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May 28, 2010
By Sheryl Nix, Fort Wainwright PAO

FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska 00 For Soldiers of the 5th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, it was just another day at the office. But for their family members, 5-1st's family range day was anything but ordinary.

Approximately 70 spouses and children attended the squadron event May 20 at the Yukon Training Area approximately 20 miles south of Fort Wainwright. Families caught a glimpse of what a Blackhawk Soldier experiences during a typical workday at the range.

"We have the squadron out here doing gunnery training with training on weapon systems - everything from the M4, which is the Soldier's individual weapon, up to the weapon systems that we have mounted on our Strykers," said Lt. Col. David Raugh, commander, 5-1st. "We want an opportunity to show our families, who are as much a part of the squadron as our troopers are, what we're actually doing. So we're going to show them in detail what their Soldiers are training on out here. Today what I would like to see is all the family members both get a chance to understand what it's like in the day of a trooper out at gunnery as well as have a good time."

The family range day broke up the two weeks that 5-1st Soldiers spent in the field and was designed not only to benefit families, but Soldiers, too.

"We have determined that if you don't have a family who is supportive of a Soldier, (he's) not able to concentrate on what's going on downrange. So what this enables him to do hopefully, is to gain the support of his family so he can keep his head on a swivel whenever he's downrange and not have to worry about what's going on back in the rear," Raugh explained.

The goal of the event was also to instill pride and confidence in family members, showing them that their Soldiers have an important job to do and do it with excellence, he said.

"We did not shut down the training that's going on just because we're bringing families out here. I think it's important for families to actually see this is what training looks like. So this isn't a staged event for them by any means. We're showing them the real deal," Raugh said.

Soldiers demonstrated techniques in a practical shoot course, which simulated a combat environment during which they shot targets over, under and around obstacles. The demonstration was a realistic picture of what Soldiers will likely see during a deployment, Raugh said.

Some of the most popular family range day events were the three-room shoot house and weapons firing. Family members posed as combatants and noncombatants as Blackhawk Soldiers searched a mock three-room structure, demonstrating how to enter and clear a building. Spouses like Marissa Lawton, wife of Sgt. Joshua Lawton, C Troop, 5-1st, 1-25th SBCT, jumped at the chance to be a Soldier for the moment, brandish an M4 and move through three rooms with a team.

It was great," she said. "I've never done anything like this before and it was pretty cool to get to see what my husband does."

Spc. Marques Littles, A Troop, 5-1st, 1-25th SBCT, said teaching his wife how to properly handle and operate an M4 was a break from his normal duties. "I think it's a great experience," he said. "I tell her all the time, but she didn't understand."

Melanie Littles agreed. "It's one thing to explain it and another to experience it," she said. "I definitely have a better understanding of what he does. I can see why he's tired after doing this all day. I'm exhausted just from doing this for a few hours."

This was exactly the goal of the family range day, said Command Sgt. Maj. Joseph McFarlane, 5-1st command sergeant major.

"Having family days like this helps the spouses understand exactly what their Soldier goes through. So if the Soldier comes home from work or comes in from the field and talks about things, (this experience) helps the spouse understand exactly what he's going through," he said.

Families also gathered to watch a video highlighting the week's training and tour static displays of different types of Stryker vehicles. Another popular event was the Stryker ride, allowing groups of family members to put themselves in their Soldiers' seats during a short ride around the training area.

While demonstrating realistic training to families was the goal, having children and spouses on a range did require some extra safety measures and Raugh said the squadron took every precaution to ensure absolute safety during the event so families could simply enjoy the experience and have a good time.

At the end of the day after families experienced a bit of a day in the life of a trooper, the message from squadron leaders was a message of gratitude for what families do every day and how they support their Soldiers.

"These Soldiers are truly America's treasure," McFarlane said. "And they could not do what they do without you."