Kids get KUDOS during mock deployment

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Benjamin Kim
  • 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
Boys and girls donned camouflaged boonie hats as the war paint slathered on to their faces accentuated the excitement in their eyes.

They eagerly put on Mission Oriented Protective Posture gear and struggle to put on the heavy metal-plated vests.

The children then looked in wonder of the giant metallic beasts that sat quietly on the air field as if they were awaiting battle.

While these children will not be experiencing combat missions any time soon, for one day they had the opportunity to experience just a glimpse of what their parents go through during deployment.

Nearly 140 children of Hurlburt Field Airmen participated in the Airman & Family Readiness Center's Kids Understanding Deployment Operations event at the Deployment Control Center here May 19.

The program, known as KUDOS, is an A&FRC initiative designed to give children an insight into what goes on when their Air Commando mothers and fathers say 'goodbye.'

"It helps kids understand what their parents experience in deployment," said Debby Lundblad, director of the A&FRC. "If they have any fears, it calms them."

KUDOS gives children an up close and personal experience through which they can feel as if they are part of the military, Lundblad said.

After receiving a welcome statement from Lt. Col. Kirk Peterson, commander of 1st Special Operations Logisitics Readiness Squadron, the children traveled through different stations to learn about things that they may experience when their parents deploy.

For instance, representatives from the 1st Special Operation Medical Group showed them a display of disease-spreading insects as an attempt to inform them of medically-related dangers their parents may face while on a deployment.

The KUDOS experience did not stop at pre-deployment procedures. This day included a K-9 demonstration from the 1st Special Operations Security Forces Squadron, static displays of 1st Special Operations Wing ground vehicles and aircraft and explosive ordnance disposal robots.

"It takes quite a while just to make it all come together, but it's worth it," said Nancy Prescott, school liaison for Hurlburt Field at the A&FRC and KUDOS coordinator. "Plus I had a lot of good volunteers who helped out and took the kids around. We couldn't have done this without them."

While the KUDOS event is geared toward children, many of the more than 50 active-duty Airmen and civilians who volunteered their time said they also gained from the experience.

"I thought it was important for them to see exactly what we go through and understand it so that they can be a better support to us as well as how we can be a better support to them," said Airman 1st Class Ashley Coe, a pediatric technician at the 1st Special Operations Medical Operations Squadron and KUDOS volunteer. "And it was easy to connect with the kids and teach them about what we go through. This was definitely a morale booster that I think everybody needs to be involved with."

The day culminated in a heroes return for the children, similar to those their parents received at Operation Homecoming, complete with American flags, cookies and hugs from their family.

"This was so amazing," said Tamika McKinney, a military spouse and mother of KUDOS participant Jasmine Dereje. "I think this was a great opportunity for the kids to see what their parents do."

Although she said children may generally be left in the dark regarding what goes on during a deployment, McKinney said KUDOS gave them a deeper appreciation for how their military parents keep their children and the country safe.

"I commend the wing for putting this on and doing this for the families," McKinney said. "It makes us feel important and like we're part of the mission as well."