Dover AFB youngsters learn about parents’ mission

DOVER — Children of airmen stationed at Dover Air Force Base got a rare chance to spend some time in their parent’s boots — and lots of other gear — for a day.

While they weren’t taking off and flying in mammoth C-5 Galaxy or C-17 III Globemaster cargo planes on Thursday morning, they were learning the ins-and-outs of what happens during a parent’s deployment at Dover AFB’s fifth annual KUDOS/TUDOS event.

Master Sgt. Latasha Lindsey, one of the organizers of the event, said this year’s event added a first-time visit to the flight line at the base, where the participants got to find out about their “mission” before inspecting a C-17 up close and then “coming home” to the USO Center.

The unique name of the event — KUDOS/TUDOS — stands for Kids/Teachers Understanding Deployment Operations. It’s hosted by the Airman and Family Readiness Center and the Youth Center on Dover AFB.

“This event gives the kids an opportunity to see what their parents go through when they’re getting prepared for a deployment,” Master Sgt. Lindsey said. “This year we decided to add a little flair and we’ve put in a C-17 static display.

“They’ll start with a deployment processing line, then they’ll go over to the aircraft to see how that works and they’ll have a good time, and then they’ll be in the USO ‘Welcome Home’ Center before we re-integrate them with their parents.”

While the kids’ experience was certainly a lot quicker than when a parent deploys, it did give them an understanding of what their parents go through when they have to deploy and leave loved ones behind.

Last year, more than 800 airmen from Dover AFB deployed across the world to areas in Europe, Africa, South West Asia, the Asian Pacific and the United States.

“It’s very important, just so they get a good understanding of what’s going on (during deployment) and we’re able to break it down into some basic terms about the process and where they’re going and what’s happening,” said First Lt. Evan Alban, one of the presenters in the deployment processing line.

“This is the first year that I’ve been involved in it and I absolutely support it. I think it’s a great idea. I’m actually a little jealous, too. They get to go check out a C-17 afterwards and I want to go check out a C-17.”

Col. Matthew Jones, the vice wing commander at Dover AFB, spoke to the three separate groups of children at their first stop after getting off their buses, at Building 515.

Col. Jones provided the 202 children, from kindergarten through the eighth grade, that participated in the program with a backdrop of what to expect when a parent gets deployed.

“A lot of times before mom and dad deploy, what happens is they may have a special day with you and then a special day with your brother, or something like that,” he said. “Then they say, ‘Goodbye,’ and sometimes dad cries and sometimes mom cries, because they’re all kind of sad, and then they go.

“Then you start to write them letters while they’re gone and maybe they write a letter back or send you some of your favorite snacks or something.”

Col. Jones added, “You don’t know what it’s like where they’re going and why they’re deployed. You miss them, and then the best part is when they come back and you have a party, maybe hold up a sign for them at the airport.

“That’s about all the deployment process you know, but today it will be you deploying.”

Col. Jones then told the children gathered in Building 515 that he went through what they were experiencing just a couple of weeks ago.

“We just practiced at Dover Air Force Base deploying two weeks ago,” he said. “Some of the stuff you’re going to do, some of the stuff you’re going to see, some of the gear you’re going to put on, I was wearing just a couple of weeks ago.

“Now you’re going to see what mom and dad go through.”

The KUDOS/TUDOS participants were told they were deploying to Kuwait. They were also told to not tell anyone of their plans and what to do or not do in the country they were about to deploy to.

Then it was back to the buses before boarding the C-17 that sat right next to the Dover AFB Air Traffic Control Tower.

Getting to tour the airplane, including a visit to the cockpit, was obviously the highlight of the day.

“My mom and dad both do the weather (meteorologists) at the base,” said 7-year-old Brianna Schepmoes. “My favorite part of the day was that I got to go on the airplane. That was fun.”

The day concluded when the event’s participants went back to the Youth Center, where they got to run an obstacle course, see military working dogs, try on flight gear, check out firetrucks, Humvees and other vehicles.

It takes a lot of work to put on a KUDOS/TUDOS event.

“It is a team of us,” Master Sgt. Lindsey said. “We couldn’t do it without our volunteers and we have about 85 volunteers for the entire day that’s going to be making sure that the kids don’t get lost.”

Second Lt. Katherine Sanner said the event is a powerful tool in helping children understand exactly what their parents’ jobs entail — sometimes having to say goodbye for extended periods of time.

“KUDOS gives Dover Air Force Base the opportunity to care for these airmen and their families,” she said. “If deployed airmen know their families are being taken care of and educated on deployments, then they can continue to provide rapid global mobility and execute the mission.”


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