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Around The Fleet

Operation Hele On

Operation Hele On defines mission readiness for youth

It's no secret that military children have anything but a typical childhood.

They move more than their fair share and sometimes parents have to go on "trips", as they often call them. These are the facts of a military family. Although these may be the facts, it isn't always easy explaining deployments to young children. Good thing there's Operation: Hele On. Hele On, Hawaiian for "ready go", is here to give military children a first-hand experience of what it's like to lace up those boots and pack that sea bag.

The mock deployment is for military children to better understand the Navy's deployment process. Participants, 8- to 14-year-old children, get a unique, hands-on experience to be a service member for the day. This year's event, which took place Aug. 21, had more than 100 children registered.

"Operation: Hele On is a way for military children to get a better understanding of what their parents might go through when they get deployed," said Regina Fivella, supervisor at Military Family Support Center, Hawaii, and a product of a military family herself. "We want to make sure that we have something to help them de-stress and get a better understanding."
  • Photo by MC3 Katarzyna Kobiljak.

    Commander of the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPHH) Navy Capt. Stanley Keeves Jr. talks to children of military members during opening remarks of Operation "Hele On" at the JBPHH. Photo by MC3 Katarzyna Kobiljak.

  • Photo by MC3 Katarzyna Kobiljak.

    Children of military members participate in Operation "Hele On" at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. Photo by MC3 Katarzyna Kobiljak.

Fivella recalled the concerns she had as a young girl when her father, an Air Force veteran, departed on deployments.

"I didn't know anything," Fivella said about the deployment process.

She said an event like Operation: Hele On would have reduced her stress.

The operation begins like most military deployments. First, these young service members check-in, receive gear and are issued dog tags. Teams are made up of 16-18 young recruits and volunteer active-duty military acting as recruit division commanders and training instructors. The active-duty volunteers conduct a thorough basic training by teaching their teams military drills, marching techniques and customs and courtesies.

Operations Specialist 2nd Class Simone Ridgell, leader of Team Seals, found the opportunity to volunteer for Operation: Hele On to be rewarding. Being dual military and having a 6-month-old daughter, Ridgell said she hopes her child will one day have the opportunity to participate in an event like Operation: Hele On.
"I would love for her to do something like this so that she can better understand deployment," said Ridgell.

The highly trained children came to attention upon the arrival of Navy Capt. Stanley Keeves Jr., commanding officer of Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam. He welcomed and encouraged the children to absorb as much of the experience as possible as they enthusiastically represented their teams throughout the day.
Eight-year-old Kaila Augare of Team Falcons expressed her excitement about Operation: Hele On.

I wasn't nervous about Hele On because my dad told me all about what a deployment is, and it was cool to see what he goes through" said Augare.

Augare looked forward to the obstacle course and felt prepared for the day, and said she could see herself joining the military one day.

The children had a full range of military experiences during Operation: Hele On. The day was packed with exciting events including an obstacle course built by the Navy's construction battalion and field demonstrations from the Navy Mobile Dive and Salvage Unit 1. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) provided damage control training with firefighting equipment and basic seamanship with line handling.

Hele On is the platform to give the youth a voice as well as show them that their parents' commitment is appreciated because "they build a sense of pride within themselves," said Natasha Pitts, coordinator of the 2015 Operation: Hele On.

At the conclusion of Operation: Hele On, all teams were recognized for their participation and awards were given to the Sky Warriors for their performance on the Obstacle Course, the Falcons for their team spirit, and the Wild Cats for their drill presentation.
  • Photo by MC3 Katarzyna Kobiljak.

    Children of military members run an obstacle course during Operation "Hele On" at the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. Photo by MC3 Katarzyna Kobiljak.

  • Photo by MC3 Katarzyna Kobiljak.

    Lt. Cmdr. Keith Golden, assigned to the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) research vessel Oscar Elton Sette, helps Marcos to try on a helmet during an Operation "Hele On" tour of the vessel on Ford Island. Photo by MC3 Katarzyna Kobiljak.