Operation Reserve Kids Engages Families

  • Published
  • By Staff Notes
  • 944th Fighter Wing

The stress of deployment separation is never easy for any family, but thanks to the 944th Fighter Wing Airmen and Family Readiness Center, children have a better understanding of the rigors of the deployment process and what happens while their parents are away.

The 944th FW A&FRC hosted 43 youth here, ages 6 to 15, as they participated in Operation Reserve Kids, April 6. The event provided participants with insight into what their parents experience during deployment. The intent of the program is to reduce stress for families during separation.

Staff Sgt. Brianna Creveling, 944th FW religious affairs non-commissioned officer, and her family are no strangers to deployments. Creveling served two deployments, the most recent being to support Airmen in Southwest Asia.

“The first time we participated in [Op Kids] was just before I deployed,” said Creveling. “So getting the family acclimated to what I was going to be doing and getting them excited helped with the process. It takes a toll on the whole family when we deploy, but giving them something to get excited about and look forward to helped the whole family get through it.”

The event started off with a mission brief from Col. Bryan Cook, 944th FW commander, and then proceeded with a deployment line. The children visited different agencies to include medical readiness, logistics readiness, chaplain corps, and finance.

“The program is designed to educate kids and get them excited about the military while also providing parents an opportunity to bond with their children,” said Jessica Maldonado, 944th FW A&FRC director. “The children also get the opportunity to learn about what their parents do in the military.”

The young recruits also visited the 944th Maintenance Group to learn more about the F-16 Fighting Falcon and F-35 Lightning II before they “deployed” to the Ability to Survive and Operate compound on base.

“It was nice to see the process of how [my wife] gets ready to go and to understand where she is going to be,” said Tyson, Creveling’s husband. “It helped our kids and I get started with the separation process and help us stay calm and get through it together.”

While “deployed,” the children went through a mini fitness challenge, obstacle course, and got to shoot the “adversary” with paintball guns.

“Our Key Spouses and Honorary Commanders also helped put together ‘care packages’ for the kids to receive during mail call at their ‘deployed location’ to really get the full experience,” said Maldonado.

The care packages included a photo frame, stickers, plush bear, a bracelet, crayons, a coloring sheet, and a letter from their parents.

“I was just deployed, living in tents like the ones they had at the ATSO area,” said Creveling. “For my kids to be able to come and see, ‘oh this is where you were living?’ It makes it more real for them and easier for us to connect and I think that’s awesome.”

The “deployers” ended their military adventure with a welcome home party and short commander’s call. Cook and Chief Master Sgt. Jeremy Malcom, 944th FW command chief, handed the children individual certificates and the traditional challenge coins for their accomplishments during Operation Reserve Kids.

“Operation Reserve Kids is a great opportunity for us to connect with families,” said Maldonado. “We want to see the program continue to grow so we can reach more in the future.”