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NEWS | May 28, 2010

Operation FLAGS helps families cope with uncertainty of deployment

By Robert Goetz 502nd Air Base Wing OL-B Public Affairs

A child whose parent will soon deploy may feel a broad range of emotions, including anxiety and fear, but an event planned next week at Randolph helps take the uncertainty out of that experience.

Now in its eighth year, Operation FLAGS, or Families Learning About Global Support, educates families of servicemembers and civilians assigned to Randolph about the deployment process.

"It's designed as a family-friendly mobility education event," said Master Sgt. Todd Remington, 902nd Force Support Squadron readiness NCO in charge. "We educate families about things that go into the mobility process. Hopefully we can educate them to the point where we mitigate their fears a little bit."

Children and military spouses who participate in the event, which will take place June 11 from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., have the opportunity to go through a mock mobility line, look at all the gear issued to servicemembers when they deploy, see static displays of aircraft and equipment and watch a military working dog demonstration.

Following in-processing at 8:30 a.m. at the Airman and Family Readiness Center and the arrival of students from the Randolph Youth Center, participants will be assembled into chalks - named Phantom, Fox Trot and Razorback - and dispersed to three rotation sites, including the deployment readiness center. After eating lunch at the A&FRC, they will watch the MWD demonstration. Closing comments at 2:45 p.m. will conclude the event.

Participants should pre-register by close of business Monday at the front desk of the A&FRC or on the Web site Children 8 and under must be accompanied by a parent or guardian; children 9 and older must have the registration form signed by a parent or guardian.

Sergeant Remington, who called Operation FLAGS "an operational enhancement tools," said it is patterned after a program called PDF Jr. at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho.

"A lot of bases are doing this," he said. "There's an emphasis on educating families about deployment. We fear what we don't know; the more we know, the more comfortable we are."

Sergeant Remington said the event helps children see that their "mom or dad are safe downrange and that they're taken care of."

But the event is also beneficial for the spouses of deploying Airmen.

"It's a wonderful opportunity to learn about the military - anything we can do to make things better for families," Sergeant Remington said.

Chris Kiser, youth center school-age coordinator, said 90 to 100 children from the facility will participate in Operation FLAGS.

"They get to see what their parents do when they're ready to deploy," he said. "It gives them a real sense of what their parents go through."

Mr. Kiser said the event is fun as well as informative.

"I think they will enjoy it," he said. "There are a lot of neat things to do."

Sergeant Remington said volunteers - more than 125 last year - help make Operation FLAGS a success.

"It could not happen without all the volunteers who plan the event, set it up, execute it and take part in the tear-down," he said. "A lot of work goes into it."

The end result is an event that the children find enjoyable.

"You see those kids come in and get energized and excited," Sergeant Remington said. "It makes it all worthwhile."