by Monica Mendoza
21st Space Wing Pubic Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — A group of Peterson children will “deploy” to Dubai for Operation Sand Dune next month and there is much to do. They have to see the base chaplain, talk with folks from legal, check out a Kevlar helmet and other gear, take malaria pills and qualify on an M16 rifle.
Operation Sand Dune is Peterson Air Force Base’s first Kids Understanding Deployment OperationS — a mock deployment line set up just for kids. Of course, “malaria pills” are jellybeans and “M16 rifles” are loaded with rubber bands.
“We want kids to know what their parents go through when they are getting ready to deploy,” said Tech. Sgt. Stacy Oliver, Peterson Airman Family and Readiness Center readiness noncommissioned officer. “This is so kids can see all of the training involved for a deployment, and so that they know that parents just don’t pack up and leave.”
KUDOS is part of the Air Force emphasis on the family and is among this year’s Year of the Air Force Family theme and programs. Sergeant Oliver would like to see KUDOS become an annual event on Peterson. KUDOS is open to all children ages 5 to 12. Parents do not have to be currently deployed for children to participate and Air Force children are encouraged to bring their friends, even if they are not Air Force dependents.
“It will help their friends understand what they are going through when their parents deploy,” Sergeant Oliver said.
The KUDOS deployment line will include a working dog demonstration by the 21st Security Forces Squadron and a display of Humvees and other vehicles used in the “Operation Sand Dune” area of responsibility.
“We are doing this just like they do in a deployed location,” Sergeant Oliver said. “The kids will get to wear all the gear — the Kevlar helmet, vest, belts — to let them see how heavy it is.”
Children will get a “cash advance” of play money and a fingerprint card they can take home to their parents. Army and Air Force Exchange Services will provide lunch and other goodies and 21st SFS will set up a mobility tent for a real life deployment experience. Home building company Actus Lind Lease is sending volunteers armed with tubes of camouflage face paint to help make the event more authentic.
“My main concern is that kids have an understanding of what their parents go through when they deploy,” said Kristi Bette, Actus Lind Lease project accountant.
Capt. Yvonne Pacheco, 21st Space Wing Force Support Squadron, participated in a KUDOS program in Japan, where volunteers answered questions about deployments, including questions about wills and power of attorney. The event, she said, gives children an understanding of what their parents do to prepare for a deployment. It also gives children an understanding of their role in their parents’ military lives.
“It gives them a more sound mind,” said Captain Pacheco, who is volunteering at Peterson’s upcoming KUDOS. “Now, they know what things mean.”
Captain Pacheco said the Year of the Air Force Family programs are vital to military missions. If families are unhappy or confused about a family member’s deployment, it will be difficult on the military member to concentrate on the mission.
“I believe with the operations we are involved in globally, it is very important for our families to be thanked for their contributions and their continued support,” she said.
KUDOS will be 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 7, at the Peterson youth center, Building 1555. The event, which includes lunch, is for children ages 5 to 12. Children are encouraged to wear their parent’s Airman Battle Uniform top and bring their friends. To register, call Sergeant Oliver at 556-6141.