New program delivers outdoor excitement to installations

  • Published
  • By Debbie Aragon
  • AFIMSC Public Affairs

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas – A new outdoor recreation programmers course is set to deliver more excitement to installations in 2024, following a recent successful beta test.

The new 14-day, in-residence Intermediate Outdoor Recreation Pilot Programmers Course was tested at the U.S. Air Force Academy July 30 – Aug. 12, by representatives from 10 installations. The beta course covered swift water rescue, mountain biking, climbing, wilderness first aid and Leave No Trace. Leave No Trace is focused on conserving the environment.

The Air Force Services Center manages the outdoor recreation program and sponsored the course.

“The new training ensures our outdoor recreation professionals and operations can provide more diverse programming in a safe environment, allowing Airmen, Guardians and their family members to enjoy some awesome outdoor activities together and create long-lasting memories,” said Gilberto Salinas, a recreation specialist at AFSVC.

“This new course provides activity specific training and industry certifications in outdoor programming to help increase program offerings at outdoor recreation operations,” Salinas said. “Additionally, it will spur homegrown, in-house programming versus us having to rely on outside contractors or outfitters to fulfill programming requirements … our outdoor recreation professionals will be more skilled educators, masters of their craft and true liaisons to the outdoors.”

“The rigors of event planning sessions and long days of back-to-back training were high and pushed each student in different ways,” said Casey Graham, lead outdoor recreation instructor with USAFA’s Outdoor Recreation. “All in all, students walked away with not only professional training and application of their newly refined skills in the field, but also new, close professional relationships to help build their own operations.” 

Edith Thompson, the outdoor recreation assistant manager and programmer at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, said attending the program broadened her horizon on what she’s capable of learning and teaching others.

“I have a fire in me now that I hope spreads to all those who cross my path with Air Force outdoor programs becoming a core memory throughout their lives,” she said.

Patrick Perkins from outdoor recreation at Travis AFB, California, said he believes the course “is going to forever change the trajectory of military outdoor rec and ensure our programmers stay on the front lines of outdoor professionals.”

“It’s been a vision for many years to offer professional development opportunities to our Air Force outdoor adventure programmers,” said Charles Alfultis, outdoor recreation manager at USAFA. “I think courses like this show our nonappropriated fund employees that we care about their career development and recognize what they do and can provide to their respective military communities. I am honored to have been a part of course’s development.”

The Air Force Outdoor Recreation Program supports Total Force fitness and wellbeing, Salinas said.

“Through our increased programming, our Air Force family can build on their mental, physical, social and spiritual wellness … outdoor recreation is a place for all and continues to support the needs of our military communities around the globe,” he said.

“The outdoors can be many things to different people,” Salinas said. “Whether you’re looking for a sense of community, therapy or stress reduction, a challenge or an adrenaline-pumping experience …  whether it be in the mountains, on a lazy river or on the beach, outdoor rec is a place for all.”