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Cannon youths embark on deployment

Cannon Connections photo: Jared Tucker Lydia Schmidt, 6, waves from the cockpit of a 1969 model C-130 Gunship Saturday at Operation Kudos. The plane was used in the filming of “Transformers,” according to Cannon officials.

The children of Cannon Air Force Base took a walk in their parents’ shoes Saturday, when the base held its second Operation Kids Understanding Deployment Operations (KUDOS).

KUDOS is designed to help military kids better understand what their parents go through during deployment, according to Tech. Sgt. Miguel Cruz.

“The most important part is the re-integration when they come back, having their parents meet them after being separated for a couple of hours,” Cruz said.

Kali Grove, 15, said her father, Tech. Sgt. Johnnie Grove just returned from a six-month deployment in the United Arab Emirates at Al Dhafra Air Base. She said the event this year was better than the first one, but it doesn’t make the deployment process any easier.

“It’s cool to understand how the military works, and what happens on the base,” said Grove.

KUDOS participants went through a kid-friendly deployment process. Military staff set up a processing center at the base chapel.

The kids received their own I.D., or “dog tags,” a T-shirt, and went through a processing line complete with a legal and finance department. After receiving medical records and their choice of raspberry or cherry immunizations, the kids boarded a bus and were taken to a hangar.

At the hangar, children participated in the hands-on part of the event. They tried on tactical gear, held unloaded firearms, flashed the lights and sounded the siren in an ambulance, and got to sit in the cockpit of a 1969 model C-130 gunship.

Refreshments were also offered. Participants got to eat Meals Ready to Eat (MREs), said Master Sgt. Tory Gard.

“That’ll really make them want to join the military,” he said, laughing. Gard is responsible for the three months of leg work necessary to put on Operation KUDOS.

Participants also watched a demonstration by the base security forces K-9 unit. Staff Sgt. Adam Wylie put on a foam bite suit and was pursued and attacked by two dogs.

The hangar echoed with laughter as Wylie, a dog latched on each forearm, spun the dogs in a circle.

After each group went through each display, they were taken back to the chapel where they were met with a formal homecoming: Their parents waiting anxiously to welcome them home, each waving their own American flag.

Cruz said he hopes Operation KUDOS will soon become an annual event.