Spouses display brawn and brains during GI Jane Day event
May 30, 2009
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - Midway through GI Jane Day, May 23, Josie Dyon and Angie Kennedy were asked what they would tell their husbands at the conclusion of a physically and mentally demanding day of activities, here.
After a brief pause, the military wives looked at each other and in unison boldly declared, "Buddy, we can do it too!" before breaking into a chorus of laughter.
It was a statement undoubtedly shared by many of the 85 participants, who rolled up their sleeves, flexed their muscles and proved that not only did they have the brawn for military life, but the brains as well.
Hosted by the rear detachment of the 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (3IBCT), GI Jane Day is the Army's way of acquainting spouses to a typical Soldier's workday.
Event participants were divided into teams to complete a slew of challenging courses at the Leadership Reaction Course, here. The teams also experienced the Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain (MOUT) site, where the spouses got up close and personal with the kinds of weapons their Soldiers often carry.
"We're trying to give them a military experience as best and as safely as we can," explained Capt. Sean Weeks, 3IBCT. "For some of them, all they know is, 'Well my husband comes home from work in a dirty uniform, and I cook a meal, and then he's gone.'
"(GI Jane Day) sort of gives the spouse a taste of what their Soldiers, husbands or family members go through," Weeks explained.
The biggest challenge facing many of the participants was learning to build camaraderie and work toward a common goal.
"In the military, it's a lot easier to give orders because the rank is the leader," explained Sgt. 1st Class Jimmie Jackson, 3IBCT, who helped organize the event. "To me, it would seem tougher for these women, who don't have that same type of rank structure. But, they were able to overcome a great challenge and somehow gain consensus among each other."
Nowhere was this attitude more evident than on the 3rd Brigade, Special Troops Battalion, rear detachment team of spouses. The members, which included Dyon and Kennedy, could be observed actively communicating and encouraging each other throughout the day.
"Not once was there any bickering in our group," Dyon said. "We were all open to everyone's ideas, and I think that's pretty unique to find in a team."
"For not knowing each other really well, I think we've done a pretty good job," Kennedy added.
While teamwork was essential to completing the courses, participants also had to problem solve rather quickly. The courses required team members to safely traverse obstacles while avoiding "mines," or those areas marked in red, and "quicksand," while racing against a 12-minute time limit.
"These courses require critical thinking," Jackson explained, "but there is no right way to do any of this. It all comes down to what you can think of."
Such was the case with 14-year-old Ashleigh Auna, a 2-27th Infantry Battalion team member. The teenager convinced her father, Master Sgt. Von Auna, 3IBCT, to add her to the team so she could experience what he does on a daily basis.
He agreed, and she didn't disappoint. She promptly pulled off the day's most ingenious move on the course.
While Auna's team was crossing over quicksand, using only an 8-foot-long plank of wood and rope, her team members suddenly realized they still needed to retrieve the plank. Auna volunteered and completed the task by hanging upside down from a rope - while carefully sliding the plank over the quicksand and safely back to her teammates.
"I've never seen that done in my 20 years in the military," admitted Jackson, shaking his head with incredulity. "That was creative."
In the end, the same endorsement could be said about all of the GI Jane Day participants.
Or as Sgt. Laquanda Bligen told one particular unit following the completion of a course, "Ladies, that was an outstanding job. You all can take my place anytime."