At Fort Belvoir, father-daughter dance swapped for boot camp

By Sarah Lane
Thursday, May 27, 2010

Some fathers and Girl Scouts traded in their traditional dance last week for something more intense: boot camp.

They faced obstacle courses, three-legged races and drill sergeant Cindy Turrell -- who spends her weekdays as a kindergarten teacher at Fort Belvoir Elementary School -- as part of the third annual Girl Scout Father/Daughter Boot Camp held Saturday at Fort Belvoir.

The event, which had more than 140 participants, was created to replace the dance's luaus and hoedowns.

"The girls would get up and just act silly, and the dads would sit there and twiddle their thumbs," Turrell said.

So, three years ago, Turrell and another Girl Scout troop leader decided they needed something that would get the fathers more involved.

"What can we do? . . . We're military. Hello, boot camp," she said.

Craig Hodge, who works with the U.S. Public Health Service, went to one of the dances with his daughter, Jordyn, who attended Fort Belvoir Elementary until the family moved.

"One year was enough," he said.

Jordyn, now a fourth-grader at Lorton Station Elementary, remains with her Girl Scout troop at Fort Belvoir. This was the third boot camp for the pair and a big improvement over the dance, they said.

For one afternoon, girls bonded with their fathers or father figures as they rotated through seven activities.

At the obstacle course, Turrell dressed in desert camouflage and shouted orders to each group. The dads carried an unloaded 15-pound rifle as they maneuvered around the course with their daughters doing jumping jacks, crawling on the ground and running through a set of tires.

Late in the afternoon, one father explained to his kindergarten daughter that the yelling was to get everyone "fired up" and not to be mean.

Second-grader Kiley Sharpe's favorite event was the obstacle course. It was Kiley's third boot camp, and each time she's had a different "father." The first year, her father's co-workers stepped in because her father was deployed. The second year, her father was home to take her. This year, her father is in Afghanistan and Dennis Hubbard, one of her mother's co-workers, filled the void.

Hubbard and Kiley breezed through the three-legged race in perfect unison, then moved on to the wheelbarrow race and piggyback carry.

"We look out for each other's kids," said Hubbard, who retired from the Navy and is a bus driver with Fairfax County schools.

Warren Sisco, an Army sergeant major, attended the boot camp for the first time with his daughter Sharvonne, 10.

"I've been deployed three out of the past four years. I just got here to Fort Belvoir . . . and I'm just glad to be here and hanging out with my daughter," he said.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company