Boots and Youths: Kids get a taste of deployment life

Story by Lance Cpl. Aaron Diamant

The Marine Corps brings all kinds of people together, with varying backgrounds and experiences, and gives them one thing in common: their service.

Forty-eight children came together with two things in common Oct. 15: they all have a parent in the Corps, and that parent is currently deployed.

“The goal was to provide a fun and educational event to help the kids understand what mom or dad is doing overseas,” said Christa Lamont, Marine Aircraft Group 13 family readiness officer. “It provided an opportunity for them to do something fun while their parent is deployed and something exciting for them to talk about next time they get to talk to that parent.”

The group started their day with a mission briefing from Col. Mike Gough, MAG-13 commanding officer, who stressed the number one mission goal was to have fun and learn something.

“Today, you’ll get a taste of what your mom or dad is doing and you’ll see how important you all are to us,” Gough told the children.

The goal of the exercise, dubbed “Operation Awesome” by some of the children, was to educate the kids and give them an idea of what their parents are doing overseas.

“With children, the more they know, the less anxiety they have toward something,” said Lamont. “We’re relieving some anxieties with knowledge about what their parents are doing.”

Since the children were going on a great adventure, Gough dubbed their unit the “Adventurers.”

The children were broken up into ten groups, each with Marine volunteers to guide them through the day’s activities, which included touring Marine Wing Support Squadron 373’s tent city at the Cannon Air Defense Complex and learning about crash fire rescue vehicles and equipment.

Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 4 set up a display complete with an unmanned aerial vehicle and all of the control systems. The kids were allowed to use the camera on the static UAV, and viewed footage collected from UAVs in operation.

After the excitement of the UAV demo, the kids were helped through a land navigation course with compasses and directions to retrieve care packages dropped in the field.

Before reaching their care packages, however, they were informed there could be explosives planted on the containers. Luckily for the kids, the station Explosive Ordnance Disposal team was on hand to help them. EOD used robots to remove the simulated explosives from the containers, before allowing the children to recover their candy care packages.

Much like their deployed parents might have to do, the kids ate meals ready to et, dropped off by a CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter from Marine Medium Helicopter Training Squadron 164, and ate them in a field chow hall without air conditioning.

“We got to incorporate parts of the air station the kids probably would never see otherwise,” said Lamont. “Many of them might not know much more about the Marine Corps than what their parent does, so this was an opportunity to broaden their knowledge of the Corps.”

Upon returning to the air station, the children were greeted by smiling parents and siblings waving signs and posters, just like any unit homecoming.

The children debriefed Col. Gough and their parents on the activities of their mission, and each of the children received an award for their participation.

“It was awesome,” said Sandra Rookey, Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 family readiness officer. “The Marine volunteers brought life to the event and the kids loved it.”

With one successful mission under their belts, the organizers of the event plan on conducting another kids mock deployment in the future.