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Campers learn about military life at Wright-Patterson

Tech. Sgt. Michael Pennington of the 445th Security Forces Squadron, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, explains how night-vision goggles work July 21, 2009.Sergeant Pennington and other reservists demonstrated their skills to military children participating in Operation Purple Camp July 13-14 and July 20-21. (U. S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Amanda Duncan)

Tech. Sgt. Michael Pennington of the 445th Security Forces Squadron, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, explains how night-vision goggles work July 21, 2009.Sergeant Pennington and other reservists demonstrated their skills to military children participating in Operation Purple Camp July 13-14 and July 20-21. (U. S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Amanda Duncan)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- Campers taking part in the National Military Family Association's Operation Purple Camp at 4-H Camp Graham, Clarkesville, Ohio, came here July 13-14 and July 20-21 to get hands-on experience of what the 445th Airlift Wing has to offer and to meet other military kids.

Operation Purple Camp is a free, one-week overnight camp for military children ages 7-17. Begun in 2004, the program aims to help them experience carefree fun while learning coping skills to deal with deployment-related stress and fostering relationships with other children who know what they are going through.

Master Sgt. Patricia Wortham and Tech. Sgt. Kimberly Weber from the 445th Airmen and Family Readiness Center coordinated the Air Force Reserve Command wing's involvement by working with different units to set up a variety of activities.

Fifty campers visited the wing the first week. With 130 campers the second week, the group was divided in half. Half visited the wing and the other half toured the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

Highlights of the visit included demonstrations at the aircrew flight equipment shop and security forces, a visit to the base honor guard facility, a tour of the 445th Aeromedical Staging Squadron's Emergency Medical Technician schoolhouse and a tour of a C-5 Galaxy aircraft.

"The kids had a great time at the EMT school house," said Master Sgt. Bethany Frazier, 445th ASTS emergency medical service coordinator. "They were able to splint, bandage and immobilize themselves. Some of the kids had the opportunity to suture and place IVs in mannequins."

Some of the children told Sergeant Frazier that they are planning a career in medicine and were excited to get the opportunity to see the equipment first hand.

"I can't wait to do this again next year," Sergeant Frazier said.

Senior Master Sgt. Allan Blackwell of the 445th Operations Group had two daughters in this year's program.

"Operation Purple Camp is a good program," he said. "My two daughters, Leanne and Maddison, have participated every year since the first camp started."

""I love the program," said Maddison Blackwell." My dad talks about his job all the time, and it was great to tour the C-5 and see what he does."

Since the program began, the National Military Family Association has sent more than 20,000 military children to camp. Operation Purple Camp this year will host more than 90 weeks of camp held in 62 locations in 37 states and territories.

"We have kids who attend public schools with kids who have no ties with the military," said Sergeant Weber, who's been involved with the camp since the program began. "With Operation Purple Camp, they can meet kids in the same situation that they're in. Some have parents who are deployed, and they can share that experience, knowing they are not alone."

Sergeant Weber's daughter, Peyton, was among the campers who could share her experiences with the other kids about deployments and moving from base to base.
"The program's been fun," said Peyton Weber. "I loved touring the C-5 because it's interesting to see that it can hold so much stuff!"

Tech. Sgt. Michael Pennington of the 445th Security Forces Squadron says he gets 100 percent participation from the children who take part in the security forces activities he sets up.

"I've been doing this ever since the program started, and I enjoy it every time," he said. "I'm retiring soon, and I'm going to miss it."  (Air Force Reserve Command News Service)