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Outdoor Recreation: A new passion awaits

Kayakers at the mouth of a cave

A group from Scott Air Force Base Outdoor Recreation on their kayaks, at Crystal City Underground, Missouri, July 17, 2021. Outdoor Recreation plans activities for Airmen and families - offering a better quality of life to service members. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shannon Moorehead)

Girl on kayak paddles

Alexus Antolin rows at Crystal City Underground, Missouri, July 17, 2021. Antolin toured the underground sandstone cave with her family as a part of a group from Scott Air Force Base, Ill. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shannon Moorehead)

Woman in cave on kayak

Jessica Petot, Outdoor Recreation recreation coordinator, waits to go through the “squeeze box” at Crystal City Underground, Missouri, July 17, 2021. The mine spans approximately 200 acres of a converted sandstone mine. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shannon Moorehead)

Kayakers touch ceiling of cave while sitting in kayaks

A group from Scott Air Force Base Outdoor Recreation navigates through the “squeeze box”, at Crystal City Underground, Missouri. July 17, 2021. The “squeeze box” is a narrow part of the mine where navigation requires kayakers to lie horizontal to make it through the tight space. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shannon Moorehead)

Man on Kayak

A Crystal City Underground tour guide paddles in Crystal City, Missouri, July 17, 2021. The mine dates back to the late 1880s where it originally supplied materials to local glass manufacturers. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shannon Moorehead)

Man on kayak points upward

Don Marson, Crystal City Underground tour guide, points upwards at a submerged sandstone mine in Crystal City, Missouri, July 17, 2021. The gloves he wears protects him from the cold temperatures of the mine that remain below 60°F year-round. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shannon Moorehead)

Man on Kayak points upward

Don Marson, Crystal City Underground tour guide, points upwards at a submerged sandstone mine in Crystal City, Missouri, July 17, 2021. The gloves he wears protects him from the cold temperatures of the mine that remain below 60°F year-round. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shannon Moorehead)

Man on kayak takes photo with gopro

Mir Hassan, 375th Force Support Squadron ODR recreation specialist, takes a photo at Crystal City Underground, Missouri July 17, 2021. The mine dates back to the late 1880s where it originally supplied materials to local glass manufacturers. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shannon Moorehead)

Man on kayak talks

A tour guide talks about the submerged sandstone mine at Crystal City Underground, Missouri, July 17, 2021. The mine dates back to the late 1880s where it originally supplied materials to local glass manufacturers. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shannon Moorehead)

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, ILL. – It was a bright Saturday morning when ten perfect strangers went on a kayak trip to Crystal City Underground in Missouri, navigating the caves and chilly waters while making memories with new found friends. 

For Airmen looking for the opportunity to get out, build new hobbies and find new passions, Outdoor Recreation trips offer fun adventures and a way for Airmen to improve their mental health. 

“Our main goal here at ODR is truly to help support the mission in terms of keeping our Airmen mentally well - mentally happy,” said Jessica Petot, 375th Force Support Squadron ODR recreation specialist. 

For Capt. Megan Antolin, Air Mobility Command Medical Readiness Operations Branch chief, and her family the kayaking session provided an outlet to build upon multiple aspects of their wellness. Thus providing them a physical outlet and family bonding experience. 

During their excursion the family explored the former sandstone mine, navigating the dark twisty caves with excitement. 

”It was really cool to see my daughter be so independent in such a different environment, said Antolin. “We expected her to be in a double kayak with me or her dad, but she was in her own. I thought she would be nervous, but she faced it head-on."

In addition to being family friendly, ODR’s events also offer an opportunity to get to know your fellow Airmen or rekindle old friendships. 

“Events like this kayaking trip offer an opportunity to interact with people you may never otherwise talk to,” said Antolin. “On this trip, someone my husband went to noncommissioned officer academy with was also there, we had no idea we were stationed together. This gave them a chance to reconnect and just build up that support network, which is so important to mental wellness.”

Whether it’s networking, alleviating stress or providing Airmen the opportunity to do exciting things in the local area, ODR trips have something to offer for all of Team Scott, said Petot.

“My goal truly is just to share these places that I have fallen in love with — with other people so that maybe they can fall in love with them too,” she added. “If you are interested in something, go do it. You will never know if you enjoy something unless you try it out.”

In addition to their kayaking trips and archery clinic, Outdoor Recreation is looking to bring back programs that were cancelled due to COVID-19 as well as offer new programs. For more information on the abundance of local opportunities they offer please visit their Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/ScottODR