HONOLULU - More than 140 educators and family members gathered at two separate deployment briefings, Sept. 17 and 24, to learn firsthand how deployments affect children and teens in military families. In addition, attendees discovered ways to better support and communicate with those military children, and collected information on available resources should problems arise.

The sponsor for the briefings, the Operation: Military Kids (OMK) Program in Hawaii, designed the classes for adults who have children or who work with children who are affected by deployment. Following the briefings, a panel of parents shared experiences about how deployments affected their children and families.

Hawaii is one of 42 states that participates in OMK, which strives to accomplish the following:

1) To collaborate with groups across the country to provide sustainable local support services to military youth before, during and after their family members are deployed;

2) To create networks of support for military children and to connect them with other military and nonmilitary youth through a variety of recreational, social and educational programs;

3) To raise community awareness and foster understanding about the impact of the deployment cycle on the military member, family, child and larger community; and

4) To act as resources for military children and families with opportunities like summer camps, after-school programs, youth councils, educational briefings and more.

The Hawaii OMK Program offers six program components in its outreach effort:

Aca,!AcBabysitting workshops are provided for older teens to supplement child care options for military families.

Aca,!AcSpeak Out for Military Kids is a youth-led, adult-supported activity that uses assorted marketing strategies to educate others about what it is like to be a military child.

Aca,!AcThe Mobile Technology Lab contains video and digital cameras, laptops, scanners and printers for military children to use and communicate with deployed family members.

Aca,!AcYouth Focused Programs offer a variety of events for military families to interact and have fun as they support each other during deployments.

Aca,!AcHero Packs are backpacks filled with small gifts to thank military children for the sacrifice their family makes when a loved one is deployed.

Aca,!AcReady, Set, Go! is a training program designed to offer insight into military culture and the deployment cycle and to suggest ways to understand and meet the needs of military children.

This learning opportunity stimulates and increases the local support to these children and their families by providing participants an opportunity to network and bring community resources together.

Attendees at the two briefings included representatives from the Hawaii Department of Education, private schools, military support groups, after-school youth programs and families.

Presenters included Sara Hill, Adolescent Substance Abuse Counseling Service (ASACS); Victor Voth, Marriage and Family Counseling Therapy; and Cora Hodges, Army Community Service Family Advocacy Program.

To request a briefing for your group or organization, contact the Army
School Liaison Office at 808-655-9818.