The University of Arizona
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
Young people in these service families often take on increased responsibilities at home. They also may suddenly feel isolated and alone. Because of this, their mental health, grades, and social lives may be affected, especially those who have been sent away from their familiar community to live with a relative or friend until their parent returns.
The U.S. Army, Community & Family Support Center (CFSC) and the USDA Cooperative State Research Education and Extension Service (CSREES) share the goal of providing positive youth development programs to build the skills and competencies youth need to live productive, healthy and self-sufficient lives. These two federal agencies have created a partnership, the USDA/Army Youth Development Project (USDA/AYDP), to accomplish their common goal and make efficient use of public resources by providing predictable, consistent youth programs on Army installations worldwide. A similar partnership has been forged with the Air Force. With the recent deployment of National Guard and Reserve units, Operation Military Kids has been introduced, as now nearly every neighborhood has been impacted.
What has been done?
Two key components of the project are increased communication between the military and local community and staff training. A team training that paired Extension faculty with representatives from the military installation helped facilitate the two-way communication on the needs of families and especially young people. County extension agents also trained members of the military families in workforce preparation, community service, and 4-H leadership. Monthly conference calls facilitate two-way communication between and within installations in Arizona and overseas.
Integration into present county programming is the key. Youth from Yuma Proving Ground, as members of the Desert Scorpions 4-H club, participated in the Yuma County Fair and sent teens to J.O.L.T., a statewide 4-H teen leadership camp. A Plan and Play, a teen planning session was held for Southern Arizona counties (Cochise, Pima, Santa Cruz, and Graham counties) that included youth from Ft. Huachuca. Luke and Davis-Monthan incorporated the 2004-05 project clubs opportunities into exhibits at the 2005 Maricopa and Pima county fairs. One of the objectives of the program is to invite young people from military installations to be a part of the local 4-H program. Youth from Fort Huachuca 4-H have become a part of Cochise County 4-H programs by participating in the L.E.A.P, tweeners camp (for young people aged 12-13), a multi-county invitational teen event, and exhibits at the county fair and representation on the Youth-Adult Council.
At Ft. Huachuca, the highlight for 2004-05 was full implementation of another 4-H activity, Mini-Society, in their School Age Services Program. They also started a Kindergarten Clover Kids with 21 new members. A youth and adult representative from Ft. Huachuca serves on the state 4-H Youth-Adult Council. At Luke Air Force Base, youth participated in Maricopa County and state fair exhibits. Since youth in the military typically do not own animals, they have started an animal care project with a rabbit. From the Internet they learned about rabbits and decided what breed would make the best pet. It's a battle to decide who gets to take the rabbit home on the weekends. In Yuma, the youth from the Desert Scorpions club also exhibited at county fair and attended statewide teen events such as J.O.L. T. Two teams from Davis-Monthan and Osan, Korea attended the "Life Rocks!" training and are delivering programming in youth-adult partnerships. The adult members of the team showcased D-M and Osan's Health Rocks! Program.
Consistency is the key word for the Arizona 4-H Military Program Proposal. Trained teams of military youth staff representing different branches offers consistent application and implementation. Working together as partners provides a forum to provide quality training and professional development for staff. The partnership allows us to expand training beyond management staff to front line. Enhanced programming has evolved through the communication and staff development training opportunities. Efforts are underway to expand this AZ 4-H Military partnership with the National Guard, and Army Reserve creating communication linkages, and develop and expand programming to reach those youth and families. In addition, there are plans to establish contacts with various agencies and organization in Arizona such as the Arizona Department of Veteran Services, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the American Legion, as well as with the Accession Command. It's recognized on and off the installations in the present world situation, that family life has been disrupted due to deployment.
A key benefit is that soldiers can focus on their mission, knowing that their children are in safe, supervised environments with caring adults. The Arizona 4-H Youth Development programs put together "Hero Packs" designed to boost the morale of families of deployed soldiers, and distributed by 4-H offices in Arizona counties where Army and Air Force bases are located. To support the families of those who serve with the Army Reserve, National Guard or Accessions Command, the packs contained items such as an e-camera, 4-H backpack, assorted toys and other 4-H items, and a hand-written letter to the service member of their family. Nearly 500 packs have been distributed through the fifteen counties. Arizona has received a two year Operation Military Kids grant to further expand work with those youth and families of the "suddenly military" of the National Guard and Reserve.
This 4-H Military partnership lays the foundation for sustainable consistency. The Arizona 4-H Military Partnership is recognized nationally as a strong collaboration and integrated program. This project provides predictable services for Army and Air Force as well as Reserve and National Guard youth as they transition either from one installation to another or have a parent deployed. It also provides youth with an opportunity to create a positive relationship with caring adults, which is a hallmark of the 4-H program for the last hundred years. During times of parental deployment, this consistent presence of 4-H leaders and the feelings of belonging that come with 4-H membership promise to be crucial elements of the overall support system needed to serve youth . . . whether they wear olive drab, bright blue or 4-H clover green.