By Pfc. Paige Pendleton, 1st BCT, 1st Cav. Div. Public AffairsMarch 22, 2013
Decked out in customized t-shirts, bandanas, Army Combat Uniform pants, boots and temporary tattoos displaying the colors and unit of their Soldier; these ladies and gentlemen completed a variety of basic warrior tasks in the form of a friendly competition.
"It gives them an opportunity to come participate and see what we do, not really on a daily basis but at least just get a taste of what we do," said Sgt. 1st Class Vanessa Pelesasa-Nunez, the sexual assault victim advocate representative assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Troop of the Ironhorse Brigade and native of American Samoa.
Vanessa said her husband, Killeen, Texas native Hector Nunez, found out about the Spouse Spur Ride and was excited to be a supporting spouse participating in the competition.
The Ironhorse battalions were broken into four groups and competed for a trophy in four graded events: room clearing exercises, Engagement Skills Trainer, Ironhorse history challenge scavenger hunt and an obstacle course.
In true Army style, the day kicked off with a short Physical Training session. The spouses laughed as they learned the proper PT formation and some of the exercises their Soldiers perform daily. After the session the groups rotated through the four events.
The participants wore Army Combat Helmets and body-armor vests when using simulated weapons to complete a room clearing exercise. A rectangular area was taped off on the floor creating a 'glass house,' representing the boundaries of a room. The spouses rehearsed the room entry and clearing procedure before entering the house simulation that Soldiers use to train.
Hector said the room clearing was a lot of fun and his team used good communication skills for the exercise.
"It's something we get to experience that we don't normally do, so I get a better appreciation of what (Soldiers) go through," Hector said.
Following the room clearing exercise the spouses headed to the EST, a weapons simulator with M-4 and M-16 rifles adapted for electronic use on a large projection screen. The participants were graded on accuracy in a variety of scenarios projected on the screen.
Miranda Randall, a student and Pinehurst, N.C. native, married to Pfc. Kameron Randall, a tanker assigned to the 2nd "Stallion" Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment of the Ironhorse Brigade, explained she found the EST difficult because she had to be precise.
"When it's real there's no hesitation," Miranda said. "You just have to get in and get done."
At the Phantom Warrior Confidence Course the spouses navigated some of the obstacles used by Soldiers for training, getting a little dirty in the process.
Although a few spouses hesitantly approached the obstacles, encouraging words from their teammates and Soldiers supervising the event inspired them to rise to the challenge.
Vanessa said the tasks did not appear to be exceptionally challenging for the participants. Although the team members were not familiar with one another, they were able to get together and have a good time and likes that her husband had the chance to meet other spouses as well as her chain of command.
The final event took place at the 1st Cavalry Division Museum, where the spouses were given 45 minutes to complete the Ironhorse history challenge scavenger hunt. Participants searched the museum for answers to questions about the unit's history.
Ariel Ross, a retail-associate, said her husband, Pfc. Keith Ross, a supply specialist assigned to the Stallion Battalion of the Ironhorse Brigade, was very excited for her to participate because it was a competition he wanted her to win.
She entered the spur ride to meet new people and to see what her husband does during the day.
Hector said he appreciates the efforts involved in coordinating the event so he could come out to support his wife and father, who is retired from the military.
"I've been on Fort Hood since 1989 and I just support my phantom warriors," Hector said. "I'm ready to do it again."
After all of the events were complete and scores were tallied, the Spouse Spur Ride wound down with an awards ceremony and some chow.
Each spur candidate was given a certificate explaining the significance of the spur ride. The winning team, consisting of spouses from the 1st Squadron, 7th "Garryowen" Cavalry Regiment, and 115th "Muleskinner" Brigade Support Battalion, both of the Ironhorse Brigade received the Spouse Spur Ride trophy.
After presenting the trophy, Soldiers and spouses feasted on hot dogs and hamburgers as they cheerfully described their experiences from the busy day.
Ariel said she found the event to be a perfect approach for spouses to build teamwork and to get to know each other.
"I think it gives them confidence to be more supportive spouses for us," Vanessa said.