By Kerry BowlingJune 21, 2013
Kerry Bowling is the spouse of a Paratrooper assigned to 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. She participated in the unit's annual G.I. Jane Day and wrote the following commentary to describe her experience.
FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- As I sat under a camouflage canopy in 96 degree North Carolina heat wearing my husband's physical training shirt and his patrol cap, sweating and stealing looks at my smart phone, I had the unique opportunity to listen to my fellow Army wives in a moment of unscheduled revelations.
We were participating in our battalion's G.I. Jane Day, an annual event designed to give us a taste of what our husbands do all those hours away from home. But a pause in the day, an unplanned stop after enjoying some delicious Meals Ready to Eat, (the Beef Brisket was semi-tolerable), led to the best experience of the event.
There are few organizations in the world that require trust to form from the first meeting, where the person standing next to you may not know your name but looks to you for help and support. Most relationships, either work or personal, take time to develop this quality, weeks or even years, and even then the level of trust is balanced by the nature of commitment expected.
The 50 ladies that gathered on that morning were mainly strangers to me. Some I knew from Family Readiness Group (FRG) functions, one was my neighbor, but most were faces that I had not seen before. They were simply fellow Army wives coming out to challenge themselves in feats of physical endurance, marksmanship (I know I would have been a better shot if there had actually been zombies!), and digesting the dreaded MREs.
We were broken up into four groups known as "chalks," and marched to our first event: the obstacle course, which contained ten challenges that required teamwork to complete successfully. So the trust began here, 20 minutes after being introduced to the other 11 ladies in my chalk, I was expected to trust them to help me climb through mock windows, boost me over a wall, and encourage me as I attempted to balance on the shaky log (not as easy as expected).
Pulling on the Army Combat Uniform to make it feel even more like what our husbands went through, I had no doubts these ladies would be there for me and I would be there for them. The "Pink Falcons," our chalk's team name, would rule the day!
Several hours later, after a fall in the rocks on the Cooley Conch Trail, too many bottles of water to count, our G. I. Jane Day was over. Although the Pink Falcons were not victorious, my rewards for the day were even better than the coins being handed out. I had 11 new friends, bonded through sweat and a competitive spirit.
We had cheered each other on, challenging ourselves to do our best for the good of the team and trusted that the lady in front of you and the lady behind you would get you where you needed to be. Sitting under the canopy, listening to the shared stories of motherhood and marriage to a Soldier, I realized that the event had also given me a chance to walk in my husband's boots.
Since the day he stood up and agreed to serve his country, he has had to trust his fellow Soldiers to stand with him, and to get him over whatever wall was thrown in his way. Now I saw that trust was the foundation for every obstacle he had faced in his military career. I saw trust in his leaders, trust in his peers, trust that his family would always be there waiting for him. He may not know the man in the foxhole with him, but he will trust him to back him up. These amazing ladies gave me their trust that day and like the Skittles I found in my MRE, they were the best part.