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Children examine the cockpit of Brig. Gen Jan-Marc Jouas’ F-15 Saturday at Kadena Air Base on Okinawa.

Children examine the cockpit of Brig. Gen Jan-Marc Jouas’ F-15 Saturday at Kadena Air Base on Okinawa. (Erik Slavin / S&S)

Children examine the cockpit of Brig. Gen Jan-Marc Jouas’ F-15 Saturday at Kadena Air Base on Okinawa.

Children examine the cockpit of Brig. Gen Jan-Marc Jouas’ F-15 Saturday at Kadena Air Base on Okinawa. (Erik Slavin / S&S)

Roxanne Umali, 12, gets her pace painted by Airman Tiffany Grant, 21.

Roxanne Umali, 12, gets her pace painted by Airman Tiffany Grant, 21. (Erik Slavin / S&S)

Teddy Thomas, 5, takes control of an HH-60 Pave Hawk rescue helicopter.

Teddy Thomas, 5, takes control of an HH-60 Pave Hawk rescue helicopter. (Erik Slavin / S&S)

Airman 1st Class Alex Hooper shows children a beauty snake Saturday morning at Kadena Air Base.

Airman 1st Class Alex Hooper shows children a beauty snake Saturday morning at Kadena Air Base. (Erik Slavin / S&S)

KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — Clad in camouflage face paint and wearing dog tags, they all looked the part of fearless warriors — just shorter.

“Mommy, are we really deploying?” Emily Reid, 7, asked her mother.

“I’d jump out of an airplane,” Tanner Reid, 6, chimed in confidently.

With their brother, Jackson, 9, the Reid children were among the 200 to 250 who participated Saturday in Kids Understanding Deployment Operations, or KUDOS.

KUDOS is designed to give children a glimpse into what it is like when their parents leave on a deployment. After boarding buses, they were taken for a briefing at the same building where some of their parents deployed this past week.

Airmen brought them up to speed on the children’s downrange “mission.” They were briefed on what animals to avoid, living conditions and what they should eat and drink.

Also at the briefing, 18th Wing Vice Commander Col. Jeffrey Kennedy explained to the children how few military members there are compared to the U.S. civilian population, and how that small group is in charge of keeping so many people safe.

“I appreciate them, and it means a lot to them that you appreciate what they do, too,” Kennedy said.

After the briefing, the children lined up to take their medicine – cups of fruit loops – and then walked through the legal, chaplain and financial sections.

Then came the fun stuff. The children got to climb into a cargo plane, an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter and even into Brig. Gen. Jan-Marc Jouas’ F-15 fighter. They also talked with firefighters, looked at unloaded weapons and saw snakes and other desert critters.

The program is a nice way of familiarizing the children with deployment, said Kim Teel, whose two children participated. It also helps parents keep their children in a routine and reassured, she said.

“I told him when he was younger that Daddy was going to work for a while,” Teel said. “And that he’d be back.”

Andrea Reid, whose husband, 18th Munitions Squadron 1st Sgt. James Reid, recently deployed to Kuwait, said keeping a sense of normalcy for the children is key during a deployment.

She said she remembers to do little things for herself so she can better help her children. Programs such as KUDOS also help deployments seem normal by showing her children that they are not alone, she said.

“It’s a good opportunity for the kids to see what happens to Dad,” Reid said. “And they get to be around other children in the same situation.”


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