Spouses earn wings at Aviation Spouses Day
June 13, 2013
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (June 13, 2013) -- A day in the life a Soldier is unique to those who serve their country in the Army, but spouses got a chance June 7 to experience a taste of what their significant others experience daily when they participated in Fort Rucker's seventh Aviation Spouses Day.
The event's goal is to help spouses understand the training their loved ones go through, according to Leigh Jackson, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence Family readiness support assistant.
"It is a day that focuses on spouses and brings them to a better understanding of what their [Soldiers] do throughout their training. It will help them comprehend what it takes to become an Army Aviator," she said.
Walking in the shoes of their Soldiers, 59 women completed four assignments that every Aviator must complete in order to graduate from flight school.
The spouses received "dunker" training at the Helicopter Overwater Survival Training facility, leadership and teamwork training at the Leader's Reaction Course, fired weapons at the Engagement Skills Trainer 2000 and flew simulators at Warrior Hall.
The environment of an Aviator can oftentimes be overwhelming, but in the eyes of many officials and Families, being an Army spouse is just as hard as or harder than actually being a freedom fighter.
"It is difficult being away from your spouse, especially if you have children; having them miss all the firsts and special events is sometimes heartbreaking," said Katharina Boyd, whose hometown is St. Petersburg, Fla.
"You go into it knowing that you are going to have to make large sacrifices and that is just the bottom line. You give up what you had before and make new dreams together as you go," she said.
Some spouses, like Jill Garver from Fort Myer, said that some of the hardest things are taking a back seat when it comes to their Soldier's injuries and career choices.
"Sometimes my job is just to be there when he needs me," she said
You have to wear two hats being an Army spouse, said Denise Keeter, who has been an Army spouse for 17 years and whose Family hails from Winchester, Va., and that spouses often handle everything from bills and taxes, to child discipline and grades, to plumbing and remodeling.
"I have been in the Army, too, and I am feeling the last 20 years of Army service. But, I know that this has been my mission in life. You just have to do your best when your spouse is not around," she said.
Though the life of an Army spouse is challenging and unique, the women said they wouldn't change it for anything.
"Soldiers don't make the rules and spouses don't make the rules. Army comes first and Family comes second. It can be a hard issue to swallow at first, but it is so worth it," said Boyd.
"This is an amazing experience because we both have grown so much," said Karla Kelly, from Panama City Beach, Fla. "He is a better person from it all and I have learned so much about myself."
"The Army is our way of life. I don't see it as a sacrifice, but as a blessing," Keeter said.
At graduation, spouses were more than happy with what they had achieved and were thankful for the chance to help bridge the gap of knowledge between Soldier and spouse.
Col. Douglas M. Gabram, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence deputy commander, ended the day by thanking the spouses for being as strong as they are while supporting the Army mission and Family.
"The strength of our Soldiers comes from you. You are sometimes undervalued and underappreciated, so I thank you because it is not going to get easier. So, hang in there," he said.
Keeter said that help is out there for when times seem to be overwhelming and to remain positive.
"Look forward to all the things you are going to be able to see and enjoy. Make friends and be connected. Friendships have been a lifeline for me," she said.
"Sometimes if you just get out there and get active in the community it can help your overall way of thinking if you are having a bad military experience," she added.