Operation Military Kids: Florida youth introduced to military life, customs
By Staff Sgt. Benjamin Rojek, 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published October 13, 2006
TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AETCNS) -- "Move, move move! If you're not out of bed in two seconds, I'm chasing you out!"
Remember those early-morning wake-up calls in basic training? More than 180 teens from all over Florida got a chance to experience it while they stayed at Tyndall Air Force Base as part of Operation Military Kids Sept. 9-11.
Originally developed by the Department of Defense and national 4-H Club offices, Operation Military Kids gives young people a chance to see what the military does every day, as well as experience preparing for deployment.
"This year the 4-H state project is "support the military,'" said Dr. Paula Davis, 4-H youth development extension agent for Bay County. "In order to be supportive, the kids must understand what the military does for them and the importance of the military to the freedoms we enjoy daily."
In order to help them understand the military culture, the teens were greeted by two training instructors: Tech. Sgts. Tim Barnett and Stephanie Brown from the Tyndall AFB NCO Academy.
"I was a TI at Lackland AFB, Texas, from November 1995 through June 2000, and I did it again at Officer Training School at Maxwell AFB, Ala.," Sergeant Barnett said. "To make the experience real, I did the standard pick-up and drop your bags at night thing that would have been done to an Airman reporting to basic training."
The teens were taught basic drill movements, including standing at attention and present and order arms, he said. They then went through a deployment processing line and were finally sent to their barracks for lights-out at midnight.
The teens were up by 5:30 a.m. the second day for morning physical training. After breakfast at the dining facility, they were grouped up into different class sessions to learn about the military. Some sessions included trips to the 325th Security Forces Squadron, the 325th Civil Engineer Squadron fire station or out to Silver Flag, a civil engineer field training area. There were also recreational activities such as archery and sand sculpting.
At the end of the day, the teens were bused to a base Sept. 11, 2001, remembrance and flag folding ceremony performed by the Tyndall Honor Guard. Afterward, they broke into districts to plan how each 4-H group would support the military.
"Last year we only had 4-H members from the Panhandle area come out for this program," Dr. Davis said. "They had such a good time and told so many others about it, that this year it turned into a state event."
The Tyndall Youth Center helped put together the activities for the weekend, as well as acted as a hub for the teens to meet between sessions.
"We've been looking forward to this," said Alma Hooks, Tyndall Youth Center youth programs director. "Our teens like showing off the facility and what we have to offer."
Programs like Operation Military Kids allows Tyndall's teens to be more appreciative of being a part of the military, which in turn makes them more supportive of their parents, Ms. Hooks said.
"Hopefully through talking to the military kids, the other kids will understand what it feels like to not have a parent there, instead deployed to an unsafe area," Dr. Davis said. "Then the kids can learn how to be supportive of their military peers."
After spending three days learning about the military, a lot of the 4-H Club members showed an interest in the Air Force and in the military as a whole, Sergeant Barnett said. They even bonded with their TI.
"The interaction with the kids was great," the sergeant said. "I found out they nicknamed me 'Sergeant Sunshine.' Also, the 4-H made me an honorary member of the state 4-H Council at the awards ceremony Sunday.
"I would absolutely do this again," he added. "It was one of the most rewarding things I have done in my Air Force career!"