Grown up and not so grown up kids belonging to moms and dads of the 452 Air Mobility Wing were processed through a mock deployment line here last Saturday during the Logistics Readiness Squadron’s first “Operation Family First” event held at the deployment hangar, Building 385.
According to the event’s coordinator, Maj. Kristin Brockshus, 452 LRS commander, the main goal of the event was to connect with the families and to make them realize that all the members of Team March are here for them and their moms and dads while they are deployed.
“This event was an outreach event to support the deployer’s families,” said Brockshus. “Col. Mahaney talks about you take care of the people, they’ll take care of the mission. Well, a huge part of that is taking care of the people and their families,” she said. “We don’t have a lot of events in the Air Force Reserve that incorporates a lot of the families because reservists are so far away. They are located all over.”
Inside the deployment hangar at deployment station number 1, kids as young as 2 years old and others as old as 14, were issued personalized dog tags and told they would be deploying to Djibouti, Africa. and issued personalized dog tags. They were then shown the contents of a Meals Ready to Eat packet and had camouflage paint applied to their faces. At station 2, they donned Individual Body Armor, helmets, web belt, canteen and an M-16 ammo pouch. Some chose to make the equipment issue more complete by trying on gas masks.
The mini-deployees then shuffled their way to medical processing, where they were briefed on the importance of taking their medicines and each given bandages and “Don’t Do Drugs” bracelets.
After being declared fit for deployment, they were escorted to their weapons briefing and shown how to obtain the correct sight picture on an M40-B Machine Gun and GUU-5P Rifle.
Once they completed weapons orientation, they were loaded onto a bus and transported to an awaiting C-17 for seat assignments and safety briefing.
The round trip flight to Djibouti was short but still arduous considering the temperature of the parking ramp in the mid-afternoon sun. Upon arriving back at their main base the weary team of mock warriors disembarked, loaded onto a bus and were driven to the deployment hangar for debriefing. As members of each chalk entered the building they were welcomed back and revived with cake, cookies and punch.
Overall about 40 kids and their parents participated in the event, which was made possible primarily with help from LRS members, but also supported by members of the 452nd Security Forces Squadron, Yellow Ribbon Program, USO, Airman and Family Readiness Center, the 452nd Medical Group and the contractor Satellite Services, Inc.
“This was a really good event my son and daughter really enjoyed it,” said Tech Sgt. Christina Huerta, “They learned a lot about what we go through now. The shots and records, and they’re actually excited to get on the plane. I told my son a couple of days ago, when I found out about it, that I signed him up for it,” Huerta said. “He didn’t understand the process of what I went through. Now that we’re here, it’s a completely different story and he understands a lot more.”
The number of members deploying through the end of the year is considerable and the Team March support structure is not always easily able to communicate to dependents because of their proximity to the base.
“So another goal of the event was to reach out to the family members of those who are about to deploy and say ‘Here is an event where you can bring your kids and introduce them to what deployments are,’” said Brockshus. “Because a lot of kids think that deployments are scary, they see what they see on TV and they may not understand it fully. So this is a way for the parents to connect with the kids and be able to say this is what mommy and daddy do when they deploy,” Brockshus said. “They see it’s not scary. It’s actually kind of cool, and hopefully they understand it a little bit better.”
Brockshus said the event was successful and that she saw nothing but smiles on the kids’ faces.
“They loved trying on the gear, having their faces painted and having their dog tags made.”