ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE -- Nearly 40 "troops" from Robins deployed Saturday and returned to a hero's welcome all in the same day.
The troops, 38 in all, were actually children of Robins Airmen taking part in the first Kids Understanding Deployment Operations event.
"It was designed to have some fun and give them a small taste of what mom and dad may go through when they deploy," said Master Sgt. Gary Hunkins, NCO in charge of the Airmen and Family Readiness Center. "They can relate a little bit. They can say 'I've walked in mom and dad's shoes.'"
The youths met at the Heritage Club, then taken to Bldg. 127, where they were processed much like an actual Airmen would be processed for deployment, including getting mock immunizations and dog tags. One dog tag said "Operation KUDOS," another said "Air Force Brat" and another said "Proud to be Military Kids."
They were then "deployed" by taking a bus to the 5th Mob's Gator Air Base, which is used for field training.
There, they were able to get a taste of the soldier's life, which included getting camouflage face paint and tasting Meals Ready to Eat, which for many were difficult to swallow.
"That was quite fun, watching the kids eat some of that stuff," said Sergeant Hunkins. "I walked by one little boy out in the field and said 'You can spit it out here.'"
They took the bus back to the Heritage Club were they were given a warm welcome home by waiting parents.
Sergeant Hunkins said KUDOS is done at other bases but this was the first one for Robins. He said the A&FRC plans to make it an annual event.