Story and photo by
Spc. Zachary A. Gardner
11th ACR Public Affairs

It isn't easy for people who are not in the Army to understand what it is like to be a Soldier. To help better understand what their Soldiers go through, spouses from the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment were afforded the opportunity to tour the National Training Center on Sept. 24.

Over sixty spouses showed up to support their Troopers by taking the tour. The spouses first met at the 11th ACR and NTC Museum, where they were briefed on the day's coming events. After the spouses were ready, they were then loaded on the back of military transport vehicles and prepared for their long trek out to "the box."

After their arrival in the box, the spouses were given a guided tour through the city of Shar-e Tiefort where they viewed the city's training areas, wandered through the town's marketplace and interacted with the civilian and military role players. After touring the town, the spouses watched an Urban Mounted Patrol Situational Training Exercise. The training exercise is used to test and evaluate a unit on their reaction to an improvised explosive devise and small-arms fire. The demonstration involved explosions, a simulated firefight and reactions by the Afghan role players.

"The tour was a great opportunity to show the spouses the types of jobs and conditions that consume their Troopers two weeks a month," said Lt. Col. Christopher M. Doneski, commander of 1st Squadron, 11th ACR. "It helps the spouses put into context the things that their Troopers talk about at home involving scenarios and missions during the rotations. It was also important to articulate how important each mission is in preparing a unit that is about to deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan. The Urban Mounted Patrol demonstration provided an excellent example of the realism and complexities that our Troopers face while deployed in a combat theater."

The tour was also a great way for the spouses to come together and build relationships within the Regiment. The 11th ACR has seen a lot of new faces over the past several months with numerous changes of responsibility, changes of command and personal change of station moves. The tour provided a way for the spouses to share similar experiences and build upon common ground.

"I wanted to bring all of the spouses together and build comradery among the Family Readiness Groups because we've gone through so much with the change of command and PCS moves over the summertime," said Mary E. Britton, the Family Readiness Support Assistant for the 11th ACR. "So, I thought this would be a great way for the spouses to get together and learn what their Soldiers do out in the box."

The spouses' tour through Shar-e Tiefort provided the group with the opportunity to appreciate the cultural environment that their Troopers work in. With stark differences between western and Afghan societies, the replication of village life is no easy task for the Troopers of the 11th ACR.

"I think many of the spouses did not have a great appreciation for the amount of cultural training that we replicate," said Doneski. "They were really amazed at some of the cultural differences in the Afghan culture, seeing the women in burkas and the number of people in the market. I think the spouses realize that their Troopers are having a big impact in preparing the rotational units for deployment. That was one of our major goals of the tour. It is very important for our Troopers and their Families to realize the importance of our mission in preparing units for combat. We continue to stress that their actions here save lives downrange."

Having walked for a day in the steps of their loved ones, the spouses of the 11th ACR now have a greater understanding of their role within the Army family. With their newly acquired knowledge and appreciation, the spouses are now able to more effectively communicate with their Soldiers and understand what it really takes for them to be part of the Army.