DAF Child & Youth Programs: How they promote development, provide opportunities for military kids

  • Published
  • By Mila Cisneros
  • Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center Public Affairs

(Editor’s Note: It’s Month of the Military Child and a member of the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center team was asked to talk about how Department of the Air Force Child and Youth Programs, managed by the Air Force Services Center, have supported his family on their journey.)

Military kids are similar to those you’ll find in civilian communities around the globe; they share goals, dreams, hobbies and passions. However, unlike their civilian counterparts, military kids like Gavin, Mikayla, Austin and Ethan Moore also deal with having to pack away those things, along with everything they own, to move to a new permanent duty location. 

Lt. Col. Gary Moore, deputy chief for military construction at the Air Force Civil Engineer Center’s Facility Engineering Directorate, and his wife Meghan know that all too well as they parent, mentor and are the biggest supporter of what they call their “swim team” -- fraternal twins Gavin and Mikayla, 17, are seniors and identical twins Austin and Ethan, 15, are freshmen.

“We’re a unique family with a fraternal and an identical set of twins, all on the varsity high school swim team,” Moore said. 

At three years old, Gavin and Mikayla began their swimming journey when the Moore family was stationed at Yokota Air Base, Japan. Their next-door neighbors -- the Lt. Col. Andy Gale family -- were avid swimmers and enrolled their set of twins in the local 374th Force Support Squadron’s child and youth program’s swim offerings at the base.

“Meghan signed the kids up for swim lessons with the Gales while I was on a year-long deployment to Afghanistan,” Moore said. 

Swim practices at Yokota Air Base helped the twins develop social skills, learn patience and enjoy interactions with other toddlers, he said.  

For nine years, Air Force life kept the family overseas -- from Japan to South Korea, to Ramstein Air Base, Germany – and during that time when the Moore children were ages eight and nine, they began swimming competitively. 

The family returned stateside in 2015 and, following assignments to Washington, D.C., and South Dakota, arrived at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, in 2019. 

All nine Air Force bases the family called home over the years offered easy access to recreational and swimming resources for training, exercise and leisure, Moore said. 

“Yokota Air Base and Ramstein Air Base had amazing youth swim programs that helped our kids grow as swimmers and led them to swim teams,” Moore said. 

The family received a great deal of support from base leaders, who Moore felt prioritized providing opportunities for military kids to learn, grow and have fun.

In Europe, the kids swam for Germany’s Kaiserslautern Kingfish, one of 18 swim teams competing as part of the European Forces Swim League. The league, serving the U.S. and Allied Armed Forces community, provides competitive swimming programs for the youth of military and civilian service members in Europe. 

“It takes a team of community volunteers to staff practices or host swim teams but more importantly it takes the leadership to decide that the lifelong skills of swimming and the intangible benefits of discipline and hard work are worth the cost,” Moore said. 

Now in San Antonio, both Mikayla with Gavin are team captains on their swim teams at Johnson High School in the North East Independent School District. Last year, Mikayla led her team to second place in Texas for the girls’ team while her brother’s team won the district and regional meets.

Gavin also recently won a scholarship from the Randolph Spouses Club, which endorses Air Force youth in the JBSA military community. 

Swimming year-round, the twins have a busy training and competition schedule, with practices beginning at 5:30 a.m., earlier than most physical fitness warmups even begin. 

“Anyone who has dipped their feet into a cold pool at the crack of dawn knows a little something about discipline and motivation,” Moore said. “Their competitive nature grows that sense of motivation.”

The kids are the leaders of their passion, Moore added, “They are the ones in the pool everyday training hard for long hours and don’t need our pressure, just support and love.” 

This fall, Gavin and Mikayla will make their first cross-country moves outside of the Air Force as they begin their careers as college athletes; Gavin with the Colorado School of Mines swim team where he’ll study engineering and Mikayla at the University of Wyoming where she’ll major in biology.

“We never dreamed our kids would be college athletes,” Moore said. “Growing up all over the world as Air Force dependents made them resilient and well-rounded because of some amazing opportunities provided by our Air Force installations and leaders.”