Operation ‘Hele On’

Operation ‘Hele On’ provides military families with an interactive pre-deployment experience

Story and photos DC Smith
Navy Region Hawaii, Public Affairs

On March 23, Operation “Hele On” was conducted in building 2115, Mobility Complex on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPHH). “Hele On,” translated from Hawaiian, means “ready go” and is a mock deployment for Navy and Air Force members, coordinated through JBPHH Warfighter and Family Services.

Families experience firsthand what their Sailor/Airman parent may go through as they prepare to be an individual augmentee (IA) or Air Force deployed, said Mark Blice-Baum, work/life specialist with JBPHH, WFS. “They experienced a ‘family friendly’ pre-deployment brief, deployment line, mobility supply (try on gear that their loved ones are required to take with them on deployment), and presentation with emergency management personal protective gear,” he explained.

For this month’s event, 42 families registered, totaling 132 participants. “Scenarios used included characters that the children can relate to and each briefing will be geared to their level of understanding,” BliceBaum remarked.

After the families signed in and received dinner rations (to-go boxed meals) followed by a commander brief with opening remarks given by Lt. Col. Chad Raduege , 647th Air Base Group deputy commander, Operation Hele On was officially underway.

During the commander’s brief and additional information provided from assisting volunteers, Staff Sgt. Michelle L. Looney and Airman First Class Latrice Mosley, 647th Logistics Readiness Squadron (LRS), Contingency Plans, families were briefed on the importance and completion of the out-processing checklist and order of events to follow.

Looney explained that the checklist consisted of a series of representatives from Warfighter and Family Services, legal, sexual assault response coordinator (SARC), chaplain, finance, public health, intel and installation personal readiness (IPR).

It was noted that the purpose of the briefings is to ensure members are properly out-processed from their home base and properly prepared to in-process at their forward (deployed) location.

Maximus Ikehara, age 5 talked about the experience, “I think it’s fun,” he said as his sister Mei-Li, age 7, stood by his side. Both are the children of Maj. Thomas Ikehara, 25th Air Support Operations Squadron (ASOS), and they wore large smiles and military uniforms from their dad’s closet.

Andrew Ulmer, age 9, put his experience into one word, “Awesome!” Andrew is the son of Maj. Philip Ulmer, Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC).

During the emergency management portion of the briefings, Senior Airman Philip Turner, 647 Civil Engineering Squadron, demonstrated the donning of and proper use of personal protective gear designed to keep the wearer safe from contaminants.

Turner mentioned that the chemical, biological, radiation, nuclear, explosive (CBRNE) gear, formally known as mission oriented protective posture or MOPP gear, saves lives and is extremely important for the deployed member to wear properly and safely. He also said he volunteered to demonstrate the gear to the families because he wanted to “teach kids what mom and dad uses when deployed to protect them.”

During the demonstrations provided to the families, 24 volunteers from a variety of organizations served as photographers, registrars, family escorts, set-up and clean-up crews. “Each month WFS provides a monthly event for families of deployed/remote/frequently TDY Airmen/AI Sailors that includes a meal and activities,” said Blice-Baum. He said that during the monthly event, “the families receive encouraging words from the 647th ABG commander and other joint base leadership and have a chance to support each other during their loved ones’ deployments.”

As Operation “Hele On” came to a close, family members of Master Sgt. Daniel Williams, 15th Wing flight safety, summed up the experience. His daughter, Katlyn Shelby, age 16, said, “I’m pretty close to my dad, so to see what he does before he deploys is pretty interesting.” His wife Jennifer stated, “I like the new gas mask as opposed to 20 years ago in Desert Storm.”

The Warfighter and Family Services office provides support services to Navy and Air Force personnel. The office is located at 655 Vickers Ave., building 1105 across the street from Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) on the Hickam side of JBPHH. Additional information can be found at www.greatlifehawaii.com.

Staff Sgt. Nicholas Madsen, 96th Air Refueling Squadron (ARS), provides ready-to-go meals to Erin Grigg and her daughters, Emmaleigh and Lorelei, family members of Staff Sgt. Neil Grigg, 13th Air Force Intelligence (intel), on March 23, before the start of Operation “Hele On” at the Mobility Complex at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

Tech Sgt. Sameka Owens, 561st Network Operations Squadron, Det. 1, provides in-processing instructions and information to Jennifer Castro, wife of Senior Airman Ender Castro, of 647th Security Forces Squadron, at the in-processing counter.

Senior Airman Philip Turner, 647th Civil Engineering Squadron, demonstrates the proper procedure used to drink water while wearing full personal protective gear and wearing an issued gas mask from the emergency management team.

Senior Airman Blair L. Johnson, 647th Logistics Readiness Squadron (LRS), demonstrates the proper wear of personal protective gear to Katlyn Shelby Williams, daughter of Master Sgt. Daniel Williams, of 15th Wing flight safety during Operation “Hele On” held March 23 at the mobility complex on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

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Category: Life & Leisure