FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — Family members of the 31st Engineer Battalion got a taste of what it is like to train America’s newest Soldiers during the battalion’s Drill Sergeant for a Day event, May 7.
Twenty-six spouses and children participated in the event that included a mock wake-up to demonstrate what a typical morning looks like for a drill sergeant getting their trainees’ day started, completion of the confidence course and rappel tower, and a half-mile ruck march.
The event’s primary purpose was to create an understanding between the Soldiers and their families about what a typical day looks like at work, while also building friendships between the families within the battalion, said Capt. Brandon Ferraz, Bravo Company commander and organizer of the event.
“These events are important to relationships,” said Lt. Col. John Grabowski, 31st Engineer Battalion commander. “Sometimes, we tend to stay in our smaller friend group circles, and these kind of events allow additional opportunities for families to meet and build relationships inside the battalion.”
In addition to creating friendships among the company and battalion, Ferraz said the event also increased unit cohesion and morale.
“It allowed families to grow and develop as a team, it increased unit morale and it provided families with a better understanding of activities conducted during a normal training cycle,” Ferraz said.
One of those families belongs to 2nd Lt. Adam Cain, an Alpha Company platoon leader, who said the event served as a rare opportunity for drill sergeants to show their families what they do.
Being a drill sergeant is something Cain knows a little about — he served as a drill sergeant from 2017 to 2019, at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, prior to commissioning as an officer in 2021.
“A lot of times, the drill sergeants don’t have a chance to connect with their families,” he said. “Coming out here with their kids, and getting a chance to see what they do on a day-to-day basis, is a good bonding experience.”
His spouse, Marissa, and their three children were there to experience what life was like for cadre in the battalion and meet other families.
“I haven’t had a chance to meet the whole unit yet, so I came out to get involved,” Marissa said. “I think it’s helping us, the spouses, connect with each other.”
While her husband is no longer a drill sergeant, it was helpful for her to see what was going on behind the scenes in hindsight, and it also helped her understand what life is like for the drill sergeants in his unit now.
“It really helped connect the dots with everything he dealt with as a drill sergeant a couple years ago,” she said. “I see why they’re exhausted all the time.”
The Cain’s 10-year-old daughter, Aspen, who had the responsibility of waking the “trainees” up with a call over the intercom during the simulated wake-up, left with a new perspective of her dad’s job.
“I thought he usually just sat in his office,” she said. “Now I know he does a lot more than that.”
Ferraz said he feels the event was a success; he encourages other leaders to do something similar.
“I encourage other commanders to seek ways to close the military-civilian divide, and seek ways to expose families to Army training,” he said.
Grabowski said he hopes everyone had a good time, and walked away with an understanding of what cadre go through. On a deeper level, he hopes relationships formed and took root, so families have something, or someone, to lean on when life is difficult.
“You don’t know where your new best friend will come from,” he said.