Originally published April 9, 2012
As I sat on the edge of the pool with my boot-clad feet dangling in the water, wet from the large army flight suit covering my body, and my head numb from the weight of the flight helmet on my head, I realized what my husband must have felt before jumping feet first into the pool. This was "dunker" training at Ft. Rucker and I was about to swim 20 meters underwater through a contraption that represented a submerged aircraft.
I was there for Aviation Spouse Day, a program sponsored by senior leadership at Ft. Rucker which gives us the opportunity to see first-hand what this training is like. I participated in the rigorous course because my husband serves in the Georgia Army National Guard and is presently attending flight school in Ft. Rucker, Ala. Like some of you, I have never had the opportunity to see what my husband actually does at work. He goes to work and he comes home, but what happens in between is a mystery.
While in flight school, our soldiers go through extensive mental and physical training before they even step foot into an aircraft. With my daily physical activities, I was confident that I would survive any fitness scenarios. So for just one day, I got to step out of my Public Health heels and into a pair of Army combat boots. I was mentally and physically ready for the experience.
My day began around 7:30 a.m., when we were given a safety briefing and then split into four different groups with a schedule. Each group was given different starting points and would rotate activities until all were completed.
One group would complete the dunker training while another would participate in the Leaders Reaction Course, which is a team-building event where spouses are given tools to help them get through an obstacle. The objective was to work as a team to accomplish the task within the five minute timeframe.
The other two groups would proceed to facilities that housed shooting simulators, where spouses were able to simulate firing M-16s and other weapons, and experience the flight simulators.
In the flight simulators, we were hands-on again as we flew aircraft such as the Blackhawk and Chinook helicopters. We were shown different scenarios that flight students have to endure, which include day, night and instrument flight procedures.
At the end of the Aviation Spouse Day, we were presented a certificate and our own set of Aviation Wings.
After surviving this training, I was mentally and physically exhausted, but filled with pride by the fact that I completed this training. I survived this wonderful work experience because of my daily fitness regimen and my commitment to being physically and mentally ready in my job in public health.
This aviation experience helped me to appreciate my soldier even more. The next time I see Blackhawk or Chinook helicopters, I will know that that pilot is ready for the flight!