Event lets Aviation spouses earn their wings
Filicitie Yeadon comes up out of the water after swimming several yards and opening a simulated helicopter door during an exercise May 18 at the Helicopter Overwater Survival Training facility.

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (May 24, 2012) -- They started the day with little military training, but by the end of it, they had earned their wings by completing four different exercises May 18 during Fort Rucker's fourth Aviation Spouse Day.

"Aviation Spouse Day allows the spouses to actually see what their Soldiers do when they have to go through the water training or the Leaders Reaction Course," explained Leigh Jackson, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence Family readiness support assistant. "It gives them a good hands-on experience."

A group of almost 60 spouses met on the morning of May 18 at Howze Field for a safety briefing and instructions. From there, the spouses were divided into four groups that rotated through four stations -- flying simulators at Warrior Hall, completing obstacles at the Leaders Reaction Course, firing M-16s and other weapons at the engagement skills trainer shooting simulator and experiencing a portion of what Soldiers do at the Helicopter Overwater Survival Training facility.

"No one is going to leave here a steely-eyed killer," said Sgt. Maj. John Hendricks during the morning safety briefing. "Everyone is going to leave here with a smile on their face. The biggest thing is for everybody to have fun and make sure you take care of your buddies."

Kim Crutchfield, wife of Maj. Gen. Anthony G. Crutchfield, USAACE and Fort Rucker commanding general, welcomed the spouses and encouraged them to try to overcome little fears during the day.

"The last few groups have had a blast," she said. "It's just amazing the technology we have and how we train our Aviators."

At the end of the day, she was joined by her husband for a graduation ceremony at the U.S. Army Aviation Museum. The two handed out hugs, handshakes and special spouses' wings to each of the Aviation Spouse Day participants.

Kim spoke from her years of experience as an Army Aviation spouse and encouraged the graduating spouses to embrace each new assignment by making a "bucket list" of things to see and do.

Living all over the U.S. and in countries like Germany and Korea "has taught our children tolerance and appreciation for all people in other cultures," she said. "My advice is to take advantage of every place you are assigned."

She went on to encourage the spouses to be involved in their communities, be there for each other, research all the services available to them and reach out to newer military spouses.

The general emphasized the importance of the day's events, saying, "I would not have missed this for the world. This is important to me because you are important to me and you are important to the Army."

He thanked the spouses for supporting their Soldiers and said he hoped Aviation Spouse Day helped them better understand the difficult training required of Army Aviators.

"As I've heard many say before, and I truly believe, that the strength of our nation is our Army. The strength of our Army is our Soldiers and the strength of our Soldiers is our Families," he said. "Nothing is more important to Kim and me than our Families."

After completing the day's events many of the spouses said they had learned a lot about their Soldier's training.

"You understand things easier when you're actually sitting there and looking at it," said Christine Davis, a group leader. "I almost feel like it should be required for all spouses. I realize that's improbable, but I think it would help them gain so much insight to realize what their husband is going through. It's incredible."

"I thought it was a really enriching experience and a great way for us to better understand what our husbands go through on a daily basis," said Kristine Dubie, adding that her group got a big laugh after breaking one of the obstacles at the leader reaction course.

"They said we weren't as light as we looked," she said with a smile.

Other spouses said they were surprised to learn how many times a Soldier might have to go through the "dunker" and how much water the uniform, flight gear and boots could hold.

"I wish we'd know about all this when we got we first got here instead of at the end," said Andrea Goff.

Page last updated Thu May 24th, 2012 at 00:00