CAMP LEJEUNE N.C. --
Pony-tails, mixed-matched camouflage utilities and wide eyes were common sights throughout the field marked for the Battalion Landing Team 3/8, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Jane Wayne Day July 1.
Spouses and family members of MEU Marines got a taste of what it is like to be a Marine for a day as they fired weapon systems and crawled through vehicles and aircraft.
"This gives the wives an appreciation for what their Marines are doing everyday," said Lt. Col. Farrell Sullivan, commanding officer of BLT 3/8, "not just operationally but that they have to take care of equipment too. It's important because it puts things into context. They don't spend a lot of time at home during a workup, so I think it is important and easier for the wives to accept the fact that their loved ones are going to be gone doing something important. When they can understand it better, it's an easier pill to swallow."
The BLT will deploy with more than 1,200 Marines and sailors – infantryman, artilleryman, tank operators, light armored reconnaissance Marines, combat engineers, mechanized vehicle operators, snipers, and others.
Although it was a ground combat element show, the field showcased much of what makes the MEU a Marine Air Ground Task Force and was quickly taken over by hundreds of wives and family members excited to get a closer look.
"It is definitely interesting to see everything big and up close," said Holly Rowe. "It is definitely comforting. I have a bigger picture of what is going on. He can say certain names or talk about things which I can try to relate to more.” \
Other Marines in attendance also witnessed the benefit of having spouses and family members alike get a closer look at what their Marines do day in and day out.
"Now they can put an image of a vehicle that they have ridden in or a weapon system that they have touched together with the stories we tell them on the weekends and after our training evolutions," said 1st Lt. Robert Frazier. "I think it helps them connect and build a better picture for them. I can only tell her so much, but she can't possibly understand until she gets to physically come out here and experience it."
"I think it is a great opportunity to come out and meet other people, other wives and see what the whole 26th MEU is all about," said Lisa Frazier. "Today helps make the connection between their training and him being gone all the time by meeting all the other Marines he is training with. It helps make the experience a lot easier. Other wives should definitely take this opportunity if they can – to meet other people and see what they do day to day."
26th MEU is half way through its predeployment training cycle. The last land-based training was completed in late June. Next for 26th MEU is Composite Training Unit Exercise, during which MEU Marines will project power ashore from Naval vessels. The MEU's Certification Exercise aboard the ships of Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group will be the last training event before deployment in the fall.
"I think Jane Wayne Day is very important," said Mark Seymon, family readiness officer for BLT 3/8. "It gives them a little bit more of an appreciation for what their husbands are doing. They're not just going off to work, but they're doing something special."