Robins youth get opportunity to experience deployment from parent’s perspective

  • Published
  • By Wayne Crenshaw
  • 78 ABW/PA
Although they were a bit short of the Air Force size requirements, more than 60 "troops" from Robins deployed and returned to a rousing welcome-home celebration on Saturday.

Sixty-four children participated in the second annual Kids Understanding Deployment Operations, or KUDOS. The event is intended to show children of Airmen what their parents will experience when deploying.

"It puts some fun into what could be a difficult time already with the expectation of separation," said Senior Master Sgt. Gary Hunkins, NCO in charge of the Airman & Family Readiness Center. "It can put the child's mind at ease a little bit."

The ages ranged from 6 to 16, and about twice the number of children attended this year's KUDOS as last year's, Hunkins said. One child was actually the son of an Army Soldier, whose wife works at Robins. The program was significantly expanded from the previous year, with the biggest addition being a tour of 116th Air Control Wing aircraft on the flightline, followed by a lunch.

Command Chief Master Sgt. Harold "Buddy" Hutchison gave the youths a welcome and briefing. The children's day began at the Heritage Club where they got a few freebies, including a "Proud to be a Military Kid" T-shirt and "Air Force brat" dog tags. That was followed by a public health briefing from the 78th Medical Group. The children also got a briefing on the services provided by the Airman & Family Readiness Center, which also proved educational to the parents.

"A lot of the parents said 'I never knew they did all this,'" Sergeant Hunkins said.

Chaplain (Capt.) Michael Newton talked to the children about the chaplain services that are available to deploying Airmen.

After touring the JSTARS aircraft, the children were bussed to Gator Air Base. There they experienced field-living conditions, including sampling meals ready-to-eat, or MREs, and looking at some of the gear Airmen wear in the field.

Afterwards they were bussed back to the Heritage Club, where A&FRC employees greeted them with a "welcome home" banner and cheers.

Hunkins said the 5th Combat Communications Group and the 78th Logistics Readiness Squadron also contributed to putting on KUDOS this year.