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Spouses’ Aviation Day: Spouses earn wings, experience training

Lisa Dlugopolski, Raquel Briggs and Heather Walker, participants of Spouses’ Aviation Day, work together to overcome an obstacle during the Leader’s Reaction Course Oct. 17. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Lisa Dlugopolski, Raquel Briggs and Heather Walker, participants of Spouses’ Aviation Day, work together to overcome an obstacle during the Leader’s Reaction Course Oct. 17. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Published: October 23, 2014

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (October 23, 2014) -- It’s not often that Army spouses get to experience what it’s like to be a Soldier going through training, but during Fort Rucker’s Spouses’ Aviation Day, a few were able to do just that.

Twenty eight Fort Rucker spouses got the opportunity to get their hands dirty and their hair wet during this year’s Spouses’ Aviation Day Oct. 17 when they tried their hand at flying, shooting, teamwork and survival skills.

The spouses took to the events in 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.

“This (experience) was a lot of fun and it was definitely not what I expected,” said Raquel Briggs, Spouses’ Aviation Day participant. “I just wanted to experience what he’s experienced throughout his training and challenge myself to see if I could do it, and I got through it alive.”

Team building was one of the most important lessons the spouses learned during the day, and the spouses had to work together to get through the Leader’s Reaction Course.

While on the course, the spouses had to figure out how to traverse an area with ammunition canisters using only the tools provided, which during some obstacles included long metal poles, while others utilized wooden planks. They were only allowed to step on areas covered in white, and areas marked in black were considered dead zones, which meant any 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 while getting their entire team across safely as well.

Amanda Heath, military spouse and Spouses’ Aviation Day participant, said the most challenging part of the day for her was the course.

“Having to work together as a team to get through the course presented its challenges,” she said, adding that the experience helped solidify the appreciation that she has for what her husband does as a Soldier. “I already had a good appreciate for everything (my husband) does, and this was a really good experience. I’m really glad that they continue to do this for the spouses.”

During the day, the spouses were able to get their hands on M-4 and M-16 rifles, as well as a Mark 19, a 50-caliber machine gun, and even a rocket launcher during the Engagement Skills Trainer 2000 shooting range simulator where they started off firing at pop-up targets, before taking aim at turkeys, enemy troops and even tanks.

Although the simulators aren’t live-fire exercises, the guns do their best to simulate the kickback felt by real weapons.

“My favorite experience was the shooting simulator,” said Heath. “Getting to shoot the .50 Cal was so much fun.”

The “dunker” 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.

They also were able to fly high in the flight simulators at Warrior Hall and experience what it is like to operate OH-58D Kiowas, CH-47 Chinooks and UH-60 Black Hawks.

Each spouse had his or her reasons for participating in the event, but for Heath, stepping into her Soldier’s boots was something she’s always wanted to experience.

“My husband’s been a pilot for nine years now and I’ve wanted to do this for a while,” she said. “We’ve been stationed here three times and I never had the chance to do it until now, so it was a fun little taste for me. It was an awesome experience. It was a lot of fun and it was really great to be with the other (spouses) and get to have some fun.”

At the end of the day when all their tasks were completed, a graduation ceremony was held at the U.S. Army Aviation Museum for the spouses to receive their wings, but the ceremony served another purpose – to recognize what it means to be an Army spouse.

“We get to honor the accomplishments of the spouses that participated in Spouses’ Aviation Day … but most of all to recognize that they are a an absolutely critical component of our Army team,” said Col. David J. Francis, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker deputy commander. “Our spouses bring something to the table that cannot be replicated by anyone in uniform – by taking care of each other, taking care of their spouses and being a part of our units out there.

“You are a critical part of our team, you’re a critical part of the readiness of our Army and we don’t pay you a dime to do it,” he said. “We want you to know – as your Soldier is going through this process of training here at Fort Rucker – that each and every one of you is a critical part of our Army family and our Army team.”

This article was originally published at

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