Bringing OMK to Ellsworth

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jarad A. Denton
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
What began as a way for the children of U.S. Army soldiers to connect with and learn more about the military has grown into a multi-service program that now includes Ellsworth.

Operation: Military Kids is a national program designed to raise the awareness of military children, strengthen and create ties with the community and various outreach services, and provide training to teachers and outreach groups who deal with military children.

"This chapter of OMK is sponsored by South Dakota State University," said Lori Waddell, 28th Force Support Squadron key spouse and OMK liaison for Ellsworth. "It's all about giving something back to these children and educating the community on what it means to be a military child."

One of the ways OMK provides a support system to the children of deployed Ellsworth Airmen is through the distribution of "Hero Packs." These backpacks are filled with items designed to help maintain a connection between the child and their deployed parent. Included items all fall under three categories, all of which create the foundation of the pack: appreciation, content and support.

According to Sheila Snyder, South Dakota OMK representative, the appreciation element serves as a "thank you" to children who experience the deployment of a parent. The content element contains various items that promote family support, communication tools and fun for the military child. The final element, Mrs. Snyder said, is support - which focuses on creating a nationwide network of people and organizations committed to helping military children through deployments.

"OMK firmly believes that when an Airman serves, so does their family," said Mrs. Snyder. "This is a very exciting year for the program, as we are working more closely with Ellsworth."

Although the program was initially intended for the Army, with the help of the 28th Mission Support Group, OMK has extended its outreach to the families of the 28th Bomb Wing.

"We're not looking to replace any existing programs on base," said Mrs. Waddell. "OMK is all about helping the children of our Airmen deal with the deployment of a parent - and giving them the support they need during what can be a difficult time."