Deployment Discovery Day
By Tech. Sgt. Tamara R. Dabney, 103rd Airlift Wing
/ Published June 06, 2019
BRADLEY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Conn. --
Husband and wife, Jacob and Brooke Cournoyer smiled as they drew large, red, white and blue block letters on a poster board. The letters read “Welcome Home.”
The couple’s two children, Kimberly, 7 and Alex, 5, were away participating in a mock deployment for children as part of the 2nd annual Deployment Discovery Day at Bradley Air National Guard Base.
It is customary for military members to be greeted by family members with welcome home signs upon return from a deployment. In keeping with the custom, the Cournoyers prepared large, brightly colored posters to welcome their two children back home.
Deployment Discovery Day is a joint program developed by the Connecticut Army and Air National Guard to teach the children of service members about military deployment and the significance of military service.
“This is our second year running the program,” said Kasey Timberlake, 103rd Airman and Family Readiness Program Manager. “I’d like them (the children) to understand the importance of their parent’s military jobs.”
Connecticut National Guard Lead Child and Youth Coordinator Michelle McCarty said that the event is important, because it is a way for children to experience, to a small extent, what their parents experience during a deployment.
“It’s important for the parents who are service members to let their kids go through this and see what it’s like, in their own way, to be deployed,” said McCarty. “It’s a way for the kids to see a little bit of what their parents go through.”
Deployment Discovery Day is filled with military related activities that are designed to be fun and interactive. There is no other event like it in the state of Connecticut.
“What other event in the state are going to be able to get on an Army helicopter, a C-130, see military working dogs, play around in a fire house, look at the weapons that security forces uses?,” said Timberlake. “There’s no where else that you can get that experience in one day.”
During Deployment Discovery Day, children are grouped into squadrons by age. Each squadron is led by a member of the Connecticut Army of Air National Guard. At this year’s event, participants did physical training, which consisted of a run through a bounce house obstacle course. Then, participants boarded a bus and "deployed" to the flight line where they watched a working dog demonstration and toured a C-130 H Hercules aircraft, Chinook, Black Hawk. Members of the 103rd Civil Engineer and Security Forces Squadron as well as the 928th Military Police detachment explained how various pieces of equipment and weapons are used. Additionally, participants fought a simulated live fire from which they had to rescue a baby doll inside the Bradley Air National Guard firehouse. Finally, participants were bussed back to the base dining facility where parents welcomed them “home” to a barbecue picnic.
Timberlake was especially grateful to the service members who volunteered to be Deployment Discovery Squad Leaders.
"It’s the service members who make this happen," said Timberlake. "We cannot do this without them."
Brooke Cournoyer was pleased with the various activities that her children were able to experience.
“It’s awesome,” said Brooke. “I really love it. When they (Kimberly and Alex) first got here, they got there packs, a t-shirt and dog tags. I thought it was cool that they get to do the “PT Test”. I said, “Go ahead. Let’s see how you do on your PT Test, and see you in 6 months. Bye!””
Jacob Cournoyer echoed his wife’s sentiments and stressed the importance of preparing military families for deployment.
“It’s easy to forget sometimes, that we go through this process and do all of this training in the military to get us prepared to deploy, but theres not as much that our families go through to get prepared,” said Jacob. “Anything that we can do to involve the families and get them prepared is the best thing.”
Members of the Connecticut Army and Air National Guard can find out about family events by subscribing to the Child and Youth Program/Airman and Family Readiness email distribution lists. Contact Michelle McCarty at firstname.lastname@example.org or Kasey Timberlake at email@example.com to sign up.