Hele On Children experience mock deployment

Story and photos by MC2 Justin Pacheco

Navy Public Affairs Support Element Detachment Hawaii

Roughly 150 service members’ children got a firsthand look at what it’s like to lace up their combat boots and “deploy” during Operation Hele On, held aboard Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Aug. 17. Launched in 2004, this is the Military & Family Support Center’s (MFSC) 15th annual Operation Hele On. Hawaiian for “ready go,” Hele On is a mock deployment designed to go beyond boosting morale. It also allows the MFSC an opportunity to check in face-to-face with families and provide them with an experience that will help facilitate family conversations about deployment, and foster a sense of pride in the children for their parent’s mission.

Georgia Thompson, MFSC’s Deployment Readiness Program coordinator, spent more than six months organizing the event for the families. She said this event is very near and dear to her heart because she has three children who’ve grown up in the military, and have experienced their father going on eight deployments.

Hele On began by making sure the young cadets are checked-in, given personalized dog tags and gear including orders, “meds,” embroidered Hele On patches, and handouts with survival tips. The cadets were then divided into five teams: the Warriors, Eels, Manta Rays, Sharks and Sea Turtles. Volunteer active duty service members acting as recruit division commanders and military training instructors then led them through basic training by teaching them military drills, marching techniques, and customs and courtesies.

Thompson utilized help from more than 60 active duty Navy and Air Force personnel, civilian volunteers and 10 partnering agencies, including the Navy League, Morale, Welfare and Recreation, the Seabees and the United Services Organization (USO).

Mallory Carmichael, Operation Hele On event coordinator, said that she continues to be honored to be part of the operation.

“I think I’m having just as much fun as the children!” Carmichael said. “It’s important to give military children a sense of what their parent or guardian go through when they’re getting ready to deploy. These kids deserve the world. They’re so resilient and they deserve to enjoy the day.”

Events included combat arms and explosive ordnance disposal displays, a tour of a C-17 aircraft, a timed obstacle course and a military working dog demonstration.

At the end of the day, the five well-trained teams had a “homecoming” ceremony, complete with personalized welcome home signs being waved enthusiastically by their parents while the cadets performed their cadence spirit competitions.

For more information on future MFSC events, visit www.facebook.com/JBPHH.MFSC.

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Category: Life & Leisure