CAMP GRUBER, Okla. – Paul Smith has given so much to the Oklahoma Army National Guard over the years that the Guard decided it was time to give something back.

On Thursday, the assistant district attorney for Seminole, Hughes and Pontotoc counties was invited to the National Guard training site here to see first-hand the fruits of his labor.

Smith received a tour of the installation and was able to gain a better understanding of what the youth he helped steer toward the Guard either directly or through the adjudication process via the Thunderbird Youth Academy have been experiencing.

“This was a great opportunity to review the things at Camp Gruber and get a hands-on feel for what the guardsmen are training in,” Smith said. “It gave me an idea of what we’re putting recruits through and allowed me to observe some of the training they’re being exposed to.”

Smith said he also learned about the many benefits the Guard has to offer so that he can get a better feel for how to direct the youth with whom he comes into contact.

“Anytime a youth has had a brush with the law and come through the court system or even when they haven’t, it’s great to have another avenue to expose them to and possibly lead them down another career path,” he said.

“It’s great to give them exposure to something that will mature them in life and I’ve always thought the National Guard is a great vehicle for that,” Smith added.

Leading the charge for Smith’s visit was Maj. Brad Carter, a Seminole resident and support operations officer for the 345th Corps Support Battalion headquartered in Ardmore.

Carter, along with Maj. Keith Varner of Edmond, operations and training officer for the battalion, spent two months coming up with a plan to get potential recruits to Camp Gruber for four days during their battalion’s two-week annual training period June 10-24.

Over the four-day period, Carter said some 90 high school juniors and seniors from Ada, Antlers, Ardmore, Durant, Lawton, Madill, Seminole, Tulsa and all points in between were brought to the site to get an up close and personnel look at what the Guard has to offer.

During their visit, the recruits were physically able to get their hands on some of the National Guard’s weapons, participate in a weapons simulator, witness some force-on-force combat training and do some rappelling, among other things.

According to Carter, this is believed to be the first time recruits had ever been invited to observe an annual training period and be involved like they were. Varner went on to say this recruiting platform will be used as a benchmark for future annual training periods.

“What we wanted to do was give Mr. Smith and these youth a chance to see what the Guard has to offer,” Carter said. “We wanted Mr. Smith to see first-hand the fruits of his labor.”

“He’s directed a lot of youth toward the Guard and been a great mentor. We just wanted to show him that his efforts were not in vain. He’s been personally responsible for a lot of success stories and we wanted to kind of bring that home to him.”

Carter said hosting the recruiting effort required a great deal of planning and coordination from many people, but in the end he said it was well worth it.

“We had a number of these young men and women commit to the Guard during this time,” he said. “Many of them even wanted to come back a second time and bring their friends because they enjoyed it so much.”

This Week's Circulars