By Mrs Michelle Kennedy (Drum)April 19, 2012
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- When units are deployed, family readiness group volunteers step in to help Families stay connected and busy. One battalion thanked their volunteers during Operation Combat Spouse on Monday.
Twenty-four FRG volunteers from 3rd General Support Aviation Battalion, 10th Aviation Regiment, stepped into their Soldiers' "boots" for a day while participating in the same simulated training Soldiers are required to complete.
The day began with a mission briefing led by Lt. Col. Dennis McKernan, battalion commander. Operation Combat Spouse would require the volunteers to stop and prevent enemy fighters from entering Fort Drum.
"Situation: enemy forces have been infiltrating across the Fort Drum fence line (on Route 26) that you so lovingly decorated months ago," McKernan announced to the spouses. "They've been moving east and west into the airfield and onto Fort Drum. It's your job to protect and deny that penetration."
To prepare the spouses for their "mission," they learned to fly helicopters in simulators at Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield, load and fire weapons at the Engagement Skills Trainer and complete a convoy mission at the Reconfigurable Vehicle Tactical Trainer.
Jenn Martinez, whose husband serves with D Company, 3-10 GSAB, said the event was "a lot of fun."
"(Family events) boost morale when we get to do these sorts of things, and it's just a fun activity to get everybody together," she said.
Martinez said her favorite event was the convoy simulator. She also said she enjoyed shooting the M-240B machine gun.
"It was the biggest one I shot," Martinez said.
Stephanie Layden, whose husband also works in D Company, said she enjoyed getting to know other spouses at the event.
She also enjoyed flying in the helicopter simulator, which offered a full-motion and realistic experience for the spouses.
"My favorite activity was the (CH-47) Chinook simulator, because it seemed so real," Layden said. "(My husband) is an armor and aviation mechanic … for the (AH-64) Apache."
Layden added that she enjoys being involved in the FRG because it's a good way to meet new people.
"Everyone is away from home and away from Family, so I think it's a good idea (to have an opportunity) to meet different people from different places and get to know each other, listen to different experiences and learn from other people," she said.
Appreciation events are important for units because they boost morale and strengthen the relationship between the unit and FRG members, according Capt. William Maloney, event organizer.
"Events like these are very important for the spouses (and) volunteers, as well as for the unit as a whole," he said. "The frequency of deployments weighs heavily on both Soldiers and Family Members alike. Without a solid support structure like the one established by the FRG volunteers, the unit would not have been nearly as effective during its tour."
"Essentially, we wanted to give them some insight as to what their Soldiers do," he said. "I think they had a good time. There was a lot of team unity and a lot of laughter. It was a great day."
Monday's event also was bittersweet because McKernan had his battalion change of command the following day.
"It's a little sad for me, but I'm glad we could get this done (before) the change of command," he said. "The United States military (makes up) less than one half of one percent of the people in the country. I would submit that spouses are way less than that, and they are really what keeps this organization going when everyone is gone. It's significant to thank and recognize them for everything that they do. Today, they had a lot of fun."