Operation: Military Kids is an outreach effort supported by the Army's Child and Youth Services in collaboration with National 4-H, Boys and Girls Club of America, American Legion, Military Child Education Coalition, NACCRRAA, and other state or local organizations. OMK serves youth from all branches of the military. It began in 2004 in 5 states, but now reaches youth in all 50 states. When National Guard Army Reserve and other military parents living in civilian communities are mobilized, their children suddenly have unique needs. These “suddenly military” kids need to connect with other youth in similar situations. They seek friends and adults who can empathize and can help them cope with their new world. In 2009, Montana was home to over 6000 youth with a military connection (http://www.militaryhomefront.dod.mil/). 4-H was the chosen organization to help organize Operation: Military kids because we are similar nationwide.

Operation: Military kids has four main program components: Hero Packs, Assignment: Military Kids trainings, Mobile Technology Labs, and Speak Out.

Hero Packs are backpacks given to military youth designed to include activities that help them stay connected to their deployed loved one. All Hero Packs include a disposable camera, a stuffed animal, a hero letter (a letter of support written by a non-military youth), journal/letter writing supplies, a “fun” item, and parental information.

Assignment: Military Kids trainings are offered to community members to educate about youth and deployment. Continuing Education unites can sometimes be given for these events.

The Mobile Technology Lab in Montana consists of 10 computers, two printers, digital still shot cameras, digital video cameras, and software. These labs are offered to any community partner doing an event with military youth. We take these labs to OMK events, as well as others, and allow you to explore the technology. Youth have created “zoom albums” (a 12 photo book that fits perfectly into the shoulder pocket of a service member), movies, photo pillow cases, and more!

The last component of OMK is Speak Out. These events allow youth to explore and express the emotions of deployment in various ways. Youth at these events have created radio and television ads, children’s stories, poems, and artwork.

If you have questions about any of these core components, would like an Assignment: Military Kids training in your area, would like to have your child or student write Hero Letters, or would like to donate items for Hero Packs please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me JoLynn Miller (jcmiller@montana.edu) or the OMK State Coordinator, Caroline Dettle (ddettle@montana.edu).

**Gallatin County 4-H hosted a Speak Out with Art workshop during Month of the Military Child (April). We will be showcasing the art these kids produced at a PUBLIC ART SHOW OPENING on May 2nd from 5-7pm at the Belgrade Community Library. This event is open to anyone and everyone. Light refreshments will be served.