The Explorers program, a coeducational affiliate of the Boy Scouts of America that began 60 years ago, is training thousands of young people in skills used to confront terrorism, illegal immigration and escalating border violence -- an intense ratcheting up of one of the group's longtime missions to prepare youths for more traditional jobs as police officers and firefighters.The kids sure seem to have fun while they learn:
"This is about being a true-blooded American guy and girl," said A. J. Lowenthal, a sheriff's deputy here in Imperial County, whose life clock, he says, is set around the Explorers events he helps run. "It fits right in with the honor and bravery of the Boy Scouts."
The training, which leaders say is not intended to be applied outside the simulated Explorer setting, can involve chasing down illegal border crossers as well as more dangerous situations that include facing down terrorists and taking out "active shooters," like those who bring gunfire and death to college campuses. In a simulation here of a raid on a marijuana field, several Explorers were instructed on how to quiet an obstreperous lookout.
"Put him on his face and put a knee in his back," a Border Patrol agent explained. "I guarantee that he'll shut up."
One participant, Felix Arce, 16, said he liked "the discipline of the program," which was something he said his life was lacking. "I want to be a lawyer, and this teaches you about how crimes are committed," he said.Those running the Explorer programs want kids as young as possible to get hooked:
Cathy Noriego, also 16, said she was attracted by the guns. The group uses compressed-air guns -- known as airsoft guns, which fire tiny plastic pellets -- in the training exercises, and sometimes they shoot real guns on a closed range.
"I like shooting them," Cathy said. "I like the sound they make. It gets me excited."
The law enforcement posts are restricted to those ages 14 to 21 who have a C average, but there seems to be some wiggle room. "I will take them at 13 and a half," Deputy Lowenthal said. "I would rather take a kid than possibly lose a kid."And people demonize tobacco companies for targeting youngsters?