Fort Bragg children 'deploy' for day to Afghanistan
David Champagne, 4th Psychological Operations Group cultural expert on Afghanistan, helps Glenesha Berryman wrap an Afghan shaw around her as she would wear in country. Camp Desert Kids, held Saturday, teaches children through fun and educational activities to help them understand the process of deployment.

FORT BRAGG, N.C. - On Saturday, children dressed in camouflage lined up in the troop readiness center to take passport pictures before "deploying" to Afghanistan. No, the Army isn't recruiting children; the little recruits prepared to go on a fun-filled journey to explore the country where their military parent is currently deployed.

Families United hosted Camp Desert Kids at the Corregidor Courts/Bougainville Neighborhood Center on Fort Bragg with the help of volunteers from Company B, 327th Field Artillery Regiment. According to their mission statement, Camp Desert Kids' mission is to help military children better understand the deployments that shape their lives.

Camp Desert Kids teaches children through fun and educational activities to help them through parental deployments. Due to the 82nd Airborne Division recent deployments to Afghanistan, this particular Camp Desert Kids was geared towards learning about the Afghan culture.

The children who participated received "orders" before the event telling them when and where to show up. Upon arrival they were given a passport and guided through the many stages and events of the "deployment" scheduled for the day.

During in-processing, volunteers from Co. B, 327th FAR, took the children's picture in desert camouflage uniforms for their passports and then they were sent to headquarters to color a postcard to send to their parents in Afghanistan.

Along with the 327th volunteers, David Champagne, Ph. D., 4th Psychological Operations Group cultural expert for Afghanistan, provided a knowledgable talk and showed authentic Afghan clothing, rice and flat bread, military tents and cots, and of course, soccer balls and kites.

"I believe this is a good thing for kids ... to understand what's happened and a nicer way of putting things," said Pvt. 1st Class Jareth Schults, Co. B, 327th FAR, a volunteer at the event.
According to Camp Desert Kids community affairs Manager, Brynn Vollmer, the program serves to help American children learn that Afghan children do the same things they do, just differently. Camp Desert Kids helps military children understand the separation from their parent and visualize where their mother or father has gone.

Anna Bray brought her two children to the event, Justin and Lexi, to help them better understand where their father is. Not only is their father deployed to Afghanistan, their six uncles are deployed there as well, all with the 82nd Airborne Division.

"This is a really confusing time for them. They are like, 'What's going on''" she said. "(Camp Desert Kids) is a great way to help explain."

Camp Desert Kids began as a Family tradition for Families United Volunteer, Katie Glenn. Being a military child herself, Glenn remembered how she felt while her father deployed for long periods of time.

"The hardest part was not knowing where he was," she said. "I would read every book on the country he was in."

Glenn's mother had coordinated small activities for the children in her father's unit while the unit was deployed. The activities included Polaroid pictures, cultural arts and crafts, and fun facts about the country. Glenn interned for Families United during her sophomore year of college and soon brought the small Family tradition to executive Director, Brian Wise's, attention.

"We thought it was a great idea to limit the unknown about deployment for military children and we hope to continue on with the event," Wise said.

Wise also explained that in the future, with the help of the Afghan Embassy, Families United will have further learning and curriculums for children to follow - up online to provide further explanation and education.

Families United is the nation's largest non-profit, military Family organization to help support and provide resources to both deployed military Families and Families who have lost a parent. For more information on upcoming Families United events and resources, visit, www.familiesunitedmission.com.

Page last updated Thu April 1st, 2010 at 16:37