WIESBADEN, Germany - Sgt. 1st Class Ifiok Ette made clear the mission of the V Corps Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion Spouses Combat Day from the outset.
 
"What's the purpose of today?" Ette asked the 20 or so of us who had signed up and were standing in formation.
 
"To have fun?" one of us ventured.
 
"That's right. To have fun," Ette answered. "Hooah?"
 
"Hooah," we answered in unison. Well, mostly.
 
From there, we marched to the Wiesbaden Fitness Center for our physical fitness tests. The day was also to include instruction on how to fire weapons, lunch consisting of a meal ready to eat, a tug-of-war and learning how to march in formation.
 
I had signed up for the day because I thought it would be fun, and it was exactly that.
 
At the fitness center we broke into five groups. We would do one minute of push-ups, one minute of sit-ups and a one-mile run. The real Army PT test includes two minutes of push-ups, two minutes of sit -ups and a two-mile run.
 
I knew the push-ups would be my weak spot, and I was right. When my colleagues had asked me the day before how I thought I'd do, my estimate was three. I did four.
 
In the process though, I learned an important lesson about physical fitness tests. Part of the day's objective was to gain an appreciation for my husband's job as a Soldier, and Sgt. Joseph Zamora, who counted my push-ups, helped me on that account.
 
At first, I thought I was doing well. I thought I had done five push-ups, and then I realized Zamora had only counted about two of them. I'd heard my husband talk about push-ups not getting counted before, and now I understood. I managed to do a couple more before my arms gave out.
 
I was glad though. Zamora treated me like a real Soldier and I finally knew how to do a push-up correctly. I marveled as I looked around and saw several other spouses doing 20 or more push-ups easily.
 
I thought I'd do a lot better on the sit -ups, but I was only able to do 20. I also thought I'd do a lot better on the run, and here, finally, I was right. I ran the mile in eight minutes and 49 seconds.
 
Ette also taught us an important lesson about Army teamwork during the run. He made sure everyone finished and ran the last lap with the last runner, encouraging her the whole way.
 
Outside the fitness center we picked up our M-16 rifle, Interceptor Body Armor and Kevlar helmet and then began our march to the Engagement Skills Trainer to try our hand at various simulated weapons.
 
People didn't look at us too strangely when we were marching around in our gym clothes, but now that we were marching around in Army gear, we received a lot of stares and a couple of chuckles. Ette had us work on our cadences as we marched.
 
"I hear the choppers coming. They're flying overhead," we repeated after Ette. "They've come to get the wounded. They've come to get the dead." Our cadence singing could use some significant improvement, Ette counseled us later.
 
At the simulator, Sgt. Michael Garcia helped me operate the M2 .50 caliber machine gun, which has been used since World War II. The kick was so great that I had to lean back in order to avoid getting hit in the face. With a gun this big, I was bound to hit something, Garcia encouraged me.
 
When the results came back, it turned out I might have hit something, but it wasn't the target. Out of 75 rounds, I hadn't hit the target once. Sigh. Several of the other spouses, however, did really well.
 
Next was lunch. Ette warned us before we began our march to the chapel for lunch that anything could happen along the way and we better keep our eyes open for trouble. Part of being a Soldier is realizing that everything can appear well, and then the next minute it can all change.
 
When we were almost to the chapel, Ette told me to lie down on the ground and pretend I was hurt. So I did. It took a moment for the troops to notice we had a casualty, but when they did, they sprang into action and put me on a stretcher. I told them I had a back injury.
 
"Do you think we should strap her in?" someone asked.
 
One woman looked down at me and looked me over, briefly considering what to do. "Naaah," she said, grinning and waving her hand.
 
We all laughed. They strapped me in and carried me to the chapel parking lot.
 
Soon, Ette was handing out the meals ready to eat. He explained how we had to add water to a plastic bag that came with our entrees in order to heat them up. Hurry, he told us, because we only had a half an hour for lunch.
 
It turned out that eating the MRE was the toughest part of the day. I couldn't get the package of cheese spread open no matter how hard I tried ripping it open with my teeth. I poured water into the entre heater and managed to get a fair amount of steam and seal it off, but several minutes later my chicken and noodles were still cold. I ate some anyway and they weren't bad, but my lunch mostly ended up consisting of two fig bars and two vegetable crackers.
 
Next, Ette taught us an important lesson about keeping track of our weapons. One of us left a weapon behind during a visit to the bathroom, so one of the Soldiers picked it up and hid it. When the person came back from the restroom, the person mistakenly took someone else's gun.
 
After Ette pointed out that one of our guns was missing, he explained the necessity of always keeping track of our weapons. We had to look around for the gun for awhile, but after a few minutes he told us where it was located. We all had to do 10 push-ups though. Or, as in my case, try to do 10 push-ups. The weight of the IBA certainly wasn't helping any.
 
From there we started the tug of war, which prompted one of the day's funnier quotes. "Who's going to pay for my manicure?" one spouse demanded to know after wrapping her hands around the rope.
 
Another amusing quote from the day was at the weapons simulator when someone behind me said, "I don't know if this is supposed to be some kind of recruiting tool, but it's not working." Oddly enough, that was about the time I was thinking that if I were several years younger, I might consider talking to a recruiter.
 
After the tug of war it was almost time to go home, but first we all had to gather around Ette for an after-action review. We all agreed we'd accomplished the mission and had a lot of fun. Most of the suggestions for improvement involved making it more difficult - such as adding a long road-march with heavy rucksacks.
 
Hooah? Hooah.

Page last updated Tue November 6th, 2012 at 11:32