By Vince Little, The BayonetOctober 25, 2010
FORT BENNING, Ga. - The 18-hour workdays often put in by Army drill sergeants are felt on the homefront, too. Acknowledging the toll it takes on families, post leaders paid tribute earlier this week to the spouses behind the hats.
About 100 turned out Sunday for a drill sergeant spouse appreciation event at Riverside, the home of MG Michael Ferriter and his wife, Margie. Another 200 family members attended the reception, which featured a concert afterward by the Maneuver Center of Excellence Band on the lawn outside.
The gathering was a joint effort of the 192nd and 198th Infantry brigades. Spouses of every Sand Hill drill sergeant were invited to take part, said Ms. Liz McKenrick, wife of COL Terry McKenrick, the 192nd Infantry Brigade commander.
"This was (Mrs. Ferriter's) brainchild - she wanted to recognize the hard work of the drill sergeant spouses," she said. "We hope it instills a bigger sense of pride and shows all the wives that people at the top understand the sacrifices and time commitment involved. It's not unusual for them to have dinners or go to kids' ballgames alone. There's a lot of single parenting."
If anything, requirements on drill sergeants here will only intensify as the Maneuver Center continues taking shape. Fort Benning will train 140,000 Soldiers next year, including 52 percent of all civilians coming into the Army.
"Most of those lives are going to be touched by you, the drill sergeants, and impacted by this family and this team of teams," said MG Ferriter, the MCoE and Fort Benning commanding general. "We have a significant role in the Army ... but today is really about the spouses."
Most drill sergeants sent to Fort Benning already are fresh off a deployment and lengthy separation from their families, the general said. Then comes the added stress of six-day workweeks on Sand Hill.
"We know that it's hard government work," he said. "You're supposed to have a break between cycles, but it takes two days to power down and three days to power up. It's just not a break. But it's an Army at war, and the hard work is paying off. These new Soldiers are ready ... when they deploy to combat within four months after leaving Fort Benning because of our drill sergeants."
MG Ferriter said spouses play a major role in that equation, calling them the "backbone on the homefront."
"You take on the role of both mother and father as the drill sergeants endure those long hours. You entertain children when your spouses are working on weekends and even Sundays," he said. "You do the heavy lifting in the balancing of this marriage and family obligations. All we can really say is 'thanks' for making a difference in the Army."
Each spouse received a gift bag containing coupons and donated items from various community merchants, along with a certificate signed by MG Ferriter and CSM Chris Hardy, the MCoE and post command sergeant major.
"You have a very important job," CSM Hardy told the group. "There is no break. We understand the sacrifices that each one of the family members and drill sergeants make to ensure that we're turning out ready Soldiers. ... This is a small token of appreciation for the monumental tasks that each and every one of you perform day in and day out."
Ms. Lisa Ketterer, whose husband is assigned to D Company, 3rd Battalion, 330th Infantry Regiment, said the spouses are grateful for the command nod.
"It was really nice," she said. "The enlisted wives live without their husbands for the most part. It's a very stressful job with a lot of responsibility. But they feel it's an honor to be training new Soldiers.
"Everyone appreciates the recognition of the long hours the drill sergeants put in."
Ms. Ferriter offered some advice to young wives new to Army life.
"There's nothing more special than the sisterhood of the spouses," she said. "Take care of each other. ... Get to know your neighbors, get to know the men and women who work with your husbands and wives, because they are your family."