Our Alabama 4-H Military Programs began in 2001. Our work has two distinct missions: outreach to the children of Alabama’s “Citizen Soldiers” in the National Guard and Reserves through “Operation Military Kids” and support of 4-H on Alabama’s three military installations.
Alabama 4-H is on the forefront of programming that supports military youth and families. Our Military Programs have been some of the highest-profile efforts in Alabama 4-H in recent years. Widely recognized on the state and national level, we have received the prestigious “Seven Seals Award” from the United States Department of Defense and the “Above and Beyond Award” from the Alabama National Guard.
OPERATION MILITARY KIDS
Alabama is a part of “Operation Military Kids,” the 4-H response to the needs of the children of National Guard, Reserves and Recruiters. Alabama was a pilot state in this endeavor, and many things that we have created --- such as our forum on military families and our “Fort Clover” -- have been replicated in other states.
We have developed and coordinated two widely-publicized “Fort Clover” retreats for the teen-aged children of our citizen soldiers. These events were held at the Alabama 4-H Center and brought together Guard and Reserve youth for “high adventure” weekends away from the challenges and problems of being soldiers’ kids.
In April 2004, we developed and coordinated the public forum: “When Alabama Families Go to War: Recognizing and Responding to the Needs of Military Kids.” This event laid the groundwork for the partnerships between Extension, the Alabama National Guard and Reserves, state agencies, and youth organizations. It also provided publicity for the role Extension plays in supporting military youth and families.
Alabama 4-H has participed in National Guard and Reserves Family and Youth activities, such as the Alabama National Guard Parents' Day Out. We have also partnered with Mississippi and Florida 4-H to provide 4-H programming for Army Reserve units that cover multi-state regions. In support of National Guard Families, we regularly provide training and information on such topics as “Parenting During Times of Stress.”
ARMY & AIR FORCE 4-H PROGRAMS
We have assisted with the tremendous growth and development of 4-H programming at Redstone Arsenal, Fort Rucker, and Maxwell Air Force Base, with more than 400 young people now participating in 4-H on the three installations. We have arranged grants to provide training and materials for the 4-H programs on these bases.
We organized a retreat at the Alabama 4-H Center that brought together (for the first time) the youth services staffs of the three military installations, National Guard and Army Reserves youth services staff, Boys and Girls Club staff, and local and regional 4-H staff. This was even the first time that the staff at the state’s two Army installations had met one another. Because of the team-building focus of the retreat and the effort to build communications, the groups who had been strangers now look to one another as resources.