By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterApril 20, 2017
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Forty-one Fort Rucker military spouses took advantage of an opportunity to get a taste of Aviation training during Spouses' Aviation Day April 13.
The spouses tested their individual mettle along with their ability to come together as a team as they tackled four different events throughout the day.
Split into four groups, the spouses took part in training that every Aviation Soldier must endure, including flight simulation, firing range simulation, team-building skills and Helicopter Overwater Safety Training.
For many of the spouses, the day was an opportunity to help understand what it is their Soldiers go through during training, which for some resulted in a newfound respect.
"My husband is always saying, 'There is no way you could do what I do,' and, 'you have no idea what I go through,' and we go back and forth on that," said Mariana Madera, military spouse. "So, I always wanted to try to do it. It really gave me a better understanding of what he does."
That understanding requires hands-on participation, which each of the spouses got plenty of as they cycled through the events.
Each team started at different training areas, such as the Leaders Reaction Course, which is the event that most participants find the most challenging, not because of the physicality of the course, but the teamwork needed to complete it.
"Not really knowing a lot about [the obstacles] and having to learn on the fly and perform something you've never really done before was hard -- you had to think quickly and solve problems quickly," said Madera about the LRC.
For others, like Kristin Gebhardt, military spouse, the LRC wasn't just about overcoming obstacles on the course, but in her mind, as well.
Throughout the LRC, the teams had to traverse a course while avoiding certain areas on the ground, while also maintaining equipment and their team. Each team member had to make it across the course with the equipment in a time of just 20 minutes, with only 2 minutes to prepare.
"I'm scared of heights and, for me, [the LRC] was the hardest, but it was also the most rewarding," said Gebhardt. "It helped me get over that fear and [Madera and I] were the two to actually get across [the second obstacle]."
The other events included the Engagement Skills Trainer 2000, which allowed the spouses to get their hands on a host of simulated firearms, including M-4 and M-16 rifles, a .50-caliber machine gun and even a rocket launcher.
Each of the participants got the chance to warm up shooting on a simulated firing range, before going into a more hostile fighting scenario where they had to engage actual targets.
The HOST training was meant to test the spouses' ability to think critically and stay calm in an overwhelming situation. The participants had to swim underwater along a designated area, open a hatch and swim through all while wearing full flight gear -- simulating escaping a downed aircraft.
Finally, each of the team members got the chance to fly high, at least in a virtual sense, as they took on the flight simulators at Warrior Hall. During their time in the simulators, the spouses were able to try their hand at different airframes, such as the CH-47 Chinook and UH-60 Black Hawk.
Although spouses' day was meant to be a competition, for many of the spouses, the day was about building lasting relationships with those going through similar situations.
"[Meeting new spouses is nice] because I work in the civilian world and most people don't really understand how military spouses live," said Madera. "It's nice to be around a group that is already in the same boat as you."
"I think in the military community the spouses really have to stick together and be there for each other to push us through," added Gebhardt. "It was really nice not knowing anybody but still being able to come through it as a group, especially for the Leaders Reaction Course. We were all there cheering each other on and it was just nice."