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Hood lifeguards at sprawling Aviation Challenge Lake

Away from Auburn Montgomery, Alex Hood works as a lifeguard at the Aviation Challenge at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. (CONTRIBUTED)
Away from Auburn Montgomery, Alex Hood works as a lifeguard at the Aviation Challenge at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. (CONTRIBUTED)

MADISON – When Alex Hood heads to work, he goes to one of North Alabama’s largest pools.

For three summers, Hood has been a lifeguard at Space Camp’s Aviation Challenge Lake at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.

The pool/lake is irregularly shaped. Using satellite imagery, Hood estimated it is 74,000-plus square feet, compared to an Olympic-sized pool’s 13,448 square feet. “Five-and-a-half Olympic-sized pools can fit in the lake,” he said. Average depth is about four feet.

All school year, Hood anticipates his summer job. “Co-workers at the space center become close friends. It’s really a great atmosphere. It certainly helps to have such an experienced boss, Dana Kersjes, over all the water facilities,” Hood said.

“It’s never dull. Different situations help you learn flexibility, especially when it comes to weather,” Hood said.

Between 100 to 200 people of all ages and backgrounds use the lake weekly. Most are students.

Varied activities help in water training, like drown-proofing. Not fully submerged, “The Dunker” obstacle simulates a helicopter crash into water with campers swimming through a doorway and toward a rally point. “‘The Lifter’ mimics a helicopter rescue with fans and misters simulating rotor wash after a ‘crash,'” Hood said.

Campers are trained to raft and master an obstacle course. From a tower, campers zip line into the water, simulating a parachute landing from an aircraft and parachuting backwards into water, he said.

Hood is a senior psychology major at Auburn University at Montgomery and serves as Student Government Association president. This summer, he is speaking at Montgomery orientations and graduations and attending Auburn Board of Trustees meetings as an ex-officio member.

After graduation, Hood will complete a paramedic degree and enter seminary. “I believe God will lead me to combine my love of emergency medical services (EMS) and my desire to serve in ministry.” A licensed EMT, he serves on the Pike Road Volunteer Fire Department near campus.

Alex’ parents are John and Angie Hood. His sister Kate is studying EMS at the University of South Alabama.

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