Children from Bethel Youth Services play with “Bob the Firefighter” during Operation Hero, at Langley Air Force Base, Va., Aug. 1, 2012. The 11th Annual Operation Hero event gave children of Airmen insight into what their parents experience during the deployment process. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Teresa Cleveland/Released)
U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Dawn Moninger, 633rd Air Base Wing Safety noncommissioned officer in charge of ground safety, demonstrates the proper way to wear a reflective belt during Operation Hero, at Langley Air Force Base, Va., Aug. 1, 2012. Operation Hero helps children understand the pre-deployment process by providing entertainment and hands-on activities, allowing children the opportunity to experience what their parents do prior to deploying. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Teresa Cleveland/Released)
U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Haeley Robinson, 30th Intelligence Squadron geospacial intelligence analyst, gives children temporary tattoos during Operation Hero, at Langley Air Force Base, Va., Aug. 1, 2012. The tattoos simulate the immunizations portion of the deployment processing line that their parents must go through while preparing for deployments. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Teresa Cleveland/Released)
by Senior Airman Jarad A. Denton
633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs
8/7/2012 - LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. -- The roar of tiny feet resonated against the concrete floor as children from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., all ran to experience the different stations and events of Operation: Hero, Aug. 1.
This marks the 11th year for Operation: Hero, which focuses on educating children to the reality of deployment, and alleviating the fear associated with it.
"We focus on trying to get the kids to understand the deployment process so it isn't scary for them anymore," said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Dawn Chapman, Airman & Family Readiness Center noncommissioned officer in charge of readiness. "We want to make them feel like they are part of the process."
This year, the children' process included various displays and presentations, giving them a hands-on view of the different career fields in the Air Force. They were also able to process through a mock deployment line to experience what their parents go through every time they deploy.
"It puts it all in perspective in a fun, kid-friendly way," said Master Sgt. Julie Dandaneau, 633rd Surgical Operations Squadron flight chief of surgical services. "They see this and understand that we don't just pack our bags and leave when we deploy."
Dandaneau brought her two children, Paige and Jack to Operation: Hero in order to give them an entertaining look into what the deployment process is like. As both children competed in an obstacle course, Dandaneau watched from the sidelines.
"He's very competitive," Dandaneau said as she watched her son run through the course, a second behind her daughter. "He's really trying to beat his sister."
After experiencing several stations at the static display hangar, the children were taken to another building where they were given a safety briefing, which was followed by a medical evaluation - which measured their height and weight. After their evaluation, the children went to a simulated pharmacy, where they received candy medication and a temporary tattoo immunization.
Finally, they were able to see a self-aid and buddy care demonstration, where they were given a small first-aid kit containing band aids, ointment and a custom-made guide. Throughout the process, the excitement and delight shown by the children served as a reminder of why these events are essential.
"Seeing the kids' faces light up when they do the different activities is its own reward," Chapman said. "They are so happy knowing they can participate and be a part of something their parents are involved in."
Once the deployment line closed down, the foam-dart marksmanship course was packed up and the MRE taste-testing booth had tallied its results, the children all began to head home. However, they were leaving with newfound knowledge, understanding and appreciation for the deployment process, and the sacrifices their parents make in the service of the nation.
"This has been fantastic," said Jackie Bickel, as her son Brandon learned about the inner workings of a fire engine. "It's given him [Brandon] a chance to see what his dad does in his job."