Buckley's youth get a taste of deployment
By Staff Sgt. Nicholas Rau, 460th Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published August 07, 2012
BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Dressed in camo hats and colored bandannas, Team Buckley's youth listened closely as their chalk leaders barked out orders. The children were about to get a taste of the military life their parents experienced, starting with basic training.
First things first, the military-style haircut, a no-guard buzz cut that would end with all the males looking the same. A young boy from the crowd volunteered to undertake this rite of passage and hopped excitedly into the barber's chairs. As the clippers began taking chunks out of the boy's blonde hair, his smile slowly melted into a grimace as the realization of what was happening set in. All the other youth looked on, thankful it wasn't them in the barber's chair, but well aware that their day was just beginning.
The Buckley Youth Center hosted Operation Future Forces Aug. 4 to simulate the military experience and give them a taste of what a deployment is like.
"We want to give these kids an understanding of what their parents go through in the military," explained Lance Ellis, the event coordinator. "It really helps them build that connection to their family."
Team Buckley's youth got a chance to experience a shortened Basic Military Training, complete with volunteer drill instructors. They had to complete hand-to-hand combative training and obstacle course races, all while helping each other finish the events.
After the basic training portion of the day, the children boarded buses to deploy to Camp Rattlesnake, a simulated deployed location in the imaginary country of "Bucklistan".
"We want them to experience what we do in the military," said Airman 1st Class Kavin Lovelace, a volunteer chalk leader from the 460th Force Support Squadron. "Today they get the full feel of what we go through."
Once out in the field the kids were broken down into different jobs and sent to technical training school, just as many of their parents had done before them. There were medics, security forces, navigation, communication and combat journalist; all of them playing a vital role in the overall mission success.
"We bring these kids out here to promote teamwork, fitness and friendship," said Master Sgt. Michael Areniego, a volunteer chalk leader from the 460th Security Forces Squadron. "It gets them out of the house and is good for the base."
Buckley's youth then returned to their initial chalks, now filled to the brim with a multitude of little trained warriors, and loaded up into a two and a half ton cargo truck to set out on their primary mission. Driven a mile and a half away from Camp Rattlesnake and dropped with only their equipment and recent training, now the real challenge would begin.
The children had to overcome multiple objectives during their mission outside the fence. First they had to decode a secret message before proceeding through a simulated minefield. Once cleared, they had to fend off a terrorist ambush in a water gun fight and secure their newly acquired prisoners. After that was complete, the children worked to disarm a bomb using only the diagrams available to them and then moved onto providing first aid wounded civilians. The final objective seemed to be the favorite one of the day, a simulated M-16 firing range using paintball guns.
"My favorite part was shooting the paintball guns," said Cord Bartlett, a participant in Operation Future Forces. "It was a lot of fun!"
Now with their mission complete, the children boarded the bus and prepared to return home from their deployment. Their parents waited at the youth center with "welcome home" signs and open arms ready to greet their little deployed warriors. As the bus pulled up and opened its doors, the kids jumped from the bus and rushed to the arms of their waiting parents. Cheers echoed across the youth center lawn and hugs engulfed the children, they were home and their day was done.
"I am very proud of him," said Maj. Kate McShane, Bartlett's mother from the 460th Medical Group. "He tried things today that he has never done before and has conquered his fears."