'Freedom Camp' introduces kids to deployment prep
July 27, 2009
FORT BLISS, Texas (Army News Service, July 27, 2009) -- More than 50 children of Soldiers who are deployed, or awaiting deployment, participated in "Freedom Camp" June 29 through July 3, just outside of Ruidoso, N.M.
The children, ranging in age from 13 to 18, participated in rappelling, ran an obstacle course and completed mock Soldier Readiness Processing in order to understand what their parents experience.
The first day, the children met at the Soldier Readiness Processing center where they underwent an administrative process like their parents go through when preparing to deploy.
"They hear their parents say, 'I'm getting ready to go SRP' or 'I'm going to process today,' and a lot of times the kids don't understand what that is," said Debbie Trexler, director for Youth Education Support Services at Fort Bliss, Texas. "They just know that before deployment, they're losing their family member again to be gone for the day. With this [mock SRP], they're understanding how important it is to be able to check off the finance paperwork, [and] to check all the personnel paperwork to make sure their servicemember, and as importantly, their families, are taken care of before they deploy."
Once the children completed the SRP, they loaded their gear on the bus, which took them to the obstacle course. After completing the obstacle course, they rappelled down the 50-foot tower. Daniel Barlow said even though this was his fourth time rappelling, he felt nervous at first.
"At first when you're up there and you look down it's kind of scary, [but] once you've already gotten off the scary part of jumping, it's actually pretty fun," said Daniel.
After they finished rappelling they headed to Bonita Park where they took part in numerous activities including drill and ceremony, high ropes, physical training, zip-lining, rock wall climbing, paint ball and more. Damaris Esther Lopez-Sanchez, said she found the drill and ceremony a bit complicated.
"Doing the back thing from left to right [and] turning around got confusing after a while," said Damaris.
There were Soldiers on site to answer questions about what Soldiers do on a daily basis. A whole day was dedicated to showing equipment and protective gear used by troops as they train for deployment.
"There's a lot of things that a deployed parent doesn't have time to tell their children on the phone because it's such a hectic environment, so this gives them the opportunity to ask, "'Why is mom or dad so tired when they talk,'" or "'Why couldn't they call me tonight,'" said Spc. Jerry Anderson from 125th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 1st Armored Division.
Fourteen-year-old Luis Rivera-Nesrala said one of the most precious things he and his peers learned from Freedom Camp was keeping the lines of communication open with their deployed parents. Luis will be experiencing his dad's deployment for the second time. The first time his father deployed Luis was 8 years old.
"For so many years we get to hear when our parents come home at night how their day was. Then here at the camp, we had an opportunity to actually experience and know what they go through," Luis said. "It's not as easy as it looks. You have to understand no matter what your age is, that it's not the Soldiers' fault. They're off [deployed] because they're serving their country. They're away, and they're very stressed out, and when they get to communicate with their families, that gives them an extra boost."
(Editor's note: This article first appeared in the Fort Bliss Monitor newspaper.)