BRADLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Conn. --
Approximately 50 Connecticut National Guard children, from kindergarten through eighth grade, participated in the first Deployment Discovery Day, organized through the 103rd Airlift Wing’s Family Support program, May 19, 2018, at the Bradley Air National Guard Base in East Granby, Connecticut. Laughter and excitement filled the air as the children progressed through a series of push-ups, sit-ups, burpees and relay runs. Grey skies and dark clouds loomed overhead, but that didn’t diminish the enthusiasm felt by the children participating in the physical training (PT) session. Following PT, meals ready to eat (MREs) were served followed by a trip to the flight line and, even as the rain began to pour, there was no stopping the group. The children were “deployed,” and they had to continue the mission despite the weather.
“We hosted a Deployment Discovery Day where kids from the Connecticut National Guard got to participate in a mock deployment event,” said Kasey Timberlake, Family Support Coordinator for the 103rd Airlift Wing.
“They went through a PT session in the morning, had a chance to eat an MRE, and then they boarded buses over to our flight line where they saw a fire department demonstration, a demonstration by our security forces, then they were able to get onto a C-130…onto a Blackhawk, and then they participated in a welcome home ceremony with their families,” Timberlake said.
The “deployment” was the brain child of Timberlake, who gleaned inspiration for this project from her own upbringing.
“I think being a part of a military family myself and being around military families for the last 10 years; seeing the impact that deployment has on children and the expression that they have when they get to see their parent come off that bus from a deployment is probably one of the most heartwarming things you can see,” said Timberlake.
“The idea was to recreate that experience on the opposite side for the families, so that they can welcome their child home and shower them with a little bit of love and attention; let them see what it is they work so hard to do, whether it’s deployment, training or just everyday life here at the base and giving the kids an experience where they can get a feel for what their parent does on a daily basis.”
While the children were “deployed,” parents were able to participate in 4 LensesTM training, a program used to strengthen families by giving participants an understanding of their own and their family member’s strengths, weaknesses, joys and motivations. Many of the parents who participated were grateful that the whole family was included.
“I know throughout the day the parents were also engaged in 4 LensesTM training, so they had something for them as well,” said Tech. Sgt. Todd Wilkinson, 103rd Airlift Wing recruiter.
“I think [this event] is a great opportunity for anyone in the Connecticut Air or Army National Guard to come up and utilize some of these benefits that family support is putting on for us,” said Wilkinson.
At the end of the day, the event was all about the children learning more about what their parents go through.
“I think [this] helps create a conversation between the parents, it opens up those lines of communication to talk a little bit more about what it’s like to be a military family,” said Timberlake.
“It gives them a frame of reference. Walking around hearing the kids talk about the MREs and seeing them look at their parent and saying, “Do you really eat these things?” Having that bit of conversation and that bit of a frame of reference for what their parents go through creates a little more conversation in the household about military life.”