'Hele On!' Kids get on board for mock deployment

Capt. James Hammelman, 535th Airlift Squadron pilot, conducts a tour of a C-17 Globemaster III on the flightline at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam during Operation Hele On. (Photo by Tech Sgt. Terri Paden)


By Tech. Sgt. Terri Paden, 15th Wing Public Affairs

Youth at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam recently got a chance to walk a mile in their parents’ boots during Operation Hele On, a mock deployment line intended to help children understand the process parents go through before a deployment.

Hele On, which is Hawaiian for “ready to go” is an annual event hosted by the Military Family Support Center to help youth understand the difficulties associated with real world deployments and military exercises and increase the children’s understanding of deployment related issues.

Uteka Knapp, Operation Hele On coordinator, said the process also helps relieve some of the negative issues children face when a parent deploys such as depression, lack of motivation or isolation.

“This gives the kids a real experience, but makes it fun for them so thinking of deployments is not so scary,” she said. “It’s hard at this age group because many of the kids feel they don’t have anyone to talk to.”

More than 130 children attended the full day event, which included an intelligence briefing, mobility bag pickup, obstacle course, drill competition, combat arms training and a C-17 static tour.

The obstacle course was a favorite of Madison Helbis, 12, who said the event was both fun and educational.

“I really liked it,” she said. “I learned a lot about how my dad gets ready for a deployment.”

Future Airman Cooper Reynolds, 10, said he most enjoyed learning about the different career paths available in the Air Force, specifically, the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight.

“I think I understand more about deployments now, but I had the most fun at EOD and learning about ordnance,” he said.

In addition to the MFSC staff, many active-duty members and parents volunteered to ensure the operation was a success.

Though Staff Sgt. Isabel Ochoa Jr., Pacific Air Forces A3 operations controller, doesn’t have kids he said he volunteered simply because he enjoys working with kids.

“I thought this would be a great opportunity to sharpen my MTI skills and have fun with the kids at the same time” he said. “I had a phenomenal time. Yes, the kids know about the military through their parents, but today they got to see it for themselves from a different perspective. Granted this was not a real deployment or basic training environment, but it at least gave them a taste of what their parents do.”





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