KUDOS gives kids knowledge

Master Sgt. Adam Brothers of the 45th Civil Engineer Squadron teaches a group of children how to stand at attention and salute during the Kids Understanding Deployment Operations event April 10. The KUDOS program is part of the Year of the Air Force Family and helps children learn about deployments. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman David Dobrydney)

Master Sgt. Adam Brothers of the 45th Civil Engineer Squadron teaches a group of children how to stand at attention and salute during the Kids Understanding Deployment Operations event April 10. The KUDOS program is part of the Year of the Air Force Family and helps children learn about deployments. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman David Dobrydney)

Capt. Dan Posch, a maintenance operations officer with the 920th Rescue Wing, describes a HC-130 aircraft to a group of junior deployers during the Kids Understanding Deployment Operations event April 10. The KUDOS program is part of the Year of the Air Force Family and helps children learn about deployments. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman David Dobrydney)

Capt. Dan Posch, a maintenance operations officer with the 920th Rescue Wing, describes a HC-130 aircraft to a group of junior deployers during the Kids Understanding Deployment Operations event April 10. The KUDOS program is part of the Year of the Air Force Family and helps children learn about deployments. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman David Dobrydney)

Tech. Sgt. Monica Gonzales of the Airman & Family Readiness Center acted as a troop leader for the Kids Understanding Deployment Operations event April 10. Here she leads the junior deployers out of a hangar, where they toured a HH-60 Pave Hawk
helicopter. The KUDOS program is part of the Year of the Air Force Family and helps children learn about deployments. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman David Dobrydney)

Tech. Sgt. Monica Gonzales of the Airman & Family Readiness Center acted as a troop leader for the Kids Understanding Deployment Operations event April 10. Here she leads the junior deployers out of a hangar, where they toured a HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter. The KUDOS program is part of the Year of the Air Force Family and helps children learn about deployments. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman David Dobrydney)

Children got up close and personal with an Explosive Ordnance Disposal robot under the watchful eye of Staff Sgt. Justin Macias at the Kids Understanding Deployment Operations event April 10. The KUDOS program is part of the Year of the Air Force Family and helps children learn about deployments. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman David Dobrydney)

Children got up close and personal with an Explosive Ordnance Disposal robot under the watchful eye of Staff Sgt. Justin Macias at the Kids Understanding Deployment Operations event April 10. The KUDOS program is part of the Year of the Air Force Family and helps children learn about deployments. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman David Dobrydney)

Staff Sgt. Brad Brown (in blue shirt) and Airman 1st Class Emillian Kuznetsov (in coat) demonstrate how they gear up to fight fires for the junior deployers at Chevron Park at the Kids Understanding Deployment Operations event April 10. The KUDOS program is part of the Year of the Air Force Family and helps children learn about deployments. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman David Dobrydney)

Staff Sgt. Brad Brown (in blue shirt) and Airman 1st Class Emillian Kuznetsov (in coat) demonstrate how they gear up to fight fires for the junior deployers at Chevron Park at the Kids Understanding Deployment Operations event April 10. The KUDOS program is part of the Year of the Air Force Family and helps children learn about deployments. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman David Dobrydney)

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Roles were reversed April 10 at the Patrick Air Force Base Air Terminal.

For the "Kids Understanding Deployment Operations" program, the 45th Space Wing and 920th Rescue Wing staff staged a mock deployment for approximately 70 children ranging in age from 5 to 16. All of them had one or both parents serving in the military.

KUDOS deployments have been arranged at other Air Force bases, but this is the first to take place at Patrick and helped to start off the Month of the Military Child. "Because this has  never been done here before, we had to stop taking RSVPs because of the great response we received," said Tech. Sgt. Monica Gonzales, family readiness NCO at the Airman & Family
Readiness Center here. Sergeant Gonzales spearheaded the effort to bring KUDOS to Patrick, asking for and receiving a grant for supplies from Air Force Space Command under the Year of the Air Force Family program.

The terminal was arranged just as it would be for a real unit deployment. As the children arrived, they were assigned to a group based on their age and issued their own dog tags and a folder with the documents they would need to take with them on their deployment.

45th Space Wing Vice Commander Col. Andre Lovett was impressed at the organization of the event. "My hat is off to Sergeant Gonzales and all of the volunteers who put this together," he said. "Events like this definitely prove the adage that people are our most important resource, no matter how young they are."

After all the children had signed in, Colonel Lovett said a few words to those about to "deploy" to Antarctica in support of Operation Save the Penguins.

"You are all very special to us," he said to the gathered children.

With that it was time for the junior deployers to be briefed on how to salute, what the climate was like in Antarctica and how their parents could seek support from the Airman & Family
Readiness Center while their children are away.

Next the children went through the deployment line where they had their toy passports stamped and play money and medical supplies issued to them. There was even camouflage makeup for those who wanted it.

Once all the children were properly geared up, they went to the flightline where members from the 920th Rescue Wing were waiting to show them a HC-130 aircraft and HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter.

Sergeant Gonzales said the event was specifically scheduled to coincide with the monthly duty weekend for the 920th RQW so as many families as possible could participate, both active-duty and reserve. "[The reservists' children] don't get to see the base very often, so we wanted to make sure they were included," said Sergeant Gonzales.

Loadmaster Master Sgt. Shane Smith guided the children around the HC-130 and was impressed with both the KUDOS program and its participants. "It's a great idea, and the kids are a lot more knowledgeable than I expected," he said.

After the aircraft tour, it was off to Chevron Park, which had been draped with white netting to simulate the snows of Antarctica. There the children were treated to demonstrations by the Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit, Military Working Dogs and the Fire Department.

Finally it was time to redeploy home. As each busload of children returned to the terminal, happy parents and volunteers cheered. One mother even held up a "Welcome Home" sign.

Each participant received a certificate for completing the deployment, presented by 45th Force Support Squadron Commander Lt. Col. Patrick White.

The parents who stayed to watch the activities and help out with the children were glad of the opportunity KUDOS presented. Krystal Harris, whose 11-year-old twins Kaleb and Kyra went to Antarctica and back in one day, said her children already know the "dad's gone" part of a deployment very well. "I thought it'd be a cool chance for them to see what it's like on the  inside," she said.