CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
When the warriors of the Marine Corps deploy to foreign lands, they often leave behind family members. While they may not be on the front lines, these loved ones are no less important than the Marines who serve.
Forty-one Marine Corps spouses, all women, from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion 26, participated in a “Jane Wayne Day” here and got a small taste of what their husbands do when deployed.
The Marines-for-a-day spent their time participating in a range of activities their spouses may be involved in and even participated in a real training exercise with the Marines of CLB-26.
Events like this are very important to for the morale and combat effectiveness of the unit, said 1st Lt. Anthony Iliades, assistant logistics officer and provisional family readiness officer for CLB-26.
“It’s a great way for the spouses to see first-hand what Marines do,” he said.
Iliades said it is one thing for the Marines to come home at the end of the day and tell their spouses what they did; it is an entirely different thing for them to actually experience it.
“It’s all about understanding. I think if (the spouses) understand what their Marines do and what they go through, it helps them to communicate and become a better team,” he said.
The day's activities started with a convoy ride in tactical vehicles around a landing zone. The wives put on body armor and helmets and rode in armored Humvees, M-23 7-ton trucks and an amphibious assault recovery vehicle.
The convoy dropped them off at an entry control point in order to process them into a simulated humanitarian assistance camp, where they acted as role players for the Marines at the ECP.
This was important for two reasons, said Lt. Col. John R. Giltz, commanding officer for CLB-26. It gave the spouses a chance to see a real operation the CLB could execute and allowed the Marines the chance to experience processing real civilians during such an operation, Giltz said.
Often at these types of exercises, Marines are brought in to act as role-players and because they are conditioned to follow orders, they don’t act quite like a civilian would, Giltz said.
The experience was extremely informative for the Marines involved, he added.
“One of the things we learned is that you have to treat civilians differently than military,” he said, adding that civilians will act scared, sometimes they won’t follow directions, and will often ask, 'Why?'" he said.
Following the ECP exercise, the spouses went on to drive simulated vehicles in Humvee and MTV-R simulators, shoot a variety of simulated weapons in the Indoor Simulated Marksmanship Trainer, then capped the day off by firing live rounds from an M9 pistol.
Jessica L. Walker, whose husband, Lance Cpl. Robert D. Walker, is a motor transportation mechanic with CLB-26, said her favorite part of the day was shooting the pistol, and that she would recommend other spouses try to participate in events like this whenever they get the chance.
“It was fun and very interesting, especially the processing of people at the humanitarian assistance site,” she said, adding that this was her first time at something like this.
The heat and sun seemed to have no effect on the spouses as they continued through the day, fortified with a lunch of Meals-Ready-to-Eat.
Lance Cpl. Walker was impressed by the fortitude his wife showed throughout the event.
“She’s eight-and-a-half-months pregnant and she did really well being out here all day,” he said.
One thing that didn’t impress her was the MREs.
“I think MREs should only be for emergencies,” she said.
After the day was over, Giltz reiterated the importance of the family to a functional combat unit.
“If we are not plugged into those families there is potential for a bad situation to develop, which will impact operations,” he said.
Because of the rather unique nature of the CLB, and the fact that it draws attachments from many different units, he said it can sometimes be difficult for the unit to properly attend to the needs of the families.
“We are a unit that becomes composite so rapidly it is possible to just look over the family,” he said.
“This gave us an opportunity to involve spouses and family members in a meaningful way with the CLB-26 family,” he said. “While having fun, hopefully they’ll feel closer and more confident in this unit.”
The CLB came off ship after finishing an Expeditionary Strike Group Integration exercise just days before and was in the process of dismantling a humanitarian assistance camp they had constructed for the exercise even as the spouses toured the area.
The time-crunch meant the unit planned and prepared for Jane Wayne Day far in advance of the actual day.
“We had to coordinate everything a week-and-a-half before,” Iliadas said. “We went on ship with it planned, then came back and made some small adjustments.”
After the day was over, many of the spouses expressed positive opinions, while many said they couldn’t wait to shower.
Overall the day went very successfully according to Giltz.
“I think we have some very tired, happy spouses who hopefully have gained a better appreciation for what we do and how we do it.”
The 26th MEU and its Major Subordinate Elements are roughly halfway through their six-month predeployment training period which will form the disparate units into a cohesive, rapid-reaction force. The MEU is scheduled to leave in fall 2008 for a deployment in support of the Global War on Terror.
For more information on the 26th MEU, visit www.26meu.usmc.mil.