Kids, teachers ‘deploy’ in Operation KUDOS/TUDOS

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE — At Dover Air Force Base on Wednesday morning, hundreds of children learned about their parents’ jobs firsthand.

Wearing tan shirts and floppy camouflage hats, the children started their morning in an intelligence briefing at the Youth Center, dangling their feet off the chairs.

Then, they walked through a deployment processing line, picking up paperwork and gear on their way out the door.

Their “deployment” was only to the open field nearby, but organizers hope that, after participants returned from their mission, their own parents’ deployments will be a little less scary.

Called Operation KUDOS/TUDOS, or Kids/Teachers Understanding Deployment Operations, the idea is to give children — and their teachers — a chance to walk in airmen’s boots for a few hours.

When the children tumbled outside into the breezy, sunny morning, an airman was waiting for them.

“I’m going to call cadence, 1-2-3-4,” he told them. “One and three are your left foot, and two and four are your right.”

After they were split into groups according to the tags on their rucksacks, the crowd of kids enthusiastically marched from the side of the building.

The annual event, which aims to help children and their teachers understand deployment, has grown considerably over the years.

In 2014, organizers changed the concept from a mobility line to a full deployment and training event. This year, they added even more base personnel as volunteers.

About 250 children participated in the event, said Staff Sgt. Nicole Hawley, the non-commissioned officer in charge the Mission Support Group Command Section.

The kids, from ages 5 to 15, went through the activities by age group.

Staff Sgt. Hawley said organizers also invited teachers from local school districts, along with schools on base, to participate.

The event gives teachers a better idea of what children go through when their parents deploy, she said, and a ready conversation topic with them.

As children walked to the field, an obstacle course — with barriers to jump over and tunnels to crawl through, NERF guns in hand — was already set up for them, similar to what their parents went through in basic training.

“I’m looking forward to the obstacle course,” said Evan Wadhams, 8.

“I think they’re the bad guys,” added his friend Ayden McGarvey, 7, eyeing volunteers crouching behind wood pallets.

Evan said he thought the event would be fun. He wanted to participate so he could know “what it’s like to be deployed.”

When they arrived at the deployment excercies, volunteers made kids look tough, painting their faces with war paint and giving them an opportunity to test out different protective gear.

Pint-size children took turns handling a replica of a rifle — almost as tall as they were — and donned helmets.

Kids learned how to make splints, and they tentatively tried on gas masks. They even took a look at the contents of Meals, Ready to Eat, or MREs, typical rations for the field.

“The better understanding we give our kids, the better they’ll understand the situation when mom or dad does deploy,” Staff Sgt. Hawley said.

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