By Chrystal Smith, USAG Wiesbaden Public AffairsJune 2, 2008
WIESBADEN, Germany - When someone thinks of a Soldier's training, numerous sights and sounds immediately come to mind: mud; field rations; sweat; gunfire.
But what one doesn't imagine very often, though, is the presence of family members.
However, 54 spouses of deployed Wiesbaden troops recently took to training areas here to participate in an Iron Combat Spouses Badge challenge. By doing so, the spouses served as Soldiers for a day with Task Force Iron Sentinel and the Special Troops Battalion at Wiesbaden Army Airfield.
"I will tell you when to leave the training area. I will tell you when to use the bathroom," boomed Command Sgt. Maj. Victor Blade as a few late stragglers made their way onto Minue Field. "If you signed that paper, you are in the Army for a day ... You are now a Soldier."
To begin the day, TFIS and STB staff members inprocessed the "trainees," giving them an orientation briefing that emphasized fun and safety.
"We really wanted these guys to have a good time, allowing them to take their minds off of their spouses being downrange," said Col. James McGinnis, TFIS commander. "We also give them a taste of what it's like to wear this gear for 15 months by letting them wear it for a couple of hours."
The spouses were issued body armor, helmets, M-16 replicas and Meals, Ready-to-Eat before being divided into three groups and marched off to conquer different tasks prepared by Iron staffers.
First up: calisthenics. Blood rushed to the heads and arms of the spouses as they completed as many sit-ups and push-ups as possible within an allotted minute at the physical training test point. Plus the participants were timed while running; however, the usual two-mile portion of the PT test was shortened into a 200-yard dash.
"This was more challenging than I thought; you don't know your own strength, and you push yourself to heights you normally wouldn't," said Sharon Mayo, a STB spouse who works out regularly but at a lower intensity, she admitted, than the PT test required.
Blade demonstrated the 200-yard dash and set the par at 40 seconds. "You need to run faster than that," said one participant as the spouses of Company B heckled the command sergeant major.
Later on, an opportunity to measure marksmanship was offered via the Engagement Skills Trainer.
"This reminds me of when I was [a servicemember], and part of it reminds me of what [my husband] is going through," said Maribel Vasquez, who was on active duty for seven years and deployed to Saudi Arabia.
Once the rounds were fired, the spouses marched off to the Leadership Relay Course. As Staff Sgt. John Morris gave the go code - "Eat'em up" - the cadre unleashed "modified mentoring," requiring the spouses to drop for push-ups.
Once attention was regained, the group charged a course designed to simulate combat communication, patrolling, reconnaissance and buddy care.
"This is awesome," said Mayo as she climbed up from the muddy low-crawl obstacle.
"It makes you feel closer to [other spouses] because you're doing stuff that they do," added Tina Pritchard, a Company B spouse. "And it's better than going to the gym by yourself."
After overcoming the many morning challenges, the "troopers" returned to Minue Field for an MRE lunch. A road march and parade wrapped up the day.
"This is another venue to make sure the spouses are taken care of and to help relieve some of the stress," said McGinnis, who added that it takes concerned people to ensure such activities succeed. "We've got a great sergeant major in Blade - and people understand what the spouses are going through."
"They were very motivated; they surprised me," said Staff Sgt. Isaiah Taylor, who assisted at the LRC. "I thought they would complain about going through the mud, but they were very willing."
As the event overall, "We think it's a good thing for team-building, so they will know who's out here with them," said McGinnis. "They also get to see who we are in case they have issues. They see us around; they see we're approachable."