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The life of a Marine

Photo by Avan Clark

Photo by Avan Clark

MCLB-ALBANY -- The rigors experienced by the members of the U.S. Marine Corps is something that is not easily understood by those outside the circle.

A group of 18 women recently got that chance.

Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany held a "Jane Wayne" event Thursday to allow military spouses to get a taste of what their husbands do every day -- which was the first time base officials had provided spouses such an opportunity.

"We are hoping to make this an annual event," said Lt. Col. Donald Finn, director of operations and training at the base.

Before diving into the hands-on activities, the spouses got an idea of what happens when the leathernecks show up at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in Parris Island, S.C.

Upon a recruit's arrival, which is always after sunset, the drill sergeant will yell at them to get off the bus. The Marines stand on the yellow footprints at a 45 degree angle with their fists rolled up and shoulders back. While the Corps' newest members are resisting the urge to move a muscle, the drill sergeant will give a briefing.

"They want us to know what they are going through; they want us to learn more," said Cecilia Hammer, who participated in a similar event when her spouse was stationed in Beaufort, S.C.

"I hope when they do this again more spouses will join."

After getting a taste of that, the spouses donned the flak vest and helmet gear that is often heavy, especially to those not accustomed to wearing it -- and also smells bad to the loved one who has to wash it when their Marine comes off a deployment. From there, they were transported to the first station.

Since the spouses were split into three groups, the stations did their tasks in rotations. The gear was worn in transit from station to station in the Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacements (MTVRs). The first group started things off by trying out the shooting range.

The pistols themselves can pose a challenge to those that have never shot a gun before. Once the magazine is loaded and the safety is taken off, the shooter has to ensure the gun is always pointed downrange and that it is grasped tightly because of its tendency to jump up.

"I don't think a lot of the spouses know what (the Marines) do on a daily routine," said Hospital Corpsman 3 Sadara Coyler, who works with the Navy clinic aboard MCLB-Albany. "It instills trust. Knowledge is power."

The shotguns can be a different beast all together. If it's not positioned right, the shooter will have a bruise and sore shoulder for the next several days.

Despite how painful the lesson might be, Hammer said the knowledge of how to operate a gun may come in handy.

"If your husband is not around, you know what to do," she said. "You can learn to shoot and defend yourself."

Chelsea Hodges said that her spouse, who currently has a desk job aboard the installation, had already taught her to use a gun. Even so, she still appreciates any opportunity to gain more insight into what Marines do.

"I hope to take more of a personal knowledge of what he goes through when he's deployed," she said. "I'm one of those women that gets involved with my husband's career."

The group was also given a taste of a Marine's physical training routine, designed to give a basic idea of a battlefield simulation. During the exercise they were asked to carry an ammunition can in a sprint for several yards, practice a high crawl and a low crawl, zig-zag through cones, practice a fireman's carry and a dead man carry, throw a grenade, zig-zag back and then deliver the ammunition can to the finish line.

"They can get an idea of what kind of training their husbands go through," explained Sgt. Dyren Baldwin. "(The battlefield simulation) is one of the better ways to set up an exercise. If there is chaos going on, a Marine needs to be in shape."

Martial arts demonstrations were also conducted for spouses throughout the day. From the classes conducted on base, one can learn how to disarm someone carrying a knife or a gun. A Marine is expected to do a minimum of three hours a week in martial arts training alongside physical training, which has the same minimal requirement.

Participants were also given an in-depth tour of Maintenance Center Albany. Feleceia Jackson, another one of the participants, said the MCA tour had been the most eye-opening component for her.

"(The tour) was very informative," she said. "I thought it would be fun (to participate in Jane Wayne), and I wanted to see what my husband has experienced.

"I would definitely recommend this to other spouses."

One of Maintenance Center Albany's most recent products was the Mobile Trauma Bay unit, which the command was asked to prototype in March 2009. Even though most expected the unit to take a turnaround time of 73 weeks, the system was ready to be sent to Camp Lejeune for testing that August. There are now units in place in Afghanistan as well as other locations.

Out of the 1,183 personnel aboard MCA, 10 are Marines. In addition to working on some of the bigger equipment, the command also has a small arms shop that maintains and repairs weapons. There are resources available such as upholstery, decal and welding shops in order for the maintenance center's employees to be able to do their jobs.

The spouses were also given a tour of the installation's storage and distribution facilities, where they got a close look at some of the largest vehicles utilized by the Marine Corps. The area currently has 5 million square feet of uncovered space and 1.5 million square feet of covered space. Within that section of the base also sits the largest armory in the Corps.

Before they were given the opportunity to take part in the job of their individual Marine spouses, the participants got to sample Meals Ready to Eat (MREs). All one has to do is take out the plastic bag with the heating device, add a little water along with the food pouch containing the main course, and a complete meal is ready within a matter of minutes. There are enough items in the overall package to make for what would be, for some people, an entire day's worth of calories.

When accounting for the total work force on the installation, civilians outnumber Marines 10-1. Operations at the base have actually gotten more hectic recently since activity has started to wind down in Iraq, officials say.

"We've got a lot of equipment coming back," Finn said.