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Kids Deployment Line encourages child resiliency

Girl in helmet in front of A-10 attack aircraft

Esther, daughter of U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Mike Watkins, 23d Maintenance Squadron Aerospace Ground Equipment inspections section chief, stands in front of an A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft display during the Airman and Family Readiness Center’s Kids Deployment Line event at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, May 1, 2021. Airman manned stations at the event to interact with children and share information about the deployment process. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Daryl Knee)

Airman briefing kids at event

U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Jimmy Wilfong, 23d Wing command chief, holds up a boonie hat during a mock deployment briefing for the Airman and Family Readiness Center’s Kids Deployment Line event at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, May 1, 2021. The goal of the event was to provide children with an understanding of the process their parents undergo before a deployment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Daryl Knee)

Airman shooting a fire hose

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Sam Kimbril, 23d Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Department firefighter, holds a fire hose for Ezra, the son of Tech. Sgt. Mike Watkins, 23d Maintenance Squadron Aerospace Ground Equipment inspections section chief, during the Airman and Family Readiness Center’s Kids Deployment Line event at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, May 1, 2021. Each of the six stations at the event had information and hands-on activities for the children to learn about military deployment functions. (U.S. Air Force by Master Sgt. Daryl Knee)

Airman talking to kids about A-10 attack aircraft

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Michael Ford, 75th Aircraft Maintenance Unit avionics specialist, shares information about the A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft to children during the Airman and Family Readiness Center’s Kids Deployment Line event at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, May 1, 2021. The children broke into four groups to conduct a scavenger hunt for information about how their parents may deploy. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Daryl Knee)

Airman lifting a litter

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jay Vinehout, 38th Rescue Squadron pararescuman, helps children lift a litter to find a puzzle piece during the Airman and Family Readiness Center’s Kids Deployment Line event at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, May 1, 2021. Children at the event had to visit six stations in search of items to complete their deployment scavenger hunt. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Daryl Knee)

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --

The 23d Force Support Squadron Airman and Family Readiness Center's Kids Deployment Line took place at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, May 1, 2021.

The event concluded Moody’s Month of the Military Child, and gave children a chance to understand the process their parents undergo prior to real-world deployments.

“Families are an integral part of what we do in the military,” said Master Sgt. Amanda Lewis, 23d FSS AFRC readiness NCO and event coordinator. “For the active-duty member, if they don’t think their family is taken care of, they couldn’t do their job.

“The Kids Deployment Line introduces children to what their mom or dad have go through, in a super kid-friendly way, so the deployments aren’t so bad,” Lewis added about encouraging resiliency at a young age.

The event began with a mock deployment briefing from Chief Master Sgt. James Wilfong, 23d Wing command chief. He walked each child through a “bag drag,” where the children opened their kit filled with a canteen, boonie hat, coloring books, and deployment and re-deployment information handouts.

From there, the children broke into four groups for a scavenger hunt leading them to six stations spaced out around the 93d Air Ground Operations Wing headquarters.

Lewis said this is the first time they’ve done an outside setup. The typical experience is more similar to an actual personnel deployment function line that military members walk through, but the AFRC cancelled the event last year due to COVID-19 and hosted it virtually instead. This year’s smaller groups and outdoor walk allowed families to safely engage with the Airmen who manned each station to talk with the children and provide hands-on education.

For Tech. Sgt. Mike Watkins — who’s deployed four times in his children’s lives — the interactions are vital to help children connect the dots for why military members have to leave.

“Kids go through deployments all the time,” said Watkins, 23d Maintenance Squadron Aerospace Ground Equipment inspections section chief. “This event is awesome because it makes it a more familiar process and helps them accept what’s going on. It’s better than just saying, ‘I’m leaving for six months’ and expecting everything to be OK.”

The event ended with a free lunch and an opportunity for the parents to speak with the AFRC staff about other deployment resources available, such as journals, coloring books, hero dolls and deployment childcare.

For more information about these resources, call the AFRC at (229) 257-3333.