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Operation FLAGS
Miguel Rendon observes an Air Force member in full Mission Oriented Protective Posture gear during Operation Families Learning About Global Support in June 2011. (U.S. Air Force photo by Don Lindsey/ Released)
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Students experience deployment process during Operation FLAGS

Posted 4/25/2013   Updated 4/25/2013 Email story   Print story


by Robert Goetz
Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Public Affairs

4/25/2013 - JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas -- Students at Randolph Elementary School will soon have an opportunity to experience one of their active-duty parents' most important missions.

Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Airman and Family Readiness Center staff members, with the help of other Randolph organizations, will introduce third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students to the deployment process as part of Operation FLAGS May 3 on the elementary school campus.

Operation FLAGS, which stands for Families Learning About Global Support, has become somewhat of a tradition at Air Force bases, a means of educating families about what their loved ones go through when they deploy.

"This event will be geared to our youth and will show them what it's like to go through a deployment," Criselda Smith, 902nd Force Support Squadron community readiness consultant, said. "It's a mock trial for them to make their parents' experience relatable."

More than 300 students assigned to three 45-minute time slots during their physical education classes will go through a four-step process that seeks to replicate an active-duty member's deployment experience. Starting in the school gym, each group of some 100 students will go through in-processing, where they will be provided with dog tags and their mission statement, then receive their gear, including helmets, gas masks and ABU tops. A Combat Arms Training and Maintenance weapons display is also planned.

After receiving their gear, students will go outside and pursue their mission - locating the adversary and enlisting the help of a military working dog.

"Once they accomplish that mission, there'll be a reintegration where they'll turn in their gear and be welcomed back," Master Sgt. Joe Ugarte, Airman and Family Readiness NCO in charge, said. "They'll go through all the stages of what their mom or dad goes through on deployment."

Smith said the "welcome home" will be especially stirring.

"What's really exciting is that when they come back from deployment, there'll be music playing and people waving flags," she said. "Volunteers will wave them on as they return to their classrooms."

Volunteers will play an important role in Operation FLAGS, Ugarte said. They will include 902nd Logistics Readiness Squadron and 902nd Security Forces Squadron members as well as other active-duty members and civilians from Randolph.

However, he said more volunteers are needed for the event.

This year's event offers a new approach, Smith said.

"The children will get more of a feeling for deployment and have more empathy for their parents," she said. "It's an opportunity to experience all aspects of deployment.

"You want families to be ready for deployment, too, so now we're trying to educate children," Smith added. "It's a family effort."

To sign up as a volunteer, call Ugarte or Smith at 652-5321.

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