WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE – Nearly 50 White Sands Missile Range children recently went on a CODE – Children On Deployment Exercise – mission.
The sons and daughters of soldiers, who ranged in age from 4 to 13, participated in September in a daylong event where they deployed to the fictional Camp Liberty, getting hands-on experience of just a few of the things Mom or Dad experiences while on deployment with the U.S. Army.
Marcellous Powe Jr. showed up dressed for the part. Like his father, Sgt. 1st Class Marcellous Powe Sr., the younger Powe was dressed in full battle dress uniform (BDU): long-sleeved camouflage shirt, pants and matching cap, including a patch inscribed with “Powe” on the back. Even his boots were an awfully close replication of what his father might wear while on duty.
“It was his idea to take part in this,” said Damaris Powe, his mother. “He’s already said he wants to follow in his dad’s footsteps. … He’s excited.”
Powe wasn’t the only child who wore BDUs. The others weren’t dressed in nearly as much detail as Powe, but they wanted to look just like their parents.
Altogether, 47 children participated in the event. They spent much of the day at headquarters for WSMR’s 2nd Engineer Battalion for a realistic sampling of the food and equipment their dads or moms use while serving in Afghanistan.
“This is just a quick glimpse of what their parents go through while on deployment,” said Lt. Kyle Treubert, the officer in charge for Friday’s mock deployment. “We show the children some of the weapons, some of the equipment we work with every day and some of the activities we have while on deployment.”
The children were divided into squads, much as their parent would be.
“Part of what you do is serve for your parents, much like how your parents serve our country,” said WSMR garrison commander Col. Brian Michelson to the junior troops. “Just like your parents are thanked for their service to our country, we thank you, too, for your service.”
At Camp Liberty, many of the “soldiers” got to hold an M4 carbine rifle, a .50-caliber M2 machine gun or an M240 Bravo machine gun. Those are the weapons used by Army soldiers. Of course, none of the weapons was loaded and all parts of the weapons that had even the remotest possibility of causing harm, such as firing pins, had been removed before the children were allowed near.
Many of the kids got their first experience of what a genuine Meal Ready to Eat (MRE) tastes like. Soldiers with the 2nd Engineer Battalion showed the children how they are prepared.
That appeared to be the least favorite part of the exercise. Based on facial expressions, the taste of most items in an MRE leave much to be desired. Some scowled while tasting vanilla pudding from a pouch; others frowned or gagged a little when sampling a bit of the chili and macaroni entree.
In other areas of the 2nd Engineer Battalion headquarters, the children learned common lifesaving and first aid techniques. They applied pressure bandages to their “Battle Buddies.” They also learned about radio techniques or the use of night vision equipment and participated in some of the physical training soldiers routinely do on deployment.
Outside of 2nd Engineer Battalion headquarters, the mini-soldiers got up-close views of some of the activities their real-life counterparts are involved in while on deployment. The kids got an overview of firefighting equipment and learned how a fire department ladder truck works.
Next to that was an exhibition of military dogs that are trained to detect drugs or improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The kids got to try on the same gear worn by firefighters or the protective clothing used by trainers or handlers of the military dogs.
Also, the kids got to see – and sit in – three vehicles used by the Army to search for and remove IEDs along a route soldiers would later pass through. Army Spc. Nelson Rivera helped many of the kids climb into the “Buffalo.”
At the end of the day, the children and their parents participated in a redeployment ceremony that replicated the celebration children and their parents experience when their dad or mom comes home from missions in Afghanistan. Some of the parents waved flags, and flashed “Welcome Home” signs and handwritten greetings for the young soldiers upon the completion of their one-day experience.
“This is just too cool,” said Marcellous Powe Jr. of his deployment to Camp Liberty.