By Amy Newcomb, Fort Campbell CourierMay 1, 2015
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. -- To help close out Month of the Military Child, Operation Megaphone brought 51 Fort Campbell teens together for a lock-in at Taylor Youth Center April 24.
The annual event highlighted the importance of teens in leadership roles with this year's theme "Teens Lead the Way." The event also allowed the teens to connect with other teens from military posts around the globe, said Michael Sampson, middle school and teen director of the post's Child, Youth and School Services.
By virtually connecting military youth programs worldwide, Operation Megaphone provided the opportunity for teens to collaborate and discuss common issues affecting military teens to help bring about change.
"Operation Megaphone as a whole -- it teaches mainly about our problems in the present time and in the future," said Jaelen Starks, 15. "Basically [issues] like bullying, suicide, relationships and our goals for the future."
Starks said each of the issues were very important, but he thought bullying and suicide were of particular importance.
"We have to raise awareness for [bullying and suicide], so we can put that to an end," he said.
Amani Gaiten, 15, said he hopes this event shows other teens and adults that teenagers are important within the community.
"Usually teenagers are just shoved to the side … I'm hoping that Operation Megaphone can give us a voice," Gaiten said.
After the lock-in began, Army Community Service hosted a teen workshop with the Military and Family Life Counseling program. The issues discussed ranged from preparing for life after high school to bullying and suicide prevention.
"We are doing prevention education," said Dolores Lakes, ACS Family Advocacy specialist. "This is what our teens deal with every day. So, we are going to help them think about what their options are … and what the possibilities are for them."
Lakes said discussing topics like building positive relationships and friendships, as well as other sensitive issues, can sometimes be difficult for teens to talk about with their parents or friends.
"These are critical topics," Lakes said.
The teen workshop gave ACS and MFLAC a rare opportunity to speak to a large group of teens at one time, which was a remarkable, invaluable experience, Lakes said.
"If one of them gets the information then maybe they will share that with their peers because we know they have more influence on each other sometimes than even the parents have," Lakes said. "This is a great opportunity to just be able to show them that life is worth living and there are other options."
After the workshop, the teens came together for the Youth Leadership Forum. The forum gave the teens an opportunity to address issues they see within the Fort Campbell community.
Some of the issues discussed were a less structured teen recreation center that would provide more freedom, traveling sports teams and more opportunities to prepare for the workforce or higher education.
After the teens identified the issues they thought were important, they virtually connected with teens from California, Hawaii and Florida to ask questions about other lock-ins and make some new friends.
Two teens will be selected from Fort Campbell to attend and address these issues at the Joint Service Teen Council training in San Antonio, Texas, in July.
Once the formalities concluded, the teens took part in a basketball tournament, went on a scavenger hunt and settled down to watch a movie.
"I really like this idea for a lock-in because you not only have fun but you have learning experiences as well," said Starks.
Editor's note: This article is the second in a series about military police operations.