By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterNovember 2, 2017
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Military spouses got the chance to step into the boots of their Soldiers and earn wings of their own during an event that gave them a taste of Army Aviation training.
Thirty four Fort Rucker spouses got the chance to get down and dirty, and literally get their feet wet, during Spouses' Aviation Day Oct. 26 when they were able to try their hand at shooting, flying, water survival and teamwork.
Split into teams of four, the spouses took on four different events that Aviation Soldiers experience at some point in their training, including flight simulation, firing range simulation, team building skills and helicopter overwater safety training, and for two of the spouses, the day was an opportunity to take a peek into the lives of their Soldiers.
"It was exciting and a lot of fun," said Dianne Ralston, military spouse. "It gives us a taste of what our [Soldiers] go through, and it's a chance to meet the other [spouses] and have fun."
"It's just really cool to be able to see what our [Soldiers] do, so when they come home we can relate to what they're saying a little bit because sometimes it's can be so foreign," added fellow spouse, Hannah Rufli. "We don't know what they do every day, so I think it'll help us connect better. It was an amazing experience and it was so awesome to be able to meet all the [spouses] and the command, too."
Part of that experience included the HOST training facility, where the spouses got the chance to learn about how Aviators deal with a crash situation in water. Each of the spouses suited up in full flight gear and took to the water where they had to swim along a designated area and open a hatch, simulating what an Aviator would endure in a submerged aircraft.
In addition to HOST training, the spouses also got their hands on some of the Army's deadliest weapons during the Engagement Skills Trainer 2000 shooting range simulator where they got to alleviate their itchy trigger fingers with M-4 and M-16 rifles, as well as 50-caliber machine guns.
One of the most popular events that the spouses were able to experience was the flight simulators at Warrior Hall where they had the opportunity to spread their wings in UH-72 Lakotas and UH-60 Black Hawks.
Although the simulators had some spouses feeling a bit dizzy, it was the leaders reaction course that had many of them scratching their heads as they worked together to overcome obstacles within certain time limits.
"We got to spend time with everyone and communicate with each other (throughout the day), but we didn't really get to know each other's weaknesses until the LRC," said Ralston. "We had to work together and conquer walls and actually come together for a goal."
"We had to trust each other that no one was going to drop us," added Rufli. "It was really cool and one of the spouses conquered one of her really big fears. She said she was shaking and that she had to get down, but then she breathed through it and she did it, and it was cool to see someone do that."
At the end of the day, the spouses were able to graduate their training during a ceremony at the U.S. Army Aviation Museum where they were presented a certificate and their own set of wings by Maj. Gen. William K. Gayler, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker commanding general, and his wife, Michele.
"I think it's critical that you get to see what your spouses do," said the commanding general during the ceremony. "Now you got to see a little bit about an Army day and what your spouse does. You probably know that every day is not that much fun -- you can't play around in the water, shoot, fly and play around on the leader's reaction course every single day, but you do have a little bit of insight.
"Thanks for what you do," he continued. "(Spouses' Aviation Day) is our very small way of saying thanks and giving back to you because we ask a lot of our Soldiers, but even more of their families, and we take that very seriously."
Ralston and Rufli said that they were very appreciative of the chance to participate in the events throughout the day, and the friendships and experiences they had are things they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.
"There was a lot of camaraderie as (spouses) coming together," said Rufli. "I think sometimes it's hard to meet other spouses when you go to new duty stations because for a lot of us it's in and out.
"This was a different environment of meeting other spouses. Usually it can be pretty intimidating, but it was really laid back," she added. "Every spouse coming through here should get the opportunity to do this because it was really cool -- I will never forget this."