MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS Calif. --
From the instant spouses of Marines say “I do,” the full Marine Corps marriage package of deployments, formations, meetings, late nights, field operations, rank structure and an entirely new world of order and discipline hit them like a tidal wave.
One event designed to provide them with a guiding light to surviving as a military spouse is the Lifestyle Insights Networking Knowledge Skills Combined Armed Exercise.
The L.I.N.K.S. CAX is a day-long program where military husbands and wives come to learn and experience a little of what their active duty significant others experience on a day-to-day basis.
Third Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, sponsored a L.I.N.K.S. CAX day for Marine wives on Oct. 29 at Felix Field and the dry lake bed near the physical fitness test course.
To start the day, the Combat Center band made an appearance, and the national colors were presented as the national anthem rang out across the field. This helped the women understand what to do when observing a colors ceremony and why their husbands stand at attention or salute, said Amber Bilderan, the Combat Center L.I.N.K.S. administrative assistant. “It’s good for them to see in person what to do.”
The wives also learned about rank structure, Corps history, installation programs available to them, especially those that occur during their husbands’ deployments.
“I was amazed at where the blood stripe came from,” said Cathy Piddock, wife of Lt. Col. Bob Piddock, 3rd Bn., 4th Marines’ commanding officer. “I never knew that.”
Games also helped the women better understand how things work on the installation. One included several stations, each representing a certain building or organization on the installation. The women were given scenarios common to military families and played out where to go for each.
“For a lot of spouses, they are [hands-on] learners,” Bilderain said. “It’s hard to really know what is explained to you until you’ve actually gone through it.”
The women also tackled a challenge common to Marines – an obstacle course. However, they were not faced with the traditional wood course their husbands are so familiar with. They had no problem revealing their inner child competing on a colorful, blowup version of the course.
“It was a good time to get out and do something silly,” said Samantha Novak, wife of Petty Officer Matt Novak, a corpsman with 3rd Bn., 4th Marines.
For afternoon chow, the women experienced Meals, Ready to Eat, getting a literal taste of their husbands’ time in the field.
For the final event, the women were issued helmets and flak jackets, loaded into a 7-ton-truck, and headed out to a dry lake bed for a mock artillery demonstration.
The Marines took the women through the stages of firing, from the initial command to loading and firing the M777-A2 Lightweight 155-mm howitzer.
“It’s fantastic,” Piddock said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for the ladies to come out and see what our Marines are doing. I just wish we could blast something.”
The wives now also have a better understanding of what their Marines do to accomplish their mission.
“I had no idea what they do [overseas],” Novak said. “To find out [and see] what they actually do is really fun and interesting.”
A ceremonial cake cutting, imitating the Marine Corps Birthday tradition, rounded out the day. The women married the most and least amount of time cut the cake together, much in the same way the oldest and youngest Marines present at a cake cutting ceremony would.
“It’s been a tradition through the L.I.N.K.S. program since it started,” Bilderain said. “It’s the passing of knowledge and information.”
Participants of the L.I.N.K.S. CAX event leave even more inspired by the job their Marines do on an everyday basis.
“One of the participants told me, ‘These young Marines have the biggest responsibility in the world. The responsibility they hold as young Marines is so admirable, I just wish America could see what they do every day. This is something America should see,’” Bilderain said.
For more information on the L.I.N.K.S. program or to learn how to get involved, contact the Combat Center’s L.I.N.K.S. at 830-1696.