By Kellie EtheridgeFebruary 22, 2011
The troops began to assemble at 8 a.m. Saturday at the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division's annex building. After they signed in, they received their dog tags and rucksacks and proceeded to have their faces painted in a camouflage pattern.
However, they were not Soldiers about to embark on a ruck march. They were children of deployed Fort Knox Soldiers at the home of the Duke Brigade to undergo mock Soldier Readiness Processing, to help them understand what their Soldier-parents went through prior to deploying to Afghanistan.
The children carried their "rucksacks"-small backpacks filled with a canteen, camo head wrap, safety glasses, and information-as they fell into one of three platoons. The platoon leaders instructed the children on "attention," "about face," "at ease," and other formation commands.
Then Lt. Gen. Benjamin Freakley, the commander of Accessions Command and Fort Knox, addressed the "troops."
"Today we're going to prepare you for the mission, just like the Army prepared your mom and dad for their missions," explained Lt. Gen. Freakley. "They learned about (Afghanistan), you're going to learn about (Afghanistan). Today you're going to be prepared and we hope you have fun."
Lt. Gen. Freakley then went over the Soldier's Creed with the kids. "I will always place the mission first... I will never accept defeat... I will never quit... I will never leave a fallen comrade," he recited.
The general explained the creed with terms such as helping out sad friends, finishing homework, and listening to mom or dad. Then the children enthusiastically repeated the creed back to Lt. Gen. Freakley before beginning their physical training.
Following his address, the children listened to a pre-deployment briefing led by Maj. Matt Gooding, the rear detachment commander. He told the children about the weather, terrain, wildlife, housing, and people of Afghanistan.
After the briefing the platoons separated and went to different SRP stations. They received hands-on demonstrations with tactical equipment, which included putting on military Kevlar, sampling Meals Ready to Eat, and communicating with another Soldier via radio.
At another station, the children went through a basic health check-up. What did they weigh' How was their vision' They were also instructed on proper hand-washing techniques and were finger-printed.
At the third and final station, the children met Rudy Draves with the DA Intelligence and Security Command's 902nd Military Intelligence Group. He explained security issues to the kids and how to help keep themselves and their parents safe. Then the children learned about powers of attorney and filled out sample forms that covered their pets or possessions.
Jennifer Lucas, the SAF grant coordinator with the Red Cross and one of the organizers of the event, said it was based on a similar one that had been held at Fort Hood, Texas. "We modified it to fit the unit on Fort Knox," she said. "We took everything the Soldiers did and modified it for the kids so they could understand the process and connect with their Soldier."
The morning concluded with a demonstration from Sgt. Nick Najera with the military police and his four-legged partner Tessa, a Belgian Malinois.
Before leaving, each participant received a backpack from Operation Military Kids, filled with a cuddy toy, pens, pencils, stickers, crayons, coloring books, and other items. The "Hero Packs" were assembled by the Girl Scouts of Lexington and also contained a letter thanking the recipient for his or her bravery during the parent's deployment. Prior to the distribution, each bag was "checked" by Tessa to make sure they were safe.
"I think it's pretty cool," said Trish Thanheiser whose son was participating in the SRP. "They get to see ...and be a part of something mom and dad went through."