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Members of the kids deployed club at Aviano Air Base, decked out in their deployment gear, listen to a briefing on deploying downrange Thursday.
Members of the kids deployed club at Aviano Air Base, decked out in their deployment gear, listen to a briefing on deploying downrange Thursday. (Kent Harris / S&S)
Members of the kids deployed club at Aviano Air Base, decked out in their deployment gear, listen to a briefing on deploying downrange Thursday.
Members of the kids deployed club at Aviano Air Base, decked out in their deployment gear, listen to a briefing on deploying downrange Thursday. (Kent Harris / S&S)
Members of the deployed kids club huddle behind sandbags during a daylong “deployment” at Aviano Air Base, Italy.
Members of the deployed kids club huddle behind sandbags during a daylong “deployment” at Aviano Air Base, Italy. (Kent Harris / S&S)
Airman 1st Class Matt Alridge helps Josh Dixon look like an Air Force warrior Thursday during a daylong “deployment” by Aviano Elementary School children in Italy.
Airman 1st Class Matt Alridge helps Josh Dixon look like an Air Force warrior Thursday during a daylong “deployment” by Aviano Elementary School children in Italy. (Kent Harris / S&S)

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy — One of the first things airmen who deploy to the Mideast receive is face paint.

Then they all climb into ambulances and F-16s and … OK, maybe all the airmen aren’t that fortunate. Their deployments often involve waiting for things to happen, then a lot of rushing to get things done. And more than a little danger from time to time.

But for children of deployed personnel at Aviano Air Base, being sent somewhere else for a few months might not seem like such a bad deal.

About 60 youngsters who are part of the deployed kids club at the base’s elementary school got a glimpse of what deployment might be like Thursday during a series of demonstrations inside one of the base’s hangars.

“There’s many reasons,” Kris Kessler, an elementary school counselor, said about why the activity was held. “The first is to give the kids who have a deployed parent something special. Many people don’t realize how hard it is for them. They’re giving up a parent for a while.

“The second is we want them to learn a little more about what their parents do. It makes the [nondeployed] spouses happy, too.”

The children don’t have to have parents currently deployed. The parent could have already been deployed or have orders to be sent downrange soon.

“It gives them a physical tie, kind of, to what their deployed parent is doing,” said Senior Master Sgt. John Roth of the 31st Logistics Squadron.

Roth was one of the organizers of the event — the second at Aviano — but he doesn’t claim a copyright.

“Like all good ideas, it was stolen from somewhere else,” he said. “Other bases have similar events.”

Thursday’s “deployment,” held in Hangar One because of rainy weather, featured small groups of volunteers from units around the base.

Youngsters learned how to march — shouting “left, right, left” appeared to be the key element — saw some of the equipment airmen use in the field and then ate lunch during a military working dog demonstration.

They stacked sandbags that were light enough to be carried by the handful (the “sand” was actually paper) and then climbed behind the protective barrier. By then, of course, they were almost impossible to see due to the face paint they were wearing.

That paint wasn’t likely going to come off anytime soon, and Roth said that was OK. He said they’d return to their classrooms with something to share and a visible sign of their “deployment.”

Migrated
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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