FORT BENNING, Ga. - Nearly 30 "Blackhawk" spouses from 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division's 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, reported for duty bright and early, April 26. Decked out in Army Combat Uniform trousers, squadron colors and camouflaged face paint, the spouses were prepared to earn spurs of their own during this year's Spouses' Spur Ride.

"We have had about a 50 percent turn around in personnel within the last year," said Lt. Col. Paul Gunnison, 3rd Sqdn., 1st Cav. Regt., commander. "That is a lot of turnover. So, this event provides a good chance for the spouses to get to know other spouses in their troops and throughout the squadron."

Following accountability formation, the women were broken down into teams based on their husband's troop.

"We tried to make the teams as true to the troops as possible, but some troops had less women than others, so they were put in with other troops," explained the event's officer in charge, 1st Lt. Marc Beaudoin, the Headquarters and Headquarters Troop assistant plans and operations officer.

Four teams of women, averaging about seven per team, marched their way around Kelley Hill, where six different lanes awaited them. The lanes included providing aid to a casualty and preparing him for a medical evacuation; reacting to contact and calling in fire support while throwing grenades; basic Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive gear knowledge and donning a protective mask within the 9-second Army standard in a chemical condition; firing their weapons using the Engagement Skills Trainer; a physical fitness challenge; and a Spur Board, aimed at testing the ladies' knowledge about the cavalry and their husband's job.

Blackhawk Troopers used water balloons to simulate grenades, which many welcomed on a sticky 85-degree Georgia day. Colored smoke marked a chemical attack. Fort Benning's Medical Simulation Training Center provided the squadron with the imitation blood that was poured on causalities. Soldiers also used strawberry jam as an added measure of "gore."

"It was exhausting, but I had a lot of fun," said Nikki Todd, wife of Pfc. John Todd, a cavalry scout in Troop C, 3rd Sqdn., 1st Cav. Regt. "The medical lane was the most challenging of the lanes, for me, but everyone on my team pulled together to get through it."

Nikki and Todd have been married for about a year, but this is the first event of its kind she has participated in since her husband came to the unit.

"It's fun to see your wife tough it out and do what you do. She had a good attitude and I'm proud of how well she did," Todd said of his wife.

For Zorismaely Ortiz, the spur ride was a chance for her to get out of the house and meet other spouses in her husband's troop. Despite being 27 weeks pregnant, she said she was excited at the opportunity to take part in the spur ride.

"We came from Fort Riley, but they didn't have anything like this. I love it!" the Vega Baja, Puerto Rico, native said. "I wanted to support the squadron, get out of the house and meet people."

Her husband, Staff Sgt. John Ortiz, also of Vega Baja, is the automations noncommissioned officer in charge with HHT, 3rd Sqdn., 1st Cav. Regt. He said he hopes his wife will find new friends within the troop since they just recently relocated to Fort Benning in January of this year.

"This event wasn't held to focus on the physical aspects of each event," said Gunnison. "Our intent was to get the spouses and significant others together to build camaraderie within our families, as well as Soldiers. It's been great to see how motivated everyone out here is and that's something that, as a commander, I appreciate."

Gunnison, whose wife, Erica, also participated in the event, said he hopes this is something the squadron can continue in the future, at least once a year if not more.

After rotating through the lanes, the women pulled out one last show of force as they battled in a tug-o-war match before the much-anticipated spur awarding ceremony.

Gunnison presented each participant with a gold spur pin and a certificate of appreciation for their unwavering dedication to the Blackhawk family.