News: Operation Ooh-Rah Kids deploys
Story by Christine Cabalo
MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII, Kaneohe Bay — A total of 127 children tried being a Marine on for size during a mock deployment with Operation Ooh-Rah Kids March 25.
The group, comprised of children 7 to 13 years old, spent the day learning how deploying Marines operate as they chanted cadence and marched around Marine Corps Base Hawaii.
Starting their day at the base theater, the children divided into companies led by volunteer Marine “drill instructors.”
“Your parents are gone,” bellowed 1st Sgt. Wesley Misenhimer, Headquarters and Service company first sergeant, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment. “You belong to me this morning!”
In his command voice, Misenhimer then encouraged the children to have fun and learn.
Operation Ooh-Rah Kids has been in the making since last year, said Jayme Alexander, operation coordinator and Readiness and Deployment Support trainer, Marine Corps Family Team Building. Alexander said the event was meant to help children prepare and better understand deployments of their military parents. The daylong program was scheduled especially when Hawaii schools would be out for the state holiday Prince Kuhio Day.
Some volunteers were Marines scheduled to deploy soon and took personal vacation time to help out, including Staff Sgt. Dawud Hakim Jr., field artillery cannoneer, Charlie Battery, 1st Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment. He guided Sierra Company, while his son was part of Charlie Company. Hakim, who deploys in mid-April, wanted to be a part of the event to support the children as they learned about deployment.
“I want the children to learn how to drill,” he said. “It teaches them good leadership, self-confidence and friendship.”
He and the other drill instructors guided the companies to march in formation to Hangar 102 for an extended tour. At the hangar, the children stepped inside a static CH-53D “Sea Stallion” helicopter and took a seat inside the cockpit. Excited to be with the Marines, 10-year-old Victor Matos was one of many participating children whose parents have deployed or were preparing to go.
“I want to learn about all the stuff my dad does,” Matos said. “He fixes helicopters and helps people too.”
The children also had pre-deployment briefs, just as deploying Marines and sailors do. During their briefs, the group learned about ranks, fitness and other Marine Corps information.
Organizations who help military families spoke, including Marine Corps Family Team Building who offers classes about deployment during the year. Representatives from the Families OverComing Under Stress project talked to the students about how to handle deployment stress. In an interactive presentation, the children identified what causes stress for them and positive ways of dealing with it.
After marching with Military Police Department escorts, the group had lunch and a military working-dog demonstration at Dewey Square. Each company then spent time with different volunteers of several MCB Hawaii units to learn about their jobs. The children got a hands-on look at an obstacle course, retrieval robots and medical units.
Children also learned how to drill like the Marines in coordinated marches. Then marching back to the theater, the group had a graduation ceremony and a safety brief from Misenhimer.
With every MCB Hawaii unit helping in some way, Alexander said this first event has been a huge success.
“It is so good to see the operation go so smoothly,” she said. “I had people asking me what they could do, and they made it happen.”