A project is underway to help the children of Iowans and others called to active military duty cope with the unique problems the kids face. The new initiative, called Operation: Military Kids (OMK), is an expansion of a joint program between the Army and 4-H that help start 4-H chapters at all Army installations around the world. Chris Gleason is the coordinator of the 4-H program for the Iowa State University Extension Department. With the high rate of deployment and mobilization impacting the National Guard and Reserve children, she says they’ve decided to take the program a step further, as in the case of Iowa, there are no military installations here. Gleason says the goal is to build community networks of support for military kids and their families. She says if there are issues that come up, people will know where to go. For example, if schools are having issues and teachers need training on how to help kids adapt, the teachers can get help from the network. She there are thousands of Iowans now serving on active duty — but their families are sometimes forgotten. She says people don’t think of guard and reserve kids as military kids, we think of them as just regular kids. But she says we need to develop ways to reach out to them. Gleason says those who sign up for duty in the Iowa Guard now know that they may be gone for up to 18 months on active duty. She says those who were in the Iowa Guard prior to 9-11 usually didn’t have to worry about that happening. She says they thought it was one weekend a month and a few weeks in the summer, and a great way to get some education, training and earn some money. But she says that’s all changed now.Iowa, Alabama, Arkansas, North Carolina and Washington are each working on the pilot program with hopes it can go nationwide. The program will be officially introduced at the National 4-H Conference March 18-23.
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