By Staff Sgt. Toshiko FraleyMay 10, 2011
FORT JACKSON, SC. -- The 81st Regional Support Command's Child, Youth & School Services team recently participated in its first Month of the Military Child Fun Fair held here.
This opportunity created a new friendship and introduced their existence to the Fort Jackson and Columbia, S.C., communities. At the Fun Fair, the CYSS team displayed opportunities for Reserve families to be linked with childcare solutions, foster unit and command support, employ community-based partnerships and engage in youth development opportunities along with school support services.
"This event was in observance of Month of the Military Child," said Jennifer Stevens, the 81st Regional Support Command's community outreach specialist. "It was a celebration of our children and recognition of their service to this country as well as their parents. Our Soldiers, families and children need to know that they are appreciated. This event encouraged family participation in a safe and fun environment."
Each child that came to the 81st RSC's booth was given dog tags, bracelets and pins.
In addition, the CYSS team ensured parents walked away with a wealth of information about both the 81st Family Programs initiatives as well as CYSS promotional information.
"The event gave Reserve and active-component Army families the opportunity to interact with one another, reinforcing the fact that all military families should be shown appreciation for their service regardless of branch affiliation," said Stevens. "On several occasions during the event, active-component families talked with us at the information table and were pleasantly surprised that so many services were offered to Army Reserve families."
CYSS is new to the 81st RSC's organization and building a friendship with Moral, Welfare and Recreation has opened up several doors of opportunity and communication.
Community partnerships can provide opportunities to educate others about the strength, resiliency and sacrifices of military children, said Stevens.
Several partnerships are being developed with Richland County Recreation Commission, Edventure Museum, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, 4H, and Operation Military Kids and Riverbanks Zoo.
"These types of partnerships ensure maximum support of our Soldiers, Families and Children who are most often geographically dispersed," said Stevens.
Even though April is designated to celebrate the military child, the CYSS team plans to celebrate Army Reserve children 365 days out of the year.
They plan to reach this goal by providing education to Soldiers and family members regarding Command and Community Child and Youth activities. In addition, the team will focus on presenting accurate and up to date information regarding child and youth development to both Families and command leadership.
Providing information about child and youth development can reduce stress in parenting and ultimately support mission readiness, said Stevens.
On several occasions during the event, active-component families talked with the Wildcat staff at the information table and visually surprised that so many services were offered to warrior-citizen families.
Many had Army Reserve friends and took information to pass on to them. One Reserve family was new to the community and the event was a nice introduction to the community and a preview of events to follow.
"Families from the 81st, as well as Families from other Reserve units, were able to receive specific information about Army Reserve Enrichment Camps and other CYSS Services," said Stevens. "I feel the event was very beneficial."
The CYSS team is dedicated towards helping the needs of the Army Reserves families.
In the near future, the team has outlined plans for parent education seminars, weekend and day camps for children, family outings during battle assembly, service learning projects, a CYSS newsletter, a Teen Speak Out group and teen babysitter training.
"I would like for Reserve families to know that we are here and available to serve them in the area of Child, Youth and School services. I, as well as my team mate, Amanda Hammond, are more than willing to assist in any possible way," Stevens said. "Our goal is to be of value to the command, the Soldier, and family, ultimately reducing the conflict of parenting while supporting the mission," said Stevens.
Taking care of the Army Reserve family is the responsibility of leadership, according to Command Sgt. Maj. James Wills, the senior enlisted Soldier for the 81st RSC.
"We, as leaders, are here to take care of our Soldiers and their families," he said. "One of my basic responsibilities as a noncommissioned officer is the welfare of my Soldiers. This includes educating our young warriors about the numerous programs available to them."
Wills also recited the Creed of the Noncommissioned Officers and said throughout the creed it talks about how Soldiers must be informed and effective communication is consistent.
"I am here as a senior noncommissioned officer, husband and father to pass on my military experiences and knowledge to peers and subordinates," he said. "It is imperative that our Wildcat team actively engages in opportunities like the Fun Fair to educate our Army Reserve Families and give them the tools to be successful."
As youth collected dog tags and other items from the Army Reserve team, Wills said he hopes that families walked away, knowing the Army Reserve has not forgotten its greatest asset and future leaders -- the military child.
"As we never would leave a comrade behind on the battlefield, we would never leave an Army Reserve family uneducated about the services and resources available to them."