Kids Day at Hill
By MITCH SHAW
Standard-Examiner staff email@example.com
HILL AIR FORCE BASE -- Jaylin Wilbert learned all about the "Call of Duty" on Thursday morning, but this time it wasn't a video game.
Wilbert, a third-grader at Hill Field Elementary School, was one of about 800 military children from the Top of Utah to go through the rigors of a deployment processing line, performing the same tasks their parents do before they head overseas.
The children, ranging from kindergartners to sixth-graders, received dog tag issues, gas mask fittings, aircraft tours and a demonstration on explosive ordnance.
Wilbert, who lists the popular video game "Call of Duty" as one of his favorite pastimes, said he enjoyed seeing the things Hill's Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians do on a daily basis when they are deployed.
Sgt. Gabriel Wasnuk and other members of Hill's EOD team gave Jaylin and his classmates a demonstration of a bomb disposal robot.
"I play a lot of video games," Jaylin said. "So I liked the bombs and the robot that we got to see. This is real life, and it's awesome."
The children also saw military working-dog demos and entomology exhibits, all of which helped them see exactly what their loved ones would likely encounter while deployed.
Kim Taylor, a community readiness consultant with Hill's Airman & Family Readiness Center, said the activity not only gives children a chance to see what military members experience right before they deploy, but also educates them on how to cope with the temporary loss of a parent.
"We're hoping to help the kids deal and cope with a family member's deployment," Taylor said. "This will have a direct impact on their understanding of what their parent does."
Children from Hill Field were given a field trip to the base in the morning and early afternoon, while children from other schools across the Top of Utah participated later Thursday evening.
Natalia Grant, a third-grader at Hill Field, said she had a single-minded vision for her Air Force education.
"I hope we can learn about how the aircraft are used," she said. "That's pretty much it."
Chris Bertoldi, a counselor at Hill Field, said deploying is nothing new for most of his students, but Thursday's more interactive approach to learning about it will likely help a great deal.
"Most of these kids are dealing with deployments every day," he said. "In one way or another, someone they know either has been in harm's way or will be soon. This, hopefully will help to alleviate some of the anxiety that comes with that."