SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Il. --
No matter what the season, Outdoor Recreation aid Jess Petot is there planning and then driving a bus to take Scott Airmen and their families to an adventure.
Having grown up in Southern Illinois, Petot said she likes to use the trips to show people that “it’s not flat and boring out here.”
She said people tend to think there’s nothing to do out here, and unless they know what to look for, they’re never going to find those things.
“I promise there are exciting things to do around here. It’s here, it’s available. I’ll help you find it,” Petot said.
One of the area’s hidden gems is an abandoned, flooded sandstone mine in Crystal City, Missouri, where ODR hosts the underground kayaking trip each month.
“It’s so quiet,” said Petot. “Everybody wears a headlamp; that’s the only light source when you get down there. When the water clears out, you can see 40 feet down to the floor. It’s so peaceful. It’s just absolutely amazing.”
Staff Sgt. John Marrs, 375th Medical Support Squadron, went on the September kayaking trip as part of an office group, and said they’re still talking about it at work.
“It’s therapeutic in that you can get out of the house or dorms and meet new people. It’s also a good way to try new things you might not normally do,” he said.
ODR director, Janice Turner, explained that the trips aren’t just for fun, they boost morale, too.
“(For instance,) I’ve seen people on rock climbing trips who were probably scared (at first), but by the time they were done, they felt ... amazing. It boosts your adrenaline, and it also boosts your confidence.”
This is especially important for military families dealing with the stress of deployment, she said. Turner herself was first introduced to ODR when her husband deployed to Afghanistan in 2008.
“I wanted to stay busy, so Outdoor Rec became my place to go,” she said. “I was going there all the time—I became that regular customer. Before you know it, they hired me, and now here I am today.”
Whether it’s alleviating stress or helping an Airman find exciting things to do in the local area, ODR trips have something to offer for everyone at Scott. Some of their more regular trips include underground kayaking, horseback riding, skydiving and paintball.
They’ve also hosted educational courses such as backpacking and hiking 101 and wilderness first aid. Some upcoming activities include:
· Jan. 20: Underground kayak in Crystal City;
· Jan. 27: Winter Wildfowl Watch in Alton (Eagle watching along the Mississippi);
· Jan. 31: Outdoor Rec Open House: Meet the new staff, check out team-building equipment, see displays/gear and free refreshments from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.; and
· March 3: Family archery clinic and tournament, and chili cook-off from 2-6 p.m.
For a schedule of their events or more information, see www.375fss.com or check out their Facebook page at Scott AFB Outdoor Recreation.