A group of over 40 children, between the ages of 4 and 11, accepted a Top Secret mission at White Sands Missile Range Sept. 19. The children suited up in their “fatigues” and were escorted by their squad leader to Camp Liberty, also known as the 2nd Engineer Battalion Headquarters, to accomplish the details of their mission.
The children’s day began with a, re-call phone call to their homes at 7 a.m. asking the newly recruited Soldiers to show up for “in-processing” at the Youth Services building to begin their mission.
At the center, they received a folder with their mission, a backpack with their “uniform,” a series of physical tests and treats from the Post Chapel, much like an actual in-processing.
WSMR Garrison Commander Col. Brian Michelson provided the closing remarks before the children officially began their mock deployment.
The children’s “mission” was to experience a day in the life of their Soldier mom or dad. The children received training in eight different stations from first aid care, characteristics and fundamentals of firearms, night vision equipment, physical training, and how to prepare an MRE, meals ready to eat.
“I wanted to participate because I wanted to learn what they had to do. We thought they just came home tired but now we know why,” said 11-year-old Grace Fairel.
“It’s hard work being a Soldier,” her friend, Kamryn Staton said.
The children also experienced what it was like inside of the battalion’s most commonly used vehicles, Buffalo and Huskey. They also received a look into the roles of military dogs through several live demonstrations.
The WSMR Fire Department and Police Department were also on scene so children could experience what it was like to operate a fire truck and police car.
“Our focus was to just make sure the children got a good experience and got a look at the daily life of a Soldier and other things they do on deployment,” said Officer in Charge of the event, 2nd Lt. Kyle Treubert.
The entire event was executed by the 2nd Engineer Battalion 573rd Clearance Co. The group of school-age Soldiers were even given a mock briefing by company commander Capt. Erik Carroll before beginning their mission.
The rest of the battalion was out on a training exercise, leaving the equipment and facility in small, capable hands for the day.
“It was interesting,” Treubert said of hosting the children for the day. “It was different from what we’re used to. A lot of people we chose (as squad leaders) were already parents, but very young parents, so it was new to them, but a very good experience.”
Much like the start of their day, the children’s day ended with a bus ride escorted by motorcycle riders from the local American Legion back to the Youth Services building. Back at the center, the children’s parents waited up front with welcome home signs and American flags.
The young Soldiers and family members then made their way into the gym where the walls were adorned with personalized welcome home signs.
Each student received a certificate presented to them by WSMR Commander, Brig. Gen. Timothy Coffin. The redeployment ceremony ended with cake, cookies and punch.
“I just think we created some great memories for the kids and I’m really happy we got the opportunity to do that for them,” Treubert said.
The event was free for military children and was a combined effort of FRG, ACS, CYS, and the 573rd Clearance Co. The idea for the mock deployment came about through a meeting with FRG Leader Catherine Mitchel, and School Liaison Officer Dolorez Lopez and ACS representatives.
Mitchel said she had worked with Holloman Air Force Base for a similar event in the past, so she decided to spearhead WSMR’s first event. Mitchel said she coordinated with several different organizations on and off post to ensure the mock deployment was accurate and successful.