Wednesday, May 28, 2014

4-H: Operation Military Kids

The 4-H Operation Military Kids program (OMK) is the U.S. Army's collaborative effort with America's communities to support children and youth impacted by deployment. Regardless of whether families are experiencing deployment for the first time, the second time or another in a series of multiple deployments, OMK's goal is to connect military children and youth with local resources in order to achieve a sense of community support and enhance their well-being.

Through OMK, military youth come together to participate in a range of recreational, social and educational programs. OMK youth gain leadership, organizational, and technical skills, receive assistance with school issues by connecting with military liaisons, and have the opportunity to attend daily, weekend and even longer residential camps.

Each state has its own OMK program. DC does not have an Army Reserve, but the program works closely with the National Guard, Bolling Air Force Base, the American Legion, the Navy and the Marines. Because of its size, the DC OMK program does cross the border into Maryland and Virginia, explains Feifei Sun, DC's OMK coordinator. 

According to Feifei, Operation Military Kids has three major elements: Ready, Set, Go! training, "Hero Packs," and the Speak Out for Military Kids Program.
"Hero Packs are a tangible expression given to military youth to recognize their sacrifice and courage during deployment," explains Feifei. "An average backpack is filled with school supplies, a camera and other donated items."

Ready, Set, Go! training provides training to the non-military community to educate youth workers, teachers, counselors and other community service providers on military culture, the deployment cycle, resilience in kids and how to build community capacity to support military youth and families. 

The Speak Out for Military Kids Program is run by military youth, who through their outreach, share their stories about growing up in the military to the non-military community. Through SOMK, youth from grades 7-12 create speakers' bureaus and develop lectures, public service announcements, video, and other materials to share their experiences with others. In addition to building public awareness about issues facing military families during mobilization and deployment, SOMK provides its youth participants with the opportunity to gain valuable leadership, research, organization, technology, and public speaking skills.

The Mobile Technology Lab supports OMK by helping to facilitate connections between deployed soldiers and their kids. It is outfitted with 10 laptops, video and still cameras, networking components, printers, headsets, and other peripherals. These basic services can be utilized at Family Readiness Group meetings, special events, and within small organized group meetings. The Mobile Technology Lab has computers and cameras the youth use to develop photos for their deployed parent.

Unlike other 4-H programs, military youth are registered through their military Child and Youth Development Center, who then provides the information to OMK. Visit DC OMK online or contact Feifei Sun for more information.

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