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Moving down the line

Attendees of Kid's Deployment Day had the chance to try gas masks, cold weather gear and other things their military parents use on deployments. Photos by Beth Young

Attendees of Kid's Deployment Day had the chance to try gas masks, cold weather gear and other things their military parents use on deployments. Photos by Beth Young

Attendees of Kid's Deployment Day had the chance to try gas masks, cold weather gear and other things their military parents use on deployments. Photos by Beth Young

Attendees of Kid's Deployment Day had the chance to try gas masks, cold weather gear and other things their military parents use on deployments. Photos by Beth Young

A1C Amada Daniels, 75th Mission Support Squadron, gets some surprised looks while showing a Brown Bat to (left to right) Jadyn Cutler, Austin Schlegel and Isa Thomas. Photos by Alex R. Lloyd

A1C Amada Daniels, 75th Mission Support Squadron, gets some surprised looks while showing a Brown Bat to (left to right) Jadyn Cutler, Austin Schlegel and Isa Thomas. Photos by Alex R. Lloyd

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah -- For the sixth year in a row, the smallest members of the Air Force family lined up at the Hill Air Force Base deployment processing line, for Kid's Deployment Day.

"The point of Kid's Deployment Day, which I think is more poignant now than six years ago when they started it, is we need to allow our children to have a positive upbeat image of what is going on with their parents in a military situation," said Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Lyon, Hill AFB Readiness noncommissioned officer.

The average Air Force deployment lasts four to six months but the Hill AFB children's deployment only lasted about an hour. Hosted by the Airman and Family Readiness Center, this event helps children cope with a military lifestyle by showing them what their parents may go through when they deploy.

"While this is not exactly what goes on when we deploy, it provides them with something to hold on to when their parents start talking about deploying," Sergeant Lyon said.

Most of the more than 543 "deployers," were from Hill Field Elementary, where 99 percent of the students are from military families.

"I think it is a good experience for them, especially the older kids who really understand," said Paul Bryner, Hill Field Elementary principal. "These kids have lots of different stresses in their lives, neat experiences in many cases. They have knowledge in the world that most of us, including adults don't even have. (Kid's Deployment Day) helps them to understand these experiences and help move through them."

The students went through the deployment line, talking to representatives from legal, medical, finance and other base organizations, just as their parents would.

"This helps the parents have something to reference back to for the kids," Sergeant Lyon said. "It helps the bond that both the child and parent need during deployments. Kid's Deployment Day is a tool that we use to help our children cope with the military lifestyle."

This deployment was anything but business as usual. The students also got the chance to see a military working dog demonstration, try on gas masks and other aspects of military careers. A favorite was the visit to the entomology room, where critters, such as camel spiders, from different deploying locations were on display.

"It's really cool because you get to see bugs," said Mac Carswell, Hill Field student and son of Tech. Sgt. Lenore Carswell, 388th Fighter Wing. "Just really cool to see what parents get to see and what they use in the desert."

Almost every attendee had a story about when their mom or dad deployed. Although all their stories held instill pride for their parents, they also had sadness when asked how long their parent was gone for.

"I am learning everything my daddy goes through when he goes to deployment," said Joel Villarreal, son of Army Sgt. David Villarreal, U.S. Army Medical Army Material Agency. "I think it's fun, but I don't like the part where you don't get to see them for a long time."

Patricia Villarreal, Hill AFB spouse, came to Kid's Deployment Day with her son Joel, because she wanted to know more about her husband's deployment.

"This is so good because he can know what his daddy is doing and he doesn't suffer too much when he is leaving," she said.

In addition to all the learning, there was also a lot of fun.

"I've seen nothing but smiles so far," Sergeant Lyon said. "Other than a few screeches from the entomology room, they seem to be reacting pretty positively to it."

Because their was a lot to absorb during their short deployment, a Team Hill member rode on the bus with them back to school to answer any questions they may have had. Some of the classes even used the field trip to add to the classroom curriculum with papers, artwork and discussion. Hill parents with students not attending Hill Field Elementary could also bring their children.