News: Family members experience glimpse of infantry life
Story by Sgt. Austan Owen
JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. - The sunshine seemed perfect for the day’s mood as wives and family members came out to see what it was to be an infantryman, at least for the day.
The 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team hosted G.I. Jane Day Feb. 3, around 60 family members joined their soldiers for several fun training events. Teamed with their soldier, family members participated in the “battle rattle dash,” fired M4 rifles, M249 Squad Automatic Weapons and took rides in Stryker Fighting Vehicles. As events wrapped up, the day concluded with the soldiers and family members having a barbeque.
“The sole purpose of this is to give spouses the opportunity to get an idea of what their soldiers experience and train for on a day-to-day basis,” said Capt. Kristopher Kerksick, Commander, B Company, 1-17th Inf.
“Soldiers work long hours they go home and try to tell their spouses what they’ve done while speaking in military jargon,” said Kerksick. “This event affords the family members a chance to come out and live a day in the life of their soldier and get a better appreciation of what we do.”
The day started just before noon with a “battle rattle dash,” where children and spouses donned their soldiers gear and took off in a race. At the word “go,” families charged up a hill in full protective body armor and a rubber weapon. Running an exhausting quarter mile, the families experienced what it is like to move under the weight a soldier carries during training. The Knower family ran across the finish line first, while some in the back of the pack staggered or were carried in; all participants made it across the finish line. Everyone took a few minutes to catch their breath and laughed at how hard it is to run while wearing “full battle rattle.”
“The run was the most difficult part of the day,” said Yajaira Ramirez, “It’s crazy how much all that stuff weighs.”
The families moved to the firing range where M4 rifles and M249 Squad Automatic Weapons waited to be fired by hands that aren’t familiar grasping these weapons.
“We do some shooting back home but nothing like this,” said Chelsey Kincaid, wife of Pfc. Cody Kincaid.
After a safety brief, the wives laid down in the dirt next to their rifles.
The soldiers coached their spouses on how to properly hold, aim and fire. They pulled the trigger on their weapons and the brass began to fly. Soldiers stood by watching and enjoying the sight of their families shooting at the targets.
“The adrenaline rush while firing the guns was awesome,” said Anna Rose Rodriguez. “I definitely want one of these for the house.”
“We might have to go to the range more now because some of the wives can outshoot their husbands,” said Kerksick, jokingly.
After the range was concluded the families moved back to the bleachers for a barbeque and social gathering. Strykers stood by ready to take anyone that wished to go for a ride.
“This is going to be the best part of the day,” said 8-year old Luke Cerio, stepson of Sgt. 1st Class James Knower. “I can’t wait to ride around in one of the Strykers.”
Discussions of the day’s events abounded as families mingled together and solidified new friendships over food and fun.
“We had a lot of participation today and a really fun time,” said Abbi Guggisberg, Family Readiness Group co-leader. “I think it was because of the relaxed atmosphere and all the fun things to do.”
“I definitely suggest that every wife participate in G.I. Jane Day and not let the opportunity pass them up,” said Rodriguez. “Not only does something like this help you understand your spouse but it will help build friendships with other wives.”
“A day like this is great; we all get to meet each other,” said Guggisberg. “Once the soldiers deploy the wives are each other’s lifelines.”
The battalion is preparing for a deployment to Afghanistan and events like this provide the chance for a fun filled family day, a chance for spouses to better understand their soldiers daily job and an opportunity to build relationships amongst families. The Bayonet company hopes to have similar gatherings like this in future.