Children 'deploy' to Afghanistan through Camp Desert Kids

Tech. Sgt. Travis Hughes, Airman and Family Readiness Center noncommissioned officer-in-charge of readiness, teaches children about Afghanistan terrain and overall deployment life during Camp Desert Kids at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, Oct. 15, 2011. The program, which is sponsored by Military Families United, has helped more than 1,000 children better understand the locations where their parents deploy to. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Angelina Drake)

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Travis Hughes, Airman and Family Readiness Center nonccommisioned officer in charge of readiness, teaches children about Afghanistan terrain and overall deployment life during Camp Desert Kids at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, Oct. 15, 2011. The program, which is sponsored by Military Families United, has helped more than 1,000 children better understand the locations where their parents deploy. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Angelina Drake/Released)

Ambassador Wahid Monawar, Camp Desert Kids volunteer, assists Nicole Mixon dress her three-year-old daughter, Abby, in traditional Afghanistan clothing during the CDK’s visit to Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, Oct. 15, 2011. More than 50 children got a glimpse into deployment life during this the event, which also marked the first time the CDK has visited an Air Force base.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Angelina Drake)

Ambassador Wahid Monawar, Camp Desert Kids volunteer, assists Nicole Mixon dress her three-year-old daughter, Abby, in traditional Afghanistan clothing during the CDK’s visit to Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, Oct. 15, 2011. More than 50 children got a glimpse into deployment life during this the event, which also marked the first time the CDK has visited an Air Force base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Angelina Drake/Released)

Three-year-old Abby Mixon makes her way through the stations of Camp Desert Kids at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, Oct. 15, 2011. The event gives children a brief look into what it’s like for parents who deploy to Afghanistan. Abby’s father, Senior Airman Joel Mixon, 366th Communications Squadron Transmission Tech, will deploy for the second time in 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Angelina Drake)

Three-year-old Abby Mixon makes her way through the stations of Camp Desert Kids at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, Oct. 15, 2011. The event gives children a brief look into what it’s like for parents who deploy to Afghanistan. Abby’s father, Senior Airman Joel Mixon, 366th Communications Squadron Transmission technician, will deploy for the second time in 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Angelina Drake/Released)

Children receive a passport stamp from Tech. Sgt. Sherita Outsey, 366th Operational Support Squadron, during Camp Desert Kids at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, Oct. 15, 2011. The children were taught common Afghanistan courtesies including not showing the soles of their feet to others, shaking and eating with their right hand only and allowing their elders to be on their left as a sign of respect. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Angelina Drake)

Children receive a passport stamp from U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Sherita Outsey, 366th Operational Support Squadron, during Camp Desert Kids at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, Oct. 15, 2011. The children were taught common Afghanistan courtesies including not showing the soles of their feet to others, shaking and eating with their right hand only and allowing their elders to be on their left as a sign of respect. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Angelina Drake/Released)

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- More than 50 of the base's youngest Gunfighters received a glimpse into deployment life when Military Families United's Camp Desert Kids program was set up at the Gunfighter Service Center here Oct. 15.

MFU members travel around the United States hosting CDK for the children of servicemembers who are preparing for or have recently returned from a deployment. According to the CDK website, the program, "gives military children the opportunity to experience deployment with their home front parent in a unique way," and "works to reduce the unknown in our military children's lives," through games, cultural activities, regional food and drink, as well as wearing the same uniform and gear as their parents during a real-world deployment.

While the program has reached close to 1,000 dependents of all branches of the military, the CDK's remote location here marked the first time the program had ever been held on an air force base.

"It is our hope to bring this program to as many children as we can," said Brynn Vollmer, MFU director of programs. "We visit Army posts, Marine Corps and Air Force bases, as well as Naval Stations, and work with active-duty, National Guard and Reserve to bring this program to as many people as we possibly can."

When the children arrived for duty at the GSC, they completed registration, were issued a passport and moved to headquarters where they received a culture briefing before deploying to "Afghanistan." During this briefing, they learned the native language, the geography of their deployed location and exactly how long it would be en route to their military installation. Upon "arrival," they tasted local food, tried on traditional clothing and were able to ask questions to Airmen who had actually deployed in support of OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM.

As a military spouse and mother,Vollmer says this experience is very important to the military's youngest members.

"It's hard to explain to our kids where our servicemembers go," she said. "When my husband deploys, it's very important for me to be able to relate at a child's level because when you're little, Afghanistan is a foreign concept - it's an idea, it's out there. This helps bring it down to their level and gives them the hands-on experience, enabling them to better understand deployments as a whole."

For more information on CDK, visit www.miltiaryfamiliesunited.org.