FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — It is like take your spouse to work day, but with weapons, heavy machinery and Meals, Ready-to-Eat for lunch. At the Marine Corps Detachment Fort Leonard Wood’s Sept. 29 Jane Wayne Day event, nearly 30 military spouses spent a day operating dozers, practicing marksmanship training and learning how to put on hazardous material safety suits.
“The Marine Corps detachment conducts Jane Wayne Day in order to build camaraderie amongst the spouses and extended family members of the detachment, while simultaneously promoting unit, personal and family readiness,” said Marine Staff Sgt. Pedro Alicea, one of the event organizers. “The benefit of having a strong community of spouses is that they are who supports our instructors, staff and personnel while the detachment is training our Marines.”
Alicea serves as the course programmer for the detachment’s Motor Transportation Instruction Company. In addition to making sure the spouses got to experience what the MTIC has to offer, the group visited each of the military occupational specialty schools the Marine Corps has here.
“I think it is important for the spouses to visit each schoolhouse, so that they see the complex nature of supporting the Marines that are being prepared to go to the fleet,” Alicea said.
He said the MTIC and the Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear Defense Instruction Company’s events were his favorites to watch.
“The spouses really got involved, and you could see them enjoying themselves with the challenges,” Alicea said.
The first stop of the day was to the MTIC’s simulators at Training Area 236. There, spouses operated systems designed to replicate driving a 6-wheeled, all-terrain, 7-ton Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement.
Next stop was to the Engineer Equipment Instruction Company at Training Area 244, where spouses got to operate an 850JR medium crawler tractor bulldozer and a D6K crawler tractor bulldozer.
“Handling the bulldozers at EEIC was my favorite event because it is an exercise that would normally require schooling and certification, but we were able to experience it in a safe manner. It was a rare experience,” said Marine spouse Kim Arteaga.
After lunch, which consisted of MREs, the group continued to the CBRN Defense Instruction Company in Building 708 to learn how to put on CBRN protective suits, then tried a series of activities testing their motor skills and mental acuity while wearing the suits.
Army spouse Kristi Sexton said this was her favorite event of the day.
“I loved the camaraderie as we cheered our teammates on from both sides. It was a great team-building event towards a common goal,” she said.
Sexton said putting on the mask was the hardest part for her.
“From the second I put it on, I felt claustrophobic,” she said. “I immediately told myself to remain calm and take deep breaths.”
The spouses ended their day at the Military Police Instruction Company’s Indoor Simulated Marksmanship Trainers in Building 1704.
“The military police have to make split-second decisions,” Mercer said.
The pressure made this the most challenging event for Arteaga.
“I had to make life or death decisions that would have serious consequences in the real world,” Arteaga said.
Sexton said getting to experience a day in the life of an active-duty service member encourages a positive environment at home.
“It’s a great way to help families feel connected. You definitely gain a new appreciation from doing these events,” Sexton said. “Joining a community of military spouses helps you feel connected. Surrounding yourself with people who are coping with the same challenges can help you combat feelings of stress and isolation. It gives you a place to offer support and make life-long friends.”
Sexton said she was thankful she was welcomed by the detachment for Jane Wayne Day.
“I want to personally thank them for the opportunity we had to participate. We are grateful to everyone that helped make this event a success. Every Marine made us feel comfortable and welcomed,” Sexton said.