Just like mom and dad

Brig. Gen. James Whitmore, 82nd Training Wing commander, briefs personnel – a.k.a. dependent children of Team Sheppard members – before they deploy to Camp Liberty at an unknown location. (U.S. Air Force photo/Mike Litteken).

Brig. Gen. James Whitmore, 82nd Training Wing commander, briefs personnel – a.k.a. dependent children of Team Sheppard members – before they deploy to Camp Liberty at an unknown location. (U.S. Air Force photo/Mike Litteken).

A Team Sheppard member welcomes home a participant in Saturday’s Operation Kids 2006 after a “lenghty deployment” to Camp Liberty. About 150 children of Team Sheppard personnel braved the weather, processing lines, briefings and MREs to experience what takes place when preparing for a deployment. (U.S. Air Force photo/Mike Litteken).

A Team Sheppard member welcomes home a participant in Saturday’s Operation Kids 2006 after a “lenghty deployment” to Camp Liberty. About 150 children of Team Sheppard personnel braved the weather, processing lines, briefings and MREs to experience what takes place when preparing for a deployment. (U.S. Air Force photo/Mike Litteken).

SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- "Alright Red Chalk. Let's go," yelled a slender staff sergeant as he tried to get troops lined up, ready to board a bus. 

"Move it," he urged the sleepy-eyed mission-ready "Airmen" as they stammered around here at Bldg. 2113 following an early morning wake-up call. 

Operation Kids 2006 was underway to give dependent children a taste of what their parents experience in preparation for a deployment. 

"See how we rushed you through that line real fast?" asked Staff Sgt. Konstantinos Levidiotis, an instructor at the 362nd Training Squadron. "That's what we call hurry up and wait." 

Although the children didn't fully understand what the sergeant meant, they did understand that they were embarking on a journey to a place they hadn't been before. Three chalks - red, white and blue - processed through the 82nd Logistics Readiness Squadron to receive their "uniforms" and necessary "supplies" for their deployment.
Before boarding the bus, Brig. Gen. James Whitmore, 82nd Training Wing commander, provided an outgoing briefing about pertinent information such as weather, airborne and infectious diseases, sanitary conditions, living arrangements and vegetation, to name a few. 

The location for the deploying group was classified, but it was named Camp Liberty, the general said. 

"A stop loss is in effect," he said, explaining they couldn't retire or separate before the deployment and all leave and TDYs were cancelled. "And we're going to pay you."
"How much money?" one eager child asked, eventually trying to bargain with the general to get $1,000 for the deployment. 

General Whitmore also explained the deployed location would also have a 100 percent arming policy and "there are going to be guns out there." 

"Awesome!" another boy said. 

The "Airmen" were bussed to a C-130 Hercules at the medical readiness site and boarded the aircraft to begin their "flight" to Camp Liberty. 

For Alec Hahm, son of 363rd Training Squadron armament instructor Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Hahm, the C-130 was his favorite part of the deployment. 

"It looks really cool inside," he said of the aircraft, "and my dad always flies in one."
Once at Camp Liberty, the Airmen received briefings from the pilot, co-pilot and a medic. After in-processing at the base, each deployed member was able to experience their new home including medical readiness training, transportation, public affairs, services and the all-important chow hall. 

"I knew how much fun it was last year, and I knew it was going to be better this year," said Manda Wheeler, daughter of Special Agent Alvin Wheeler. "I liked going from tent to tent to see what there was to do." 

The lengthy deployment seemed to fly by as members loaded the C-130 for their flight home. The group returned to family and Team Sheppard members assembled for a long awaited "Welcome Home." Each received Operation Kids coins and certificates upon their arrival.