HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. (WKRG) — Leaving kids behind to serve the country is not easy, but members of the Hurlburt Field Special Operation Wing do it every year.
To help give the family unit more understanding, the base hosts Operation KUDOS, a mock deployment for kids ages 5-13 to go through the motions of leaving home.
“It helps them see, literally some of the places that they would go like, ‘oh, hey, mom or dad has to prepare for deployment, they’re probably gonna go to this building and take care of different training.’ Or when you know they say mom and dad have to fly out, you know this is where they might meet up,” said Master Sergeant Brooke Scott with the Military and Family Readiness Center(M&FRC). “I think it just kind of helps paint a better picture when you can see the physical location and some of the processes that they go through should help them understand.”
The day-long event is a lot of fun for the kids but leaves many impacts behind when the operation is over.
“As a parent, I think it just opens up the avenues for discussion a little bit better. And you know, we’re taking kids anywhere from five years old, all the way up to 13. Each kid is going to be a little bit different, so it might be a little harder for someone who’s 5 or 6 years old to really get it,” said MSgt. Scott. “But again, it opens up those avenues for discussion and be like, ‘oh, hey, remember when you went and did this? Yeah, you know now mom or dad has to go and do this, but a little bit further away.'”
Hurlburt Field has held Operation KUDOS since 2011, taking a two-year hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Scott said they had 111 kids in the 2022 event. The base still has room for 40 more kids at the Apr. 29, 2023 event.
The event will start at 7:00 in the morning with the welcome home ceremony at 2:30 p.m.
The kids are separated into three teams, Red, White and Blue to complete the mission.
“We have them first go to the Deployment Control Center where they have a protocol briefing, kind of a safety brief and then a mission commander briefing,” said MSgt Scott. “We show them the one-style mission video kind of give them an idea of what their parents would do in the Air Force, at least here at Hurlburt.”
Kids then go through different activities at the Deployment Control Center such as the ‘Pre Deployment Function’ line. The activities range from getting mock immunizations, to Power of Attorney legal matters and getting fake money to spend on the deployment.
After combat training, volunteers and base staff will bus the kids over to the 823rd Red Horse Squadron for their “deployment”.
“Heavy machinery, dump trucks, excavators and all kinds of cool equipment will be out there. Then the fire department has a water truck where the kids can aim the fire hose at some targets,” said MSgt Scott.
The end of the day is filled with welcome home signs as parents get to greet their kids back at the Command Hangar. Families can then tour the hangar and different air crafts on display.
To learn more or register, email Brooke.Scott@us.af.mil or call the Military Family Readiness Center at 850-884-5441.