Soldier For A Day
June 5, 2008
What do you think of when someone mentions military training? For many of us, when we think of the training that Soldiers go through, those of us who’ve not been in the military, often rely on things we’ve seen portrayed in the movies, as our point of reference. Even spouses of military personnel rely on word of mouth, or portrayals in the movies, to shed some light on what their spouses have had to deal with in their training. Unless we’ve experienced that type of training, we really don’t know what it’s like. In Wiesbaden, Germany however, about 54 spouses of deployed Troops were able to experience the training their spouses have to go through, when they spent a day participating in the Iron Combat Spouses Badge challenge. They were able to serve as Soldiers for a day with Task Force Iron Sentinel and the Special Troops Battalion at Wiesbaden Army Airfield.
“I will tell you when to leave the training area. I will tell you when to use the bathroom,” boomed CSM Victor Blade as a few late stragglers made their way onto Minue field. “If you signed that paper, you are in the Army for the day … you are now a Soldier.”
At the beginning of the day, TFIS and STB staff members inprocessed the “trainees”, providing them with an orientation briefing. The briefing emphasized having fun while remaining safe. The spouses were issued body armor, helmets, M16 replicas and MREs. They were then divided into 3 groups and marched off to complete different tasks that had been prepared for them by Iron staffers.
“We really wanted these guys to have a good time, allowing them to take their minds off of their spouses being downrange,” said Col. James McGinnis, TFIS commander. “We also give them a taste of what it’s like to wear this gear for 15 months by letting them wear it for a couple of hours.”
After inprocessing, the trainees’ day then began. First then started with calisthenics, with the spouses completing as many sit ups and pushups as possible within a minute. Participants were then put through a timed running event. Instead of the typical 2 miles run in a PT Test, it was shortened to a 200 yard dash.
“This was more challenging than I thought; you don’t know your own strength, and you push yourself to heights you normally wouldn’t,” said Sharon Mayo, a STB spouse who works out regularly but at a lower intensity, she admitted, than the PT test required.
CSM Blade demonstrated the 200 yard dash and set the goal at 40 seconds. By demonstrating the run, he left the participants no questions about what was expected of them. Participants heckled the CSM telling him that he needed to run faster than he was. Later, participants were able to test their marksmanship skills, by utilizing the Engagement Skills Trainer.
“This reminds me of when I was a servicemember, and part of it reminds me of what my husband is going through,” said Mabel Vasquez, who herself spent 7 years active duty and served a tour in Saudi Arabia.
Once the spouses completed that part of their training, they were then marched off to compete in the Leadership Relay Course. SSG John Morris gave the go code, ‘eat em up’ and the cadre unleashed ‘modified mentoring’ on the spouses, requiring them to drop for pushups. Once the cadre had their attention, the group was then instructed to charge a course that is designed to simulate combat communication, patrolling, reconnaissance and buddy care. Things that their spouses downrange are experiencing in real life.
“This is awesome,” said Mayo as she climbed up from the muddy low-crawl obstacle. “It makes you feel closer to other spouses because you’re doing stuff that they do,” added Tina Pritchard, a B Company spouse. “And it’s better than going to the gym by yourself.”
After completing the obstacle course and completing other morning challenges, the spouses then marched to Minue Field for lunch of MREs. Following lunch, the spouses participated in a road march and a parade. For their spouses, road marches play a big part in their training. Sometimes it’s a part that they love and othertimes it’s a part that they hate.
“This is another venue to make sure the spouses are taken care of and to help relieve some of the stress,” said McGinnis. “We’ve got a great SGM in blade – and people understand what the spouses are going through.”
“They were very motivated; they surprised me,” said SSG Isaiah Taylor. “I thought they would complain about going through themud, but they were very willing.”
The event was very successful, providing the spouses with the opportunity to connect with each other and develop a rapport, team building, so that they know they have each other’s backs. This also provided the spouses with the opportunity to get to know the rear detachment personnel and know that they are approachable, in the event that they experience difficulties. Hopefully programs such as this one, will spread throughout the Army, as it’s something that can help brigde the communication gap that is sometimes there, because the spouses will have a better understanding of just what their Soldier goes through.