By Cheryl Rodewig, The BayonetMarch 25, 2010
FORT BENNING, Ga. - "I did it. I faced my fears," said Christy Benitez after scaling the 45-foot Eagle Tower during Jane Wayne Day with 1st Battalion, 50th Infantry Regiment, Saturday.
"My knees were shaking up there," said Benitez, who is married to the battalion commander.
"But it was so fun. It really was exhilarating. The hardest part is getting over the ledge to put your feet on that yellow lip. Once you get that and you learn you just need to sit, then the rest is easy," she said. "I thought about all the privates who do this, and I thought, if they have to got through it in training, I need to see what it feels like."
The family day, an annual event for the battalion, brought more than 70 family members to Sand Hill for the chance to experience a day in the life of their Soldier.
"You get to try everything the Soldiers do," Benitez said. "I think it gives you a good glimpse, and I think you appreciate what your husband does to train the Soldiers and what the Soldier does."
The day started off with rifle marksmanship at Malone 4. Family members fired three types of machine guns commonly used in Infantry training: the M4, the M240 and the M249 B.
"It jerks you, and it'll pop your shoulder if you're not careful, (but) it's fun," said 11-year-old Meredith Bruce, who came out to Jane Wayne Day with her dad, senior drill sergeant SFC Christopher Bruce.
"I guess it's an adrenaline thing," she said.
"It was pretty cool - but I wouldn't want to do it every day."
After a catered barbecue lunch, families listened to a safety briefing in preparation for facing Eagle Tower and the Slide For Life, a zipline-style training obstacle that stretches more than 140 feet at about 20 feet from the ground.
Those who chose to rappel down Eagle Tower practiced on an 8-foot wall.
Families also used the opportunity to get to know other cadre members better, said SFC Jonathon Wells, a drill sergeant with E Company, who attended the event with his wife and three children.
"It's just a good, fun time for everyone to get together, wives to meet each other and just to let their hair down," Wells said.
"When you get to spend time with your family and they get to see what you do for a living, it's always a good thing. It's fun, and they get a chance to share with what you do."
Wells said he believes his eldest child now has a better understanding of his job with the battalion while his younger kids "just see it as a big playground."
The social aspect of Jane Wayne Day is important for families and the cadre, Benitez said.
"They get their families connected, and then they get share stories about the pride they have in (serving)," said Benitez, who attended her first Jane Wayne Day last year when inclement weather kept participants from climbing Eagle Tower.
"It's good exposure. You get to learn how careful they have to be training Soldiers," she said. "We just look forward to it every year. I think it's the one of things the kids want to do. More than anything, they ask, 'When is Jane Wayne Day''"