Spouses earn wings at 3rd Aviation Spouse Day
February 9, 2012
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (Feb. 9, 2012) -- More than 60 Army spouses got a taste of the training that their husbands and wives go through while at Fort Rucker during the installation's third Aviation Spouse Day Feb 3.
The spouses had the opportunity to fly simulators at Warrior Hall, fire M-16s at the engagement skills trainer shooting simulator, complete obstacles at the Leader's Reaction Course and learn helicopter survival training at the Helicopter Overwater Survival Training facility, said Deborrah Cisneros, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence Family Readiness Support Assistant.
The spouses gathered in the morning at the Family Readiness Group building where they were addressed by Maj. Gen. Anthony G. Crutchfield, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker commanding general, and his wife Kim; and given a safety briefing by Lt. Col. James E. Ward, commander of the 1st Battalion, 145th Aviation Regiment.
The spouses were split into four different groups and all had different starting points, according to Ward. Each group went through the dunker, which was a simulated experience in which the spouses had to extract themselves from a submerged aircraft.
"It's about a 15-or 20-meter swim underwater," said the lieutenant colonel, explaining how the spouses had to try to open a door underwater that they couldn't see while wearing gear -- a helmet and a flight suit.
"I thought it would be a lot of fun going through the dunker to see what it was like to go through the things that the guys go through and come home tired from," said Courtney Purdy, Army spouse and ASD participant. "It was a lot of fun to be in there and put on the flight suit because it's not something you get to see them do -- it wasn't too scary though."
The spouses also got the opportunity to go on the Leaders Reaction Course, which is a team-building event where the spouses are given some tools that the team needs to use to get through an obstacle put before them, according to Ward. The objective is for them to work as a team.
"[The spouses] were presented with a challenge and it was up to them to perform some team planning and leadership to get through it," he said.
There were also two types of simulators that the spouses were able to experience: the EST shooting simulators in which spouses were able to fire M-16s and other weapons, and the flight simulators in which they were able to fly simulated aircraft such as UH-60s and CH-47s.
Holly Legaspi, Army spouse and ASD participant, explained how flying in the simulator was harder than it looked.
"There are about 50 different things you're trying to concentrate on all at once," she said. "It was good to try it out -- I didn't really know what I was doing, but it was fun."
The instructor pilots showed the spouses various scenarios that flight students have to endure from normal flying and night flying, to inclement weather flying and emergency procedures, according to Michael Prescott, L3 Communications electronic technician.
"We can put them through just about any scenario that they would have to encounter while flying," he said.
The activities continued throughout the entire day from 8 a.m. as late as 4 p.m., and also included lunch at the installation dining facility where the spouses were able to enjoy a meal where most Soldiers eat during days of training. At the end of the day, at a ceremony at the Army Aviation Museum, the spouses were presented with a certificate signed by Crutchfield and their own Aviation wings.
Crutchfield apologized to the spouses for not being able to attend the ceremony, but personally signed each certificate that was awarded.
"Don't think [Aviation Spouse Day] isn't important to [Kim and I], because it is," he said when addressing the spouses. "That's why we are here now, to tell [the spouses] how important it is to us. We just love [having the spouses participate] and we want to get the word out and continue to [host Aviation Spouse Day.]"
According to Crutchfield, this is the third time the installation has hosted the event, and is the brainchild of Cisneros, the Aviation Spouse Day director.
"When [Cisneros] came to me with this idea a year ago, we thought it was great," he said. "When I was a young officer, we did things like this with our spouses. I don't know when the Army got too busy to do this, but I think we need to do this. I think, in some small way, [spouses] should understand what your husbands and wives go through."
The objectives of the day were for the spouses to have fun, make new friendships and to not get hurt, said the general as he expressed the importance of the event.
"It's just great to see so many people participate," said Kim. "[The spouses] will form some great friendships and their group will become a team, and that's the objective too. There was an overwhelming response, so, I'm glad that we were able to increase [the participation limit]. Hopefully we can continue to have this many people participate."
Crutchfield hopes to expand the event and be able to accommodate all of the applicants that wish to participate.
"We're having to turn people away because it's limited by the number of people we can take at time," he said. "I don't want to turn anybody away; either we'll do [Aviation Spouse Day] more frequently or we will expand the groups -- I want to continue doing this."