Yokota event gives kids a taste of what parents experience in deployment
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Up to 250 children of servicemembers are about to get a taste of U.S. military mobilization.
On Saturday, they’ll march through a mock deployment line for consultations with finance, personnel, public health and family support center representatives. Medical and legal records will be reviewed, with a chaplain available throughout the process.
Participants even will be put on an aircraft for “departure.”
It’s all part of Kids Understanding Deployment Operations, or KUDOS, an event designed to give children ages 5-14 more insight into the mechanics and difficulties their parents face when being sent around the globe on temporary-duty assignments. It begins at 9 a.m. in Building 400, near Yokota’s flight line.
“KUDOS lets kids see exactly what parents go through in a deployment. … how it’s done … what it’s all about,” said Henry McCord with the Yokota Family Support Center, who helped organize the mock deployment.
The simulation should move a little more quickly than a real-world deployment line, he said. Along the way, there’ll be displays and demonstrations by base officials, who’ll showcase a military working dog, mobility bag, proper use of a gas mask and how to reach the bottom of a Meal, Ready to Eat.
“It’s the equipment going into combat,” McCord said. “They’ll explain how things are done and the need for each item.
“This will let children know their parents are going out with the best equipment possible to keep them safe — and bring them home alive.”
The children, who also can get their faces painted in camouflage, will use fake orders, shot records, identification and dog tags. McCord said the group will head through the deployment line in waves of about 50 and can be accompanied by parents.
Yokota’s Civil Air Patrol is to help marshal kids through the line. Several senior military officials, including base commander Col. Scott Goodwin, are among volunteers who will assist.
KUDOS has been held at other bases before, said Capt. Warren Comer, a 374th Airlift Wing spokesman. For instance, Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, recently staged a successful mock “deployment,” he said. But this marks the first time it’s being tried at Yokota.
Comer said fewer than 100 Yokota airmen are deployed around the world currently. But he said the base is gearing up for another Aerospace Expeditionary Force rotation, which could happen in January.
McCord said the program will benefit children who are uncertain about what to expect when a parent is ushered away to the Middle East or other war-on-terror hot spots.
“It makes them feel better about it. Not knowing about it sometimes creates anxiety,” he said. “This helps military families cement a strong relationship. This is just one part, but it makes kids more sure about things they don’t know.
“If this can decrease the anxiety of Yokota’s children by offering something about the deployment process and what their parents go through, it should become an annual event.”
By Tuesday afternoon, 170 of 250 available slots had been filled for Saturday’s session, McCord said. For more information or to sign up, call the Family Support Center at DSN 225-8725.