STERLING, Va. (Sept. 13, 2014) -- Caleb Strother celebrated his 15th birthday Sept. 6, 2014 during the 80th Training Command (TASS) Family Readiness Programs' inaugural Teen Council meeting which took place in Sterling, Va., Sept. 5-7.

Strother, whose father Woodson is a sergeant first class in the 94th Training Division, commends his parents for suggesting that he volunteer as a council member.

"If I was home I'd probably just hang out, play Xbox, and maybe go out for dinner, but being here getting to know these new people is really fun," Strother said.

He and four other teenagers from families across the 80th TC are the council's initial members. Through semi-annual meetings, monthly conference calls and webinars, they're expected to plan and execute initiatives in support of youth and families across the command. The Family Readiness Programs, or FRP initiated the council with guidance from the U.S. Army Reserve Command to facilitate the development of leadership skills for the youth, and to ensure they have a forum to voice their needs and concerns as military family members.

The council also helps the Army Reserve Child, Youth and School Services, or CYSS, fulfill its mission of supporting readiness and quality of life by reducing conflict between military mission requirements and parental responsibilities.

For example, Yanid Munoz and class mate Kaneasha Johnson, both 14-year-old council members, would like to start a club at their high school for kids whose parents are in the military.

"Last year there was a girl in my grade whose dad was deployed..., [and] I knew she had a really hard time while he was gone," said Munoz, whose father Virgilio is a sergeant first class assigned to HHC 80th TC. "She would always tell me at lunch how much she missed her dad. He would always be leaving..., he would come back for a little while, but then he would always be gone again, missing her birthdays, dances, and all that stuff."

"If we had a club then we could go on field trips and other fun places and learn new things," Munoz added. "They (club members) will have other kids in the group who are going through the same thing, so they can talk to each other."

Munoz said, she and Johnson, whose guardian is Warrant Officer Angela Burrell 80th TC headquarters, plan on sharing their idea with the other council members as well as the FRP and CYSS representatives. Their hope is that the council make recommendations, and the CYSS representatives help pitch the proposal to the guidance counselors at her school.

Council members have a community service requirement, so during the meeting they filled back packs with school supplies for children whose parents are members of the 80th TC's Security Forces Advisory Assistance Team, Detachment 82, currently deployed to Afghanistan.

They also challenged themselves on three Team Development Courses at nearby George Mason University, one of which was the 50 foot hourglass shaped Alpine Tower.

Hallie Osman, daughter of Lt. Col. Patricia Osman, 102d Training Division, said she impressed herself by climbing to the top of the tower, but only after she noticed that Matthew Evans, son of Master Sgt. Robert Evans, 102d TD, failed to reach the top.

"It makes me feel good," the younger Evans said. "Who knows what would've happened if I hadn't failed, would she have had the same drive to get to the top?"

Francis Mitchell, 80th TC FRP coordinator, says individuals tend to learn their strengths and weaknesses on obstacle courses. She said the type of leadership that Osman displayed is what the council needs.

Nydia Negron, the Family Programs director, said this meeting is an initial step in the right direction, but the weekend would be a success if council members encouraged other teens to join by working with the commanders and Family Readiness Group leaders at the units where their parents are assigned.

"They will definitely have our support," Munoz said. "I'll be sending a letter to each division and subordinate unit commander telling them the names of the teenagers who represented their organization, and we'll also be asking for their support to help the teens."

Strother said meeting the other council members coupled with the weekend's activities made for a fun productive birthday weekend.

"We learned about how to be a better leader, we talked within the group about what it means to be a leader, and the activities like, the climbing the tower, were fun," Strother said. "Also, getting to know Matt, Hallie, and Spencer. They're older than me, but I enjoyed talking to them."