Operation Teammate Helps Ease Separation For Deployed Family Members

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Operation Teammate Helps Ease Separation For Deployed Family Members

Post by Patriots » June 16th, 2018, 5:32 pm

Operation Teammate Helps Ease Separation For Deployed Family Members
by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Brittain Crolley
4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
June 16, 2018

One of the many difficulties of being a member of the armed services is that at any given time–possibly even at a moment’s notice–one can be called upon to answer their nation’s call and be sent half a world away, sometimes for months or a year at a time. Their absence is felt at home in more ways than one. These service members represent sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers.

While nothing can completely fill the void left behind during times of separation, a new initiative is aiming to help build connections and bonds between families and the local community through the power of sports.

Operation Teammate was founded in 2015 by Timothy Montjoy, who served 20 years as a communications Airman, with a mission to provide “an opportunity for athletic organizations to welcome children of military and first responders as honorary teammates during times of separation.” As part of the initiative, five families from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base and two from Fort Bragg were recently invited to the campus of North Carolina State University to attend a spring football practice and meet with players.

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Ryan Finley (left) and Brady Bodine, North Carolina State University quarterback and running back, talk to military families during an Operation Teammate event, March 23, 2018, at NC State University in Raleigh, North Carolina. Bodine, whose father serves in the U.S. Marine Corps, shared his experiences of growing up in a military family and how he dealt with the challenges of separation. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brittain Crolley)
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“Our goal is impactful athlete interaction,” Montjoy said of the program. “We use the athletic world or sporting events as kind of an attention step, or a conduit, to get the kids involved in something positive.”

Through tireless coordination with the team at NC State, Montjoy arranged a day full of events with the university’s football program, marking the 18th event in Operation Teammate’s history. Once everything was set in stone, the outreach process began.

He contacted the Seymour Johnson AFB Airman & Family Readiness Center and talked to Master Sgt. Joseph Ballantini, 4th Force Support Squadron readiness specialist and Hearts Apart program manager, who immediately jumped at the opportunity to get some local families involved.

From the second the families arrived on campus, they were treated like part of the team. They were shuttled down to the field to watch the football team warm up, followed by a tour of the facilities, a chance to try on some team gear and watch some highlights in the film room. They were then escorted back down to the sidelines to watch the team finish practice, and ultimately onto the field for a special moment to break down the huddle. Afterward, players signed autographs and spent time playing catch with the kids.

“It’s great to spend time with my family at this type of an event,” Ballantini said. “It was really cool for them, getting autographs and playing out on the field, but it’s good education for them too, to see the impact it has on other families as well.”

The pinnacle of the event came when the senior running back, Brady Bodine, addressed the group. Bodine, whose father serves in the U.S. Marine Corps, shared his experiences of growing up in a military family and how he dealt with the challenges of separation.

“The first time I went to a school for two years in a row was my sophomore year in high school. Changing and moving around, I feel like, it makes you grow and makes you much more of a diverse person and you’re able to go anywhere and kind of fit in.

“When my dad was deployed, I’d always try to find something to kind of keep my mind off of it. I was always active, always running around. I would just say, find what helps you get through things and helps you pass the time when your parents are gone.”

Whether it’s large-scale events, or more intimate venues like this, Operation Teammate is hoping to grow and continue to connect children with their local community to provide support during their times of need.

“Our goal is impactful athlete interaction,” Montjoy said of the program. “We use the athletic world or sporting events as kind of an attention step, or a conduit, to get the kids involved in something positive.”

Through tireless coordination with the team at NC State, Montjoy arranged a day full of events with the university’s football program, marking the 18th event in Operation Teammate’s history. Once everything was set in stone, the outreach process began.

He contacted the Seymour Johnson AFB Airman & Family Readiness Center and talked to Master Sgt. Joseph Ballantini, 4th Force Support Squadron readiness specialist and Hearts Apart program manager, who immediately jumped at the opportunity to get some local families involved.

From the second the families arrived on campus, they were treated like part of the team. They were shuttled down to the field to watch the football team warm up, followed by a tour of the facilities, a chance to try on some team gear and watch some highlights in the film room. They were then escorted back down to the sidelines to watch the team finish practice, and ultimately onto the field for a special moment to break down the huddle. Afterward, players signed autographs and spent time playing catch with the kids.

“It’s great to spend time with my family at this type of an event,” Ballantini said. “It was really cool for them, getting autographs and playing out on the field, but it’s good education for them too, to see the impact it has on other families as well.”

The pinnacle of the event came when the senior running back, Brady Bodine, addressed the group. Bodine, whose father serves in the U.S. Marine Corps, shared his experiences of growing up in a military family and how he dealt with the challenges of separation.

“The first time I went to a school for two years in a row was my sophomore year in high school. Changing and moving around, I feel like, it makes you grow and makes you much more of a diverse person and you’re able to go anywhere and kind of fit in.

“When my dad was deployed, I’d always try to find something to kind of keep my mind off of it. I was always active, always running around. I would just say, find what helps you get through things and helps you pass the time when your parents are gone.”

Whether it’s large-scale events, or more intimate venues like this, Operation Teammate is hoping to grow and continue to connect children with their local community to provide support during their times of need.

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