By Argen Duncan: PNT Senior Writer
“Just be careful. Some insurgents do take windows of opportunity to get at Westerners,” Airman 1st Class Michael Hayes said.
Such statements aren’t something Clovis teachers normally hear, but they listened to just that during a mock intelligence briefing during the Teachers Understanding Deployment Operations event at Cannon Air Force Base on Wednesday.
For the event, 39 educators from Ranchvale and Mesa elementary schools experienced briefings, partial mock deployment lines and a simulated attack to learn about deployments, how airmen’s children are affected and how teachers can help.
Master Sgt. Tory Gard, who organized the event, said it gives the teacher or principal an idea of what service members and their children experience and how war is real. As a parent, he believes such education is important to show teachers what behaviors to look for in children with a parent deployed so they can alert the parent who remains at home.
Mesa and Ranchvale were invited to participate first because the Clovis Municipal Schools administration told Gard those were the schools with the highest military child population. Gard hopes to hold Teachers Understanding Deployment Operations again within the next year and include Portales schools, and possibly more Clovis educators.
Mesa Elementary third-grade teacher Mandy Carpenter called the program fantastic.
“I think it gives teachers a different perspective on lives of children and families in the military,” she said. “I think it’s important for teachers to be the best educators possible to understand their children and where they’re coming from.”
Carpenter said she learned that many services are available to military children and deployment isn’t a normal daily life.
As Teachers Understanding Deployment Operations began, educators put on borrowed battle dress uniform tops and learned about deployment preparations.
27th Special Operations Wing commander Col. Timothy Leahy told them that unlike the fighter wing that previously used Cannon, special operations wings deploy more frequently and suddenly, and come very close to the enemy. Children understand the danger and react in different ways, possibly acting out, he said.
“I ask you to be sensitive to that,” Leahy said. “Don’t give them a free ride.”
After Leahy’s speech, the educators visited the medical, legal, financial and Airman and Family Readiness sections of a deployment line to hear about the matters each section handles.
Then, after an intelligence briefing on Iraq and Afghanistan, educators traveled to a more remote area of the base. Sitting in a field tent, they heard about family advocacy, mental health and the effects of deployment on children from Staff Sgt. Abbey Brown.
“Basically, teachers are our first line of defense,” Brown said before the presentation.
Brown wanted teachers to know what to watch for and have tools to help their students.
During their time at the tent, teachers experienced a simulated mortar and ground attack. Explosions sounded, and teachers came out of the tent to see airmen act out shooting two insurgents charging the area and then checking the “bodies.”
“I don’t want anyone to leave here with a question unanswered, and I want them to understand the children who have parents deployed,” said Lt. Col. Mark Brown, deputy commander of the Special Operations Mission Support group.