Summer camp helps children cope with family member deployments

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson
  • 120th Fighter Wing Public Affairs Office
The Montana National Guard hosted a youth camp located at Camp Rotary near Monarch, Mont. for the children of Montana National Guard members.

The camp serves to bring Guard youth together and provides support through deployments and the stresses that come from being a child of a service member.

The outdoor adventure, named Camp Runnamucka, attracted 76 campers this year to participate in the week-long program, which is traditionally held during the last week of June.

"Camp Runnamucka is an opportunity for National Guard children to spend a week of time together and have fun and just be in a supportive environment with other guard children," said Sara Cease, MTNG camp director and the youth program coordinator.

While at camp, the children take part in activities that range from hiking, geocaching and archery to arts, crafts and more. Special attention is given to address issues relating to the deployments their family members have participated in.

"Usually at a school there's only one of 35 or 40 that is a military child," Cease said. "So having them all here and having them all have that similar experience is good for them."

The camp employs a military family life consultant to assist the individual campers with discussing their personal problems relating to deployments. Activities are also planned that allow the campers to identify the "top ten" deployment issues of the group.

"One of the challenges that we have here is the children are coming up here and they're feeling a wide range of emotions about parents being deployed, possibly being deployed or just returning from a deployment," said Staff Sgt. Michael Touchette, 120th Fighter Wing member and camp volunteer. "We get a lot of teenagers with these emotions that are coming out."

On Thursday, the approaching sound of helicopter rotor blades announced the arrival of the MTNG Adjutant General - Maj. Gen. Matthew Quinn. The campers watched in excitement as a MTNG UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter landed in the camp clearing as Quinn led a contingent of MTNG representatives and members of the local media from the helicopter to a covered pavilion to speak to the assembled children.

"This is a time where within the National Guard the meaning of family comes together," Quinn said. "And although you and I might not be related within a family, we are related through the National Guard. I have deployed, my family has lived through it and my son has deployed, so I know what it's like for a family member to be gone, and we're all in this together."

A wide range of talent and experience is shared with the campers by staff members who volunteer to help run the camp each year. Medical professionals, cooks, mechanics and public affairs specialists were just some of the professions represented by the staff. Many of the volunteers are members of the MTNG and have had their children attend the camp.

"It's all about being involved with the children," said Lt. Col. Rodney Heaton, 120th Fighter Wing doctor and camp volunteer. "They develop this camaraderie with each other like we do in the military when we're deployed. I love watching them group together and become close friends. It's great to be a part of that."