MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
More than 50 family members of Marines with 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, stepped into their Marines’ boots for a day during the unit’s Family Fire Exercise Oct. 26.
The event allowed the families to experience a small part of their Marines’ everyday life on the range. Unlike a Jane Wayne Day, the event was open to more than just the spouses.
“Our audience was the entire family. We wanted this to be all inclusive for all the family, not just spouses,” said Debra Lopez, family readiness officer, 3/11. “That’s kind of been our focus. How we can expand the family readiness program beyond just the spouses. The program is about the Marines, and who is important to that Marine.”
Families showed up to the Combat Center’s Sunset Cinema early Friday morning for a brief on their day. While some dressed in civilian attire, others borrowed their Marines’ desert camouflage blouse to fit the role they’d be playing the rest of the day.
“It’s pretty cool,” said Ashley M. Bryan, wife Sgt. Christopher Bryan, motor transport operator, 3/11. “The spouses get to know what’s going on and don’t have to harass them at home to find out.”
After their brief, everyone loaded up into several 7-Ton trucks and made the trip to Range 113, where 3/11 Marines had set up several events for the families.
The families were given a class on weapons safety and then were put on the firing line with M16 or M4 service rifles and a magazine filled with 30 rounds. They unloaded their magazines down range, round by round.
“It was fun, a good experience,” said Regina Aleman, wife of Sgt. Christopher Aleman, ordnance chief, 3/11. “I got to shoot an M16 and it was actually really heavy.”
For many of them, it was their first time shooting a rifle. Some found a hidden talent, while other realized shooting was harder than they had expected.
From the firing line, family members cycled through different stations, resting at the bleachers with their pre-packaged military rations. They also used night vision goggles to navigate through a small obstacle course set inside a blacked out tent.
The Family Fire Exercise ended with a bang. After cycling through, they packed up and headed to the main event in the field — the live battery shoot.
Marines with 3/11 had gone out into the field the night before and set up their M777 Howitzers on the gun line as well as several static displays. They took pictures taking a position in the fighting holes with machine guns and were instructed on several other aspects of the battalion, such as the vehicles and the Fire Direction Control Center.
The FDCC gave several family members the chance to call “Fire” over the communication systems.
Once the call for fire was made, the families stepped aside and watched as the gun line erupted into a fury of smoke and gun powder. The Marines quickly loaded up the Howitzer and awaited the loud cry of “Fire.” When the loud boom was heard, smiles came across the faces of family members.
“I didn’t even know what to expect,” Aleman said. “It was so loud my ears were like, ‘oh.’”
However, what most family members looked forward to was seeing the Howitzers up close. They were led onto the firing line, where they learned about the weapon system and its different types of ammunition.
The family members left the field with a better understanding of their Marines’ everyday lives.
“I think they are really tough,” Aleman said. “I could not do this every day and for them to be able to do this for a month straight, it’s crazy.”