GRAFENWOEHR, Germany -- A cold chill filled the air as children of Soldiers from the 172nd Infantry Brigade marched toward the Grafenwoehr Field House, Oct. 22. The day was unlike any other they had experienced in their young lives. Today, these children would deploy with the 172nd Infantry Brigade … sort of.
Instead of deploying to Iraq or Afghanistan, they were off to the fields of the Grafenwoehr Training Area to experience the fun and excitement of the "Blackhawk Kids Deploy for a Day" event.
Children ages 4 to 16 participated in events like physical fitness training, land navigation, an obstacle course, and a Nerf gun shooting range. However, before any children were issued a compass or a Nerf rifle, they got a taste of the other side of being a Soldier: administration.
At in-processing, each child selected a military occupation specialty, or MOS, and signed a one-day contract. After duty selection, the children marched to the medical station to receive a "medical screening" from real Army medics to ensure each volunteer was fit for duty. Then, the new recruits received a mission brief that outlined the rest of the day's events. Finally, the newly appointed Soldiers headed outdoors for a day of fun and adventure.
As many of the children's parents are deployed in support of the 172nd Infantry Brigade's current mission in Afghanistan, the event was designed to give the participating children a better understanding of what a deployment is, and why it is important for their parents to be deployed.
"'Deploy for a Day' gives our Blackhawk kids the opportunity to experience the deployment process from start to finish," said Elizabeth George, 172nd Infantry Brigade family readiness support assistant and event coordinator. "It allows them to relate to what their parents are doing in Afghanistan, but also teaches them about the deployment process. One of the best lessons for these kids was the homecoming ceremony -- there is a happy ending in sight and now they know what it will look like."
A small team of volunteers, along with the 172nd rear detachment Soldiers, worked to bring the event together so all of the families could participate.
At the end of the day, each group returned for a redeployment ceremony inside the Grafenwoehr Field House. Children received gifts including a Battalion Buddy from Operation Gratitude, a Mommy or Daddy Doll from Operation Give-a-Hug, and DVDs and "Trevor Romain" deployment boxes from the USO. The VFW chipped in and gave each child an honorary membership.