Kids see Operation Family First mock deployment as cool

Senior Airman Andrew Reynoso, 452nd Security Forces Squadron, helps six-year-old Giovanni Medina get a clear sight picture as he holds on tight to the M240-Bravo Machine Gun. This, as well as other weapons, was on display during the Logistics Readiness Squadron’s Operation Family First event held in Building 385, July 13. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Joe Davidson)

Senior Airman Andrew Reynoso, 452nd Security Forces Squadron, helps six-year-old Giovanni Medina get a clear sight picture as he holds on tight to the M240-Bravo Machine Gun. This, as well as other weapons, was on display during the Logistics Readiness Squadron’s Operation Family First event held in Building 385, July 13. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Joe Davidson)

Senior Airman Jonathan Villa Vargas, 452nd Logistics Readiness Squadron, fits 10-year-old Cristian Medina, with Individual Body Armor during a mock deployment line set up for kids at the first-ever Operation Family First event held in Building 385, July 13. Medina was one of about 40 kids who participated along with parents and other relatives. The event was designed to give children a feel for what their deploying parents go through during a real-world deployment. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Joe Davidson)

Senior Airman Jonathan Villa Vargas, 452nd Logistics Readiness Squadron, fits 10-year-old Cristian Medina, with Individual Body Armor during a mock deployment line set up for kids at the first-ever Operation Family First event held in Building 385, July 13. Medina was one of about 40 kids who participated along with parents and other relatives. The event was designed to give children a feel for what their deploying parents go through during a real-world deployment. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Joe Davidson)

Staff Sergeant Shamera Coleman, 452nd Logistics Readiness Squadron, applies finishing touches to the camo-paint on 10-year-old Cristian Medina’s face during a mock, deployment line set up by members of the squadron. Medina was among approximately 40 children, along with their parents, that attended the first Operation Family First event put on by the squadron, with support from the 452nd Security Forces Squadron and Medical Group, the Yellow Ribbon Program, USO, and others. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Joe Davidson)

Staff Sergeant Shamera Coleman, 452nd Logistics Readiness Squadron, applies finishing touches to the camo-paint on 10-year-old Cristian Medina’s face during a mock, deployment line set up by members of the squadron. Medina was among approximately 40 children, along with their parents, that attended the first Operation Family First event put on by the squadron, with support from the 452nd Security Forces Squadron and Medical Group, the Yellow Ribbon Program, USO, and others. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Joe Davidson)

MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, Calif. -- Grown up, and not so grown up, children belonging to moms and dads of the 452nd Air Mobility Wing, March Air Reserve Base, Calif., were processed through a mock deployment line here Saturday, July 13, 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, 452nd Logistics Readiness Squadron 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, during a deployment.

"This was an outreach event to support the deployers' families," said Brockshus. "Col. Mahaney talks about how if 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. 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 station number one, kids as young as two years old, and others as old as 14, were issued personalized dog tags and told they would be deploying to Djibouti, Africa. They were then shown the contents of a Meals Ready to Eat packet and had camouflage paint applied to their faces. At station two, they donned Individual Body Armor, a helmet, 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-deployers 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 simulated 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 was driven to the deployment hangar for the 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 the LRS but greatly supported by members of the 452nd Security Forces Squadron, Yellow Ribbon Program, USO, Airman and Family Readiness Center, 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, like the shots and records. 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,' because a lot of kids think that deployments are scary," Brockshus said. "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.' They see it's not scary, but actually kind of cool, and hopefully they understand it a little bit better."

"The event was successful and I she saw nothing but smiles on the kids' faces," Brockshus said. "They loved trying on the gear, having their faces painted and having their dog tags made."