Operation KIDS 'deploys' children

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Amanda Savannah
  • Public Affairs
They're swearing in, smiling for their identification card photographs and immediately receiving orders to deploy. But these people aren't typical new recruits.
The Airman and family readiness center is looking for active-duty, Reserve and Guard military dependents ages 5 and older interested in "joining" the military to "deploy" to "Camp Liberty."
Registration takes place now through Oct. 13 for Operation KIDS, a hands-on event designed to give children in military families an understanding of what parents experience prior to and during a deployment.
"We want the program to be something children look back on when their parents are called to deploy," said 2nd Lt. Nick Varner, Class 08-03 student and Operation KIDS project officer. "Instead of scary images entering the children's minds, we hope they think of this event and know their parents will be in good hands."
Children sign up at the center, take an oath of "enlistment," get their photograph taken for an ID card they will receive the day of the event, and receive "orders," which include information they will need to participate in the day's activities.
Debbie Suttles, wife of Chief Master Sgt. Jim Suttles, 71st Flying Training Wing command chief, registered her son Ethan, 14, and daughter Emily, 12, on Tuesday.
"They don't usually get to see what their dad has to go through when he's on a deployment," she said. "This is a great opportunity for them to see that and maybe it will help them understand the process."
The event takes place 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 19 beginning in Bldg. 246 - where Vance Airmen process for deployments and pick up their chemical warfare gear. The children go through a child-friendly processing line, receiving their ID cards, a "mobility" bag and information from stations including the clinic, finance, legal and the chapel. Then they are bused to the flightline for a simulated plane trip, followed by activities and static displays in Hangar 170.
"The hangar will be transformed into 'Camp Liberty,' where there will be a humvee, tents, cots, a dog demonstration, weapons display and more," said Tech. Sgt. Bobbie White, 71st Mission Support Squadron Airman and Family Readiness Center readiness NCO. "The children are then taken to the community chapel activity center for a 'welcome home' celebration complete with cake, refreshments and patriotic music."
Adults and volunteers will be available to walk children through the day's activities, Lieutenant Varner said. Parents may feel free to join their children, but are encouraged to wait at the welcome home party at the CCAC to make the event more realistic.
"We are planning on the possibility of having our videophones stationed in the hangar and at the CCAC, for children to call their parents on," Sergeant White said.
The Airman and family readiness center also hopes parents walk away with a sense of security.
"We want families to know we're there for them while they're overseas," Lieutenant Varner said. "If Airmen don't feel their families are taken care of, they won't be the best at doing their jobs."
"Hopefully people and their children will have fun but gain good information about deployments, as well as see what Team Vance and the Airman and family readiness center can do to support deployed members," Sergeant White said.
To register, for more information or to volunteer, call Lieutenant Varner or Sergeant White at 6330.