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    Brawls, Disorder Mar National Guard Boot Camp for Teens

    Brawls, Disorder Mar National Guard Boot Camp for Teens

    A massive brawl broke out on a parade ground at  Gordon in Augusta one afternoon last fall, when about 70 teenage recruits of the Georgia National Guard's Youth Challenge Academy slugged it out. Some used homemade weapons, including metal shanks, crudely sharpened toothbrushes and tube socks filled with metal padlocks.

    Overwhelmed, the academy's staff — most former drill instructors — called for help, summoning the military police to break it up and ambulances to treat the injured. Two boys were taken to the hospital, one with a concussion, the other with bruised ribs. Others were treated on after the Oct. 13 episode and sent back to barracks where cadets were placed on lockdown.

    Within 24 hours of the brawl, a second melee involving more than two dozen teenagers broke out in one of the barracks and senior military leaders shut down the five-month boot in its first week, sending all 170 cadets home and barring them from Fort Gordon for a year. The violent week marked a debilitating breakdown of order for the state program that for three decades has helped at-risk youth complete high school education in an atmosphere of military discipline.

    Since the shutdown, parents have been given little explanation from the National Guard about how the camp spiraled out of control so quickly. But an Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation uncovered leadership failures and mismanagement by…

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