Teens learn to BOUNCE back in first AF teen resiliency course

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Jared Trimarchi
  • Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs
Twenty-four teenagers participated in the Air Force's first resiliency teen camp, named BOUNCE, from July 11-15 at Joint Base Charleston.

BOUNCE, which stands for Be optimistic, Observe thoughts, Use strengths, Never give up, Communicate effectively and Embrace you, is a weeklong 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, the 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, the Air Force resilience branch chief, said Air Mobility Command will implement BOUNCE command-wide in August, and the Air Force will review for possible adoption service-wide.

"BOUNCE was piloted at four (Air Force) 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 AMC. The feedback from this course along with her involvement in helping to build a curriculum for BOUNCE provided the opportunity for Joint Base Charleston to be the test base for this new initiative.

"Although the camp is similar to what we teach our service members, we designed it to be more interactive," McMeekin said. "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 they act. By doing so, they can choose a different behavior, resulting in a better outcome.

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

"It's fun," he said. "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, a 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 said. "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, McMeekin added. Overall, it was a very successful camp.

"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."