Utah Guard Military Youth learn to "Speak Out"

  • Published
  • By 151st ARW/Family Readiness
The Utah Air National Guard base recently hosted a group of teens from Operation Military Kids (OMK) for a meeting on March 7 to create a new communication team called "Speak Out for Military Kids" (SOMK).

Created in 2005, OMK is the U.S. Army's collaborative effort with local communities to help support children and youth who are impacted by military member deployments. In Utah, OMK offers children and youth of all the military branches many opportunities for support and recreation. SOMK is the public information component of OMK. It is a youth-led, adult-sponsored program created to help educate communities about deployment issues.

During the meeting, eight teens from both the Utah's Army and ANG met together to learn more about their roles as the first SOMK team in the state. Debbie Ramsay, the SOMK adult leader, and Heather Watts, a 4-H leader and volunteer, served as staff for the training. Each teen who participated in the program has experienced having a deployed parent and knows first-hand how kids struggle when a parent is away serving their country.

"I was the oldest boy in my family so I felt like I had to be the dad [when my father deployed]." said Kyler Brunsen, whose father serves in the Utah Army NG.

During the meeting, the youth spent time getting to know each other and toured the air base. They also received a briefing on how a real-world deployment cycle works in order to have a better understanding of what their parents go through when they deploy.

After the briefing, Col. Sam Ramsey, 151st Air Refueling Wing vice commander, kicked off a mock deployment called Operation Humpty Dumpty and gave the teens a set of orders. Jill Lukes from the wing's Family Readiness Flight briefed the youth on the mobility line process. After that, they received a mini physical training test and sampled a Meal Ready to Eat (MRE). The group was then split into teams to complete a tasking. Each team was required to construct a container for Humpty Dumpty (a raw egg) to be dropped from the second floor of the wing headquarters building onto a target below.

"Operation Humpty Dumpty was lots of fun...but hitting the target was harder than it looked," said Debbie Ramsay. "Some containers failed to keep Humpty Dumpty together, but Nevin and Zoe DeWitt, Army NG youth, successfully completed the mission and won the competition."

After a day of experiencing the deployment process firsthand and playing some fun games, the teens are now better prepared to go out into the community to share their message of being a child of a deployed military member.

"You have the opportunity to touch many lives," said Colonel Ramsay. "Your experience and willingness to share with the community will help make deployments easier for other military families."

The next project for the SOMK is making a video about the deployment cycle. They plan to use the video as part of their presentation as they go out and speak in the community.