By Alisa Boswell
Clovis and Portales educators received an education on the life of military dependents Monday and Tuesday at Cannon Air Force Base.
Area teachers attended the Teachers Understanding Deployment Oper-ations (TUDOS) program at Cannon Air Force Base this week to gain insight into what life is like for military children, who regularly have parents deployed overseas.
“Deployments are what we exist for; we live and train here at our home base but the reason we exist in uniform is to go down range and fight the war,” said Lt. Col. Joyce Storm, deputy commander of the 27th Special Operations Mission Support Group. “That is why we are here. I don’t think the teachers consciously thought about that before. They do now.”
Storm is also the military school liaison officer for Cannon, attending Clovis school board meetings and keeping in touch with her two children’s teachers when she is overseas.
Storm said many of the nearly 100 area teachers who attended the TUDOS event said they did not fully grasp what the child of military parents goes through before attending the event.
“There are different stages and phases that kids can go through (when their parent is deployed) from feeling numb and confused to actually being angry and acting out to withdrawing completely and being depressed,” Storm said. “(TUDOS) puts a little bit of science behind the psychology and the emotional process children go through, so I think we taught them that and armed them with some insight in how to identify potential problems.”
Cannon officials even went the extra mile Monday and Tuesday by starting the day with the teachers in flak vests and placing them in the middle of a simulated firefight.
“In a way, it was really cool because it was unique being in that (simulation),” said Lisa Karger, a seventh-grade teacher at Gattis Middle School in Clovis. “To know that these are parents going through that on a regular basis and continuously living in that height of awareness …”
Karger and David Van Wettering, Portales schools assistant superintendent of education, both said the simulated battle situation really helped put things into perspective about the amount of stress special ops families must be under during deployment time.
“I didn’t know the specific ways of how kids are affected by deployment,” Van Wettering said. “I didn’t really understand deployment. It helped me understand that and what they go through and what their families go through. Sometimes, they (deployed personnel) can’t communicate with their families and it can be very stressful. I thought that was very helpful to me to understand that.”
During class time, Cannon officials talked to the educators about methods of showing support to their students and their families during times of deployment.
Storm told teachers each deployment should be treated differently depending on the child’s personality and the family dynamic.
“I think we kind of brought to light that it’s OK to be involved and it’s OK to ask those questions,” Storm said. “There were a couple of teachers who were concerned about going too far and being too invasive, and it’s like Col. (Tony) Bauernfeind said, ‘you spend more time with our kids than we do; it’s OK to be a little invasive.’ Parents will let you know when you need to back off a little.”