First Joint Services Teen Council meets in San Antonio
August 3, 2012
SAN ANTONIO (July 13, 2012) - - Military teens and Army, Air Force and Navy leaders met in a show of force for the first Joint Services Teen Council to discuss the common issues affecting youth on military installations.
Representatives from Japan, Korea, Germany and many states including Georgia, Florida, Maryland, Missouri, Texas, Mississippi, Washington, California, South Carolina and Illinois attended training sessions on leadership, teen advocacy and public speaking and then came to consensus on the top four issues on the minds of the teen leaders.
"It was surprising to me that all the issues are the same," said Breanna Bowman, from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., and representing the Air National Guard. "Teen participation is the issue that caught my attention. People my age should have the opportunity to do the positive things in life."
Reaching consensus was not an easy task for teens with such diverse backgrounds. "In the beginning we were butting heads," said Ebony Sayles, from Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., and representing the Southwest region. "It was good how well we got along and how we agreed on the issues."
The top four issues presented to leadership were:
• Improve programming for teens -- make activities and opportunities available to counter the negative
• Increase participation -- turn up awareness, battle inadequate program space and reject the un-cool attitudes
• Reduce negative effect of PCS -- increase school liaison service so teens do not sacrifice in the move
• Maximize marketing efforts -- ensure our teens are not missing out on volunteer opportunities, camps and leadership and training councils
The council voted to begin "Operation Megaphone," to create public service announcements, market programs and communicate between the branches. Through this effort, the delegates intend to make positive improvements to benefit teens in all military communities.
"I'm thrilled you came up with an action plan," said Air Force COL Tom Joyce, director of services at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio. "Op Megaphone -- go ahead and do it. I'm proud to know you guys got it and we can step aside and let you go."
"What I came away with and wish to reinforce today is the essence of the future of America is in great hands," said Rich Gorman, deputy G9, MWR Business Programs, for the U.S. Army Installation Management Command. "What you do in sharing what it's like being a military youth is critical to our commanders and senior leaders, especially during this time of protracted war."
Teen representatives from three services and the Army National Guard and Air National Guard spoke for 1.5 million military youth, with the slogan, "We are Better Together," worn proudly on their t-shirts. Several delegates were not afraid to let their passions show.
"The military is all I have ever known," said Michael Lawson, from Landstuhl, Germany, and representing U.S. Army Europe. "I would give 100 percent because the support I have in the military is enough."
Military leaders agreed. "It's all about passion and action," said Joyce. "There is no end to what you can do with the right attitude."
"This council (Teen Panel) is not about funding, it about freedom," said Gorman. "It's about the thing Osama Bin Laden didn't understand. He thought he could kill America as a country by running a number of planes into high rise buildings, but you can't kill America, because it's much more an idea, than a country, an idea that with a little luck and certainly hard work and ability, you are free to become whatever you want to become. Being an American is a privilege with carries a corresponding responsibility. As you move forward, you have to pay it back and I'm confident that is exactly what you'll do."
Many teens thanked the military leaders for coming to listen to their ideas and hear their enthusiasm.
"We are the next generation and it is our responsibility to pull together," said Demi Kelly, from Camp Walker in Daegu, South Korea, and representing the Pacific region. "This council was a new experience and hard to relate to at first, but now I see how much these issues impact teens at my location and around the world."
The mission of the joint services effort is to drive for unity and advocate to enact change. The council cited President Barack Obama, who once said, "Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time." Adult representatives and junior advisors worked in plenary sessions, workshops and seminars to prepare the teens to meet with military leaders.
"I got to meet people that understand my life and what I go through, things that civilians would not understand," said Bailey Dabney, from Kitsap Naval Base, Seattle, Washington, and representing their northwest region. "It's hard for us because we didn't choose this life, we were born into it. At this council, we came together not as branches, but as one.
"This is the beginning," said Joyce. "This is the core group that has the self confidence to inspire others to go to work."
For more information, go to http://www.facebook.com/#!/NavyTeenCouncil; http://www.facebook.com/#!/airforceteens; and http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Army-Teen-Panel-Global-Network-of-Friends/178827178826068.