AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy — Ariel Steele said she’s not sure if a military career is her future.

But the 13-year-old said she does enjoy experiencing some of what her father — Master Sgt. Lorenzo Steele — is going through while he’s deployed to Southwest Asia.

"I think it’s great," Ariel, an eighth-grader at Aviano Middle School, said about the base’s kids-on-deployment day held Thursday at the Personnel Alert Holding Area. "Especially for the younger kids." About 120 students participated in the event, which is held twice a year.

Kristine Kessler, a counselor at the elementary school, said all the students are members of school clubs designed for children whose parents have recently deployed, are currently deployed, or will soon deploy.

"What we’re trying to do is normalize deployment for the kids," she said.

Airmen put up a pair of tents inside the large facility and brought in a fire truck, a Humvee and an ambulance. Rainy weather meant they didn’t get a chance to climb into an F-16, but none of the children seemed to mind as they got their faces painted with camouflage colors, donned plastic fire helmets and saw demonstrations on various military hardware.

"It allows the kids to touch and feel a lot of the stuff the Air Force does," said Tech. Sgt. Steven Coppock, an explosive ordnance disposal team member who helped students maneuver a robot normally used to handle potentially dangerous material.

Ariel, sporting a colorful camouflaged face painting, said she knows the next few months will be difficult for her family. But she’s determined to make the best of the situation.

"We’re not used to having Christmas or Thanksgiving without my dad, so it’s going to be a lot different," she said. "It’s all about positivity. Keep your head up. Don’t get down. That’s what I’m going to do."

author picture
Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.

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