Training the Newbies

I thought about making a life rule about writing about work. It would have gone something like this, “Thou shalt not write about the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in the past, present, or future tense.” However, I did not make the rule and I feel compelled to write about my favorite season of the year. No, it isn’t spring or summer. My favorite season is training season followed by Be Ready season.

I have the best job in the world. I work at Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama. That is the big umbrella name, but in reality I work as the Program Manager of Aviation Challenge from about March to September. Aviation Challenge is a realistic military aviation experience. If Space Camp trains future astronauts, we train the future Mavericks and Gooses. In October I shift gears to staff recruitment and training until AC rolls back around in the spring. Before Thanksgiving I get to travel to fun places like Embry Riddle Prescott, Troy University and many points in between.

Along the recruiting trail we get to meet the future staff on their college campus or in their home towns. We spend time in hotel rooms and in cars driving down long highways in Arizona… look there is a cactus! The recruitment team has an important job to excite hopeful candidates to leave school for a semester for Huntsville, Al and Space Camp. Some candidates put off starting their careers or entering grad school. To me the choice seems like a no brainer. But it can be daunting at times.

On January 7th of this year we accepted over fifty new staff into our camp family. I have the good fortune of teaching and organizing a lot of training. Ok, I don’t teach as much as the counselor staff members that are selected as mentors, but I do get to educate the masses on the importance of a quality pencil. It is long hours and can be stressful, but along the way I get to hang out with some of the greatest people. The simple enjoyment of being a teacher can be my greatest experience during this time of year.

The mentors are the best of the best, the Top Guns of the counselor corps. They guide the new staff each day through all their activities, tests, and teach backs. I only have to worry about keeping them straight on which room to meet Kerby in for the Art of Debriefing. They only have to worry about making cookies and other snacks for their teams on test days. Joseph’s oatmeal raisin cookies are amazing and Jason’s chocolate cookies with the caramel centers are slap your co-worker good. Nothing is slap my momma good. She would shoot me.

We have learned about all the major milestones of the early space program, most all anyone ever needs to know about the space shuttle program, how to be a team leader/counselor, and all the logistics behind working at Space Camp. The new staff will be rock solid before they take their first teams. The mentors, trainers and staff have given their very best this year. I am so proud to be a part of this training team.

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