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Spouses get to experience Aviation training firsthand

Brittany Cross and Melissa Urbanski, military spouses, work together at the Leaders Reaction Course to get their team and ammo canisters across an obstacle during Spouse’s Aviation Day May 8. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Brittany Cross and Melissa Urbanski, military spouses, work together at the Leaders Reaction Course to get their team and ammo canisters across an obstacle during Spouse’s Aviation Day May 8. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Published: May 15, 2014

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (May 15, 2014) -- Army spouses often hear about how much their Soldiers must endure during training, but it can be hard to appreciate just what Soldiers go through until they walk a mile in their boots.

More than 40 Fort Rucker spouses got the opportunity to do just that during Spouse’s Aviation Day May 8 when they got a taste of some of the training that Aviation Soldiers go through here on the installation.

In a combined effort of multiple units on Fort Rucker, the spouses were divided into groups of four, in which they would all experience four different types of training that every Army Aviator must complete: flight simulation, firing range simulation, team building skills and Helicopter Overwater Safety Training.

The spouses were able to get their hands on M-4 and M-16 rifles, as well as Mark 19 and 50-caliber machine guns during the Engagement Skills Trainer 2000 shooting range simulator where they began their training shooting at turkeys, before graduating up to more dangerous targets, including tanks.

“I didn’t think I would like handling the guns, but when we got in there it was a lot of fun,” said Angela Simms, military spouse. “Getting in there at first was a little intimidating, but when I realized they weren’t real weapons, it kind of took the edge off.”

The training at the HOST facility allowed the spouses to literally get their feet wet as they suited up and got in the water. They had to swim under water along a designated area to open a hatch, simulating being trapped in an aircraft underwater.

Apart from diving deep, they also go the chance to fly high in the flight simulators at Warrior Hall. The spouses were able to get behind the wheel of OH-58D Kiowas, CH-47 Chinooks and UH-60 Black Hawks.

“The flight simulator was insane,” said Simms. “It was so real and it was really inspiring. I’d think while I was in there, ‘I could do this,’ but then as it would get a lot more in-depth, I would realize that there’s a lot more to it.”

The spouses also got the chance to work on their team building skills and work together to overcome an obstacle at the Leaders Reaction Course.

During their time at the course, the teams had to figure out how to traverse an area with ammunition canisters using only the tools provided, which included two long metal poles. They were only allowed to step on areas covered in white, and areas marked in black were considered dead zones, which meant anyone object or person that touched the area would be considered out of action.

Each team had to safely get across the area with both ammo cans, and were only allowed to lose two of their team members, all in a set amount of time.

“I think the Leaders Reaction Course really tested us in terms of leadership, communication and being under pressure, which I’m not really used to,” said Simms. “I didn’t know if it was going to be tough or not, but regardless of how it was, you always had to work with your team, and it was great just getting to know some new people and work these things out with my friends.”

Most of the spouses had different reasons for participating, but for Brittany Cross, military spouse, she wanted to be able to understand the experience her husband goes through in his training.

“Being prior military, I kind of wanted an idea of what my husband was doing in his training, and this kind of gives me a glimpse,” she said. “So now when he comes home and tells me that he did a certain type of training, I’ll know what he’s talking about and I can ask him about it.”

It also helped many of the spouses gain even more respect for what their Soldiers do in the Army.

“I really think that it gives me a lot more respect for my husband and other Soldiers,” said Simms. “We only got a tiny taste of what they go through, so it was humbling.”

At the end of the day, the spouses were able to graduate and earn their wings during a ceremony at the U.S. Army Aviation Museum.

Col. Robert C. Doerer, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence chief of staff, was on hand to say a few words and present the wings to the graduates.

“You did it, you made it through the challenging day and you’ve got some war stories that you’re going to be able to tell your kids, your spouses and your Families,” said Doerer during the ceremony. “I can see a lot of pride in your faces, and what’s just as important is the pride in the faces of the folks here that are watching you graduate.

“Everything you participated in was merely a glimpse of what our Soldiers do and must endure in the Army, but we don’t make them do it all in one day, so good job to you all,” he continued. “You all showed up as individuals today, but throughout the day you progressed and transformed into teams, and that’s what the Army does  that’s how you become Army strong.”

This article was originally published at

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