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Keep exploring, improving morale with Outdoor Recreation activities

A group of with Scott Air Force Base Outdoor Recreation stops for a photo, Sept. 23, 2017, at Crystal City Underground, an abandoned, submerged sandstone mine in Crystal City, Mo. This opening is the only part of the tour where guests don’t need their headlamps. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Tara Stetler)

A group of with Scott Air Force Base Outdoor Recreation stops for a photo, Sept. 23, 2017, at Crystal City Underground, an abandoned, submerged sandstone mine in Crystal City, Mo. This opening is the only part of the tour where guests don’t need their headlamps. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Tara Stetler)

A group from Scott Air Force Base Outdoor Recreation boards their kayaks, Sept. 23, 2017,at Crystal City Underground, an abandoned, submerged sandstone mine in Crystal City, Mo. The mine dates back to the late 1880s, when it supplied sand to local glass manufacturers. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Tara Stetler)

A group from Scott Air Force Base Outdoor Recreation boards their kayaks, Sept. 23, 2017,at Crystal City Underground, an abandoned, submerged sandstone mine in Crystal City, Mo. The mine dates back to the late 1880s, when it supplied sand to local glass manufacturers. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Tara Stetler)

Senior Airman Benjamin Grondin, 375 Communications Squadron cyber transport technician, kayaks on a trip with Scott Air Force Base Outdoor Recreation, Sept. 23, 2017, at Crystal City Underground, an abandoned, submerged sandstone mine in Crystal City, Mo. The yellow tarp he wears over his lap is there to keep the water off of him, as the mine temperatures remain below 60°F year-round. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Tara Stetler)

Senior Airman Benjamin Grondin, 375 Communications Squadron cyber transport technician, kayaks on a trip with Scott Air Force Base Outdoor Recreation, Sept. 23, 2017, at Crystal City Underground, an abandoned, submerged sandstone mine in Crystal City, Mo. The yellow tarp he wears over his lap is there to keep the water off of him, as the mine temperatures remain below 60°F year-round. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Tara Stetler)

Kayakers with Scott Air Force Base Outdoor Recreation look up at an opening in a cavern, Sept. 23, 2017, at Crystal City Underground, an abandoned, submerged sandstone mine in Crystal City, Mo. The mine spans approximately 200 acres.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Tara Stetler)

Kayakers with Scott Air Force Base Outdoor Recreation look up at an opening in a cavern, Sept. 23, 2017, at Crystal City Underground, an abandoned, submerged sandstone mine in Crystal City, Mo. The mine spans approximately 200 acres. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Tara Stetler)

Don Marson, Crystal City Underground tour guide, pours sand into a guest’s hand as he explains the history of the abandoned, submerged sandstone mine, Oct. 21, 2017, at Crystal City Underground in Crystal City, Mo. Marson hosts underground kayaking trips from Scott Air Force Base Outdoor Recreation each month. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Tara Stetler)

Don Marson, Crystal City Underground tour guide, pours sand into a guest’s hand as he explains the history of the abandoned, submerged sandstone mine, Oct. 21, 2017, at Crystal City Underground in Crystal City, Mo. Marson hosts underground kayaking trips from Scott Air Force Base Outdoor Recreation each month. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Tara Stetler)

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.