JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND –
Operation Jet (Junior Expeditionary Team) is a mock deployment event for children age 7 and up held annually here.
This year's event is 8 a.m. to noon Aug. 15 at the Bob Hope Theater.
The intent of the event is to recreate the stressors of a deployment so kids can better understand what their parents go through during a deployment.
"This is not a hotdogs and bouncy castle kind of event," explains Master Sgt. Jose Ontiveros, event coordinator.
"What we are trying to do is recreate the four phases of deployment - pre-deployment, deployment, post-deployment and reintegration."
Pre-deployment is simulated when parent's sign their child up for the event. The child receives a tasking letter. The stressor that comes into play at that point is the anxiety of what is going to happen during the Op Jet event.
"The letter gets the kids thinking about what they will be doing, Ontiveros said.
"It seems menial but it's recreating those stressors like their parent feels before a deployment."
The day of the event the child doesn't really know what to expect. They walk into the Bob Hope Theatre and receive a pre-deployment briefing, go through a processing line and are given a mission for the day.
The processing line includes things like mock immunizations, talking to Military Family Life Counselors, Operation Homefront and the USO.
Once that is complete, the children are broken up into groups. From there they go out into the field where they experience the deployment portion.
"We bring all kinds of agencies in from across the joint base. They contribute things like transportation, an obstacle course, equipment demonstrations, working dog demonstrations and an MRE lunch," Ontiveros said.
From there the mock service members shift into the post-deployment phase, where they will be treated to a hero's welcome similar to what their service member parent receives upon their return.
The reintegration piece can't be simulated during the event explained Ontiveros.
"We encourage the parents to ask questions about the experience on the way home," Ontiveros said. "That recreates reintegration where the kids kind of understand what mom or dad has to go through trying to get situated back into the house."
"There is a lot of thought and planning that goes into this event to give the kids an authentic deployment experience," Ontiveros said.
The event is open to anyone with a DOD ID card. If your child would like to participate in Operation Jet, call JBSA-Lackland Military and Family Readiness Center at 371-3722 by Aug. 8 to reserve a spot.