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Left to right, Keith and Lisa Hunt and their three sons, Andrew Bryan, 6, Nathan Bryan, 8, and Brandon Bryan, 15, board a bus Saturday at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, for Operation KUDOS, or Kids Understanding Deployment Operations. Kids attended briefs and demonstrations to help them understand what their parents go through when they prepare to deploy.

Left to right, Keith and Lisa Hunt and their three sons, Andrew Bryan, 6, Nathan Bryan, 8, and Brandon Bryan, 15, board a bus Saturday at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, for Operation KUDOS, or Kids Understanding Deployment Operations. Kids attended briefs and demonstrations to help them understand what their parents go through when they prepare to deploy. (Mark Rankin / S&S)

Left to right, Keith and Lisa Hunt and their three sons, Andrew Bryan, 6, Nathan Bryan, 8, and Brandon Bryan, 15, board a bus Saturday at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, for Operation KUDOS, or Kids Understanding Deployment Operations. Kids attended briefs and demonstrations to help them understand what their parents go through when they prepare to deploy.

Left to right, Keith and Lisa Hunt and their three sons, Andrew Bryan, 6, Nathan Bryan, 8, and Brandon Bryan, 15, board a bus Saturday at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, for Operation KUDOS, or Kids Understanding Deployment Operations. Kids attended briefs and demonstrations to help them understand what their parents go through when they prepare to deploy. (Mark Rankin / S&S)

Air Force Master Sgt. Jeff Melahn paints Cameron Howell’s face to get him ready to deploy Saturday at Operation KUDOS, or Kids Understanding Deployment Operations, at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa. More than 250 kids attended briefs to simulate deploying and attended demonstrations on the flight line by medical, dental, security forces and troop commanders.

Air Force Master Sgt. Jeff Melahn paints Cameron Howell’s face to get him ready to deploy Saturday at Operation KUDOS, or Kids Understanding Deployment Operations, at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa. More than 250 kids attended briefs to simulate deploying and attended demonstrations on the flight line by medical, dental, security forces and troop commanders. (Mark Rankin / S&S)

KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — Approximately 250 children ages 5 to 15 gathered here Saturday to learn how their active-duty parents prepare to deploy, and how they live once they’re gone.

For the first time on Kadena, Operation KUDOS, or Kids Understanding Deployment Operations, allowed children to learn firsthand what their parents go through by putting them in mom’s and dad’s shoes. All children were treated as if they were deploying to Iraq and even received a briefing from the 18th Wing commanding general, Brig. Gen. Jan-Marc Jouas.

“We’re glad to have you here with us today,” Jouas said during the first briefing. “There’s three things I want you to do today: ask many questions, get a good feeling for things that happen on this base and have fun.”

Tech. Sgt. James Howell, from Kadena Air Base, brought his three children to KUDOS.

“I think this is an excellent opportunity for them to learn something new,” Howell said.

Some children came dressed in flight suits or camouflage utilities. While they may have looked ready for the mock deployment, the children had to make sure they were physically prepared. They were all given “mobility bags” with out-processing checklists, immunization records and temporary duty orders.

All had to make sure they were current on their immunizations, but instead of poking needles, cups of jelly beans made sure all children were up to date on shots.

Throughout the event, the young troops were bused to different “camp” areas where they were able to get a close look at deployed life. They were able to tour a tent city, try on chemical warfare gear, get their faces painted in camouflage and have samples of Meals, Ready to Eat.

Jessica Cauble, 13, tested peanut butter from an MRE and said it was pretty good.

“I’m having a great time,” Cauble said. “I’ve tasted MREs before, but I don’t think I could eat them all the time.”

In addition to seeing the living conditions, the kids also were able to see some of the gear their parents might use while away from home. On the flightline was a display of gear used by the 320th Special Tactics Squadron, and the 18th Medical Group provided an ambulance. A static display of a helicopter, fire truck and F-15 fighter jet provided the backdrop for those visiting the flight line.

The goal was not only to inform kids about how their parents deploy, but also to increase their sense of security and decrease negative stressors associated with deployments, according to the Family Support Center.

The children went home with a better understanding of what their parents do, and they also left with several things to remind them of the day, including T-shirts, KUDOS dog tags and name tapes.


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