• September 16, 2014

1st Cavalry spouses spend day in soldiers’ shoes

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Posted: Wednesday, January 14, 2009 12:00 pm | Updated: 8:15 am, Thu Aug 16, 2012.

By Amanda Kim Stairrett

Fort Hood Herald

New troopers stormed the field Saturday.

The ranks hollered through physical training, busted through buildings hiding bad guys and sent blanks downrange.

Their uniforms were pieced together from camouflage, workout clothes and a sprinkling of pink. They weren’t the typical soldiers the 1st Cavalry Division is accustomed to training, but on Saturday, about 250 1st Brigade Combat Team spouses took over for their soldiers during “Trooper For a Day.” The day was fashioned after traditional “spur rides,” where soldiers participate in grueling training tasks. Upon completion, they are awarded their spurs.

Saturday’s event was designed to build esprit-de-corps among the brigade’s spouses and family readiness group and show them just some of the tasks their soldiers complete on a daily basis. The brigade is preparing to deploy to Iraq, so the event also helped establish bonds and friendships among the spouses before they are parted with their soldiers, said Maj. Mario Perez, the brigade’s rear detachment commander.

Spouses were divided into squads based on their soldiers’ units. It provided a team aspect, Perez said, and he saw the “troopers” pulling together as units.

Avis Snyder, wife of Maj. John Snyder of the brigade’s Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, participated in the event because she saw it as a fun, challenging morale booster. Her favorite event was entering and clearing rooms while firing on bad guys with blanks.

Snyder is a former soldier, serving four years from 1988 to 1992 as a personnel management specialist.

Not all the participants were families of soldiers. Robin Bell and her daughter, Jennifer, roughed the wind and cold for their husband and father, Steve Bell, the brigade’s civilian safety specialist commonly known as “Safety Steve.”

The mother-daughter team wasn’t a fan of the physical training, but enjoyed the stations. Jennifer excelled during weapons assembly and Robin preferred the grenade throwing, though she didn’t hit all of her targets.

“I didn’t kill anybody, so yeah,” she joked.

The grenades used had a small charge to simulate a blast.

Brigade officials began planning the event after the brigade returned from the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., in mid-November.

Tasks were chosen based on whether they could be completed during the day-long event. Organizers wanted something exciting and challenging, Perez said. Events were physical training, entering and clearing a room, hand-grenade throwing, weapons disassembly and assembly, an M-4 shooting range and treating and medevacing a casualty. A Black Hawk crew from the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade helped with the medevac station, and “troopers” loaded a first-aid mannequin into the helicopter as the blades whipped overhead.

Perez estimated that about 600 people attended the event, which included the “troopers,” soldiers who coordinated each station and served as squad leaders and family members.

One of the day’s squad leaders was Sgt. Matthew Harris. He came to the brigade one month ago from Fort Meade, Md., and decided to participate when word came the brigade needed squad leaders.

He called the event a crash course in training, and it was a bit challenging because it was hard to pass off complete knowledge of the tasks in just a day.

“Trooper For a Day” is something his wife, Amanda, would probably participate in, he said. She is in their home state of Illinois with their twin sons, Zachary and Alex, who will turn 2 this month. The family will stay in Illinois while Harris deploys and will come to Texas when he returns.

The day ended with a ceremony where the top squads were awarded for their scores at each station. All participants received their own spurs — a pin in the shape of a tiny spur.

Contact Amanda Kim Stairrett at astair@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7547.

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