News Search


Luke deploys youngest Airmen in AF history

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Staci Miller
  • 56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Sweat dripped from their brows as they began their deployment in the desert heat.

Children of service members participated in the sixth annual Operation Kids event Saturday at Luke Air Force Base. The event was geared to help children understand the things their parents do when preparing for a deployment and what it's like to be in a deployed environment.

"This is a deployment exercise for children," said Master Sgt. Anthony Drew, 56th Force Support Squadron Airman and Family Readiness noncommissioned officer in charge and Operation Kids project officer. "Mom and dad go away and get deployed to various locations while the children are left at home and don't always know what mom and dad are doing. This gives them an example of what mom and dad could do when they get deployed."

The event began weeks prior during a simulated enlistment process.  The first step was choosing a career. More than 140 children were briefed by representatives from various Air Force and Army career fields such as pilot, infantry, medic and explosive ordnance disposal to help them choose which path they wanted to take.
After choosing a field, the children took an oath of enlistment and became official members of Operation Kids.

"They came in and we got them all signed up," Drew said. "It's like going through a military entrance processing station. They swore in there as well."

Early Saturday morning, children were recalled and ordered to report to a mobility

"The day of the event we brought them in and they went through a processing line, just like mom and dad would do," Drew said. "They got some goodies, their uniform and dog tags."

Separated into their various career field flights, children then boarded buses and were transported to their deployed location, Camp Thunderbolt.

At the camp, there were approximately 10 different stations run by numerous military and civilian specialists.

"We had a blow up confidence course, EOD, medics and the security forces' dog handlers did a show," Drew said. "Arizona Game and Fish set up a shooting range for us, which simulated getting the kids qualified to fire."

"My favorite event was watching the military dogs," said Alexxes Rannow, age 12, daughter of Capt. William Rannow, 56th Medical Operations Squadron, currently deployed to Bagram Airfield.

After an exhausting day in the simulated deployed environment, children boarded the buses and headed home. They were greeted with large "welcome home" signs and cheers, provided by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, United Service Organization and community members.

"When the kids got off the buses the volunteers formed a welcome home line," Drew said. "We made it a real big deal for them so they were excited to come home. They got to see everybody cheering for them when they got off the bus."

It took work and coordination between military and civilians to make this day possible for the children.

"Planning started about six months ago," Drew said. "It's a lot of coordination between multiple squadrons on base, as well as off-base agencies. More than a hundred people worked to make this happen."

Overall, the event was a success.

"It was super fun," Rannow said. "We got to experience what military people get to do when they deploy."

For more information on Operation KIDS and other family programs, call the A&FRC at (623) 856-6550.