subject to many stressors such as peer pressure, body image and social media acceptance," said Michelle McMeekin, 628th Air Base Wing community support coordinator and BOUNCE instructor. "Military teens have additional stressors, to include frequent relocations and parental deployments. The resiliency camp is designed to help teens 'bounce back' from day-to-day stressors by teaching them healthy coping mechanisms."

Lt. Col. Diltrice Thomas, Air Force Resilience Branch chief, said Air Mobility Command will implement BOUNCE command-wide mid-August, and the Air Force will review for possible adoption service-wide.

"BOUNCE was piloted at four AF bases with a full rollout at Charleston's Summer Camp, Thomas added. "Feedback from the three-month pilot indicates BOUNCE is a good researched-based program that meets the needs of today's preteens and teens."

Last year Joint Base Charleston hosted a similar resiliency camp for teens and McMeekin shared the positive results with Air Mobility Command. The feedback from this course along with her involvement in helping to build a curriculum for BOUNCE provided the opportunity for JB Charleston to be the test base for this new initiative.

"Although the camp is similar to what we teach our servicemembers, we designed it to be more interactive," McMeekin added.  "Though the camp is held in a classroom setting, we incorporated games, activities and role-playing to ensure the messages were getting across."

The A-B-C model, a skill shown to the participants, teaches them that their thoughts or interpretations of a situation, drives their behavior.   The goal of the model is to have the teens "slow down" and "think before acting".   By doing so, they can choose a different behavior, resulting in a better outcome.

According to McMeekin, one of the activities the teenagers really enjoyed involved identifying strengths they would have if they were superheroes.

"Ninety percent of the character strengths the teenagers identified were characteristics they have or could achieve," McMeekin said. "The activity focused on how they could use their strengths to help them be more resilient. Of course, there were a few exceptions, such as x-ray vision and invisibility."

One of the participants, Trenton Tolbert, said he had a great time learning.

"It's fun," he added. "We get to talk about personal emotions and how those things affect us."

Another student commented to the instructors, "I really liked the class, I think it's really good and teaches us to be more positive and look at things more optimistically. That helps a lot with anger."

Angela Cottman, 628th Air Base Wing master resilience trainer and BOUNCE instructor, was impressed with how fast the teenagers grasped the subjects.

"Our teens today, see the world differently," Cottman commented. "They are exposed to various forms of social media, which shape their world views. It was great to empower and share with them some tools and strategies which help them be more aware of their thoughts and their reactions."

Having a resilient teenager will help foster the goal of having a resilient community, according to McMeekin. Overall, it was a very successful camp. One-hundred-percent of the participants said they would recommend the camp to a friend.

"Giving teenagers the same skills as military members to cope with hardships will help reduce the stressors of military life," McMeekin said. "At the end of the day, if even one student takes home and implements one of the learned skills, we'll consider that a win-win on the way to a resilient community."