MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII --
More than 145 children stood at attention, even in rain showers, to showcase what they learned from Operation Ooh-rah Kids on March 22.
The annual event hosts children of Marine Corps Base Hawaii personnel for a daylong mock deployment around the base. The event teaches children about deployment and how to handle related stress.
“Families (continue to) experience separation from deployments,” said Claudia LaMantia, this year’s event organizer and the readiness and deployment support trainer at Marine Corps Family Team Building Hawaii. “We want to help those families with that separation stress.”
LaMantia said she and other volunteers strived to include as many realistic details about deployment as possible. When checking in, each child became responsible for a backpack assigned from the Individual Issue Facility. After buckling up their military gear, the children were grouped by age into more than a dozen companies named Alpha through Zulu.
The children practiced marching together in formation under direction from volunteering Marines and sailors. Some participants carried their company’s guidon flag, as volunteers demonstrated how to properly hold it. They marched from the base theater to Hangar 101, with escorts from the Provost Marshal’s Office and staff from Marine Corps Community Services blowing bubbles as they walked by.
“They were very enthusiastic and wanted to do this,” said Lance Cpl. Jezer Colon Leon, who volunteered and is a radar tech with Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay. “There wasn’t any crying from the children. Some were already standing up, ready to run to the hangar.”
Inside the hangar, the group learned strategies for handling deployment stress from the Families OverComing Under Stress program volunteers. In addition to hearing from FOCUS program speakers, the group was introduced to MCB Hawaii personnel and their equipment.
“I wanted to get the word out about the new helicopters and let the kids know what we do here,” said 1st Lt. Ryan Coulter, a pilot with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367 who gave a tour of the AH-1W Super Cobra. “We get to work with the greatest helicopter ever.”
Marines also gave the children tours of a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter and other land equipment including howitzer artillery and a 7-ton truck.
Just in time for lunch, the children marched to Dewey Square while chanting cadence. At the square, each company joined together for a hands-on look at more MCB Hawaii units. The children used radio communicators, triage supplies and explosive ordnance disposal robots while speaking with active-duty service members. Participants also raced through an obstacle course based on the Combat Fitness Test. They ran with ammo cans, threw water-soaked toys and quickly crawled to the finish line.
“They are bold,” said Sgt. Deshaun Green, a diesel mechanic with Combat Logistics Battalion 3 who volunteered. “They aren’t afraid or shy. Even the younger ones are excited.”
This was the third year MCB Hawaii hosted Operation Ooh-rah Kids, and many of this year’s participants attended previously. Returning attendees Benjamin Mathis and Mai Love said they liked having a closer look at the EOD robots.
“I got to drive the robot this year,” he said. “There are four cameras on it. You can see all around with the robot’s cameras, and open and close its claws.”
For the final event, the children competed in a drill team contest. When the skies sprayed rain, both judges and the children marched on to compete. Zulu Company took first place.
Even when it rained, Operation Ooh-rah Kids participants used their new skills to take command and be in the position of attention anywhere.