Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Jane Wayne Day: A softer Marine Corps tradition (Part 1)

Note: This is the second installment of a 3-part series about my four days in Okinawa. At the bottom of this post is the link for the third installment.

After being married to my Marine for nearly 14 years, I finally had the opportunity to participate in my first Jane Wayne Day.
G.I. Jessica
This is a tradition in the U.S. Marine Corps of allowing Marines' significant others (usually female significant others) to try their hands, bodies and minds at being a Marine for a day. Because the spouse's squadron headquarters is in Okinawa, two MACS-4 Det. B (the spouse's unit) spouses, Amy and Nilce (pronounced Nil-see) and I headed to the island for the event. If you haven't already, you can read my blog post about flying Space A on a C-130 here. We got the full Marine experience.

On Thursday morning, the three of us from Iwakuni woke up at the crack of 7:30 a.m. to be ready for our ride to arrive at the hotel and get us at 8:30 a.m. for the 9 a.m. event. Yes, we were really pushing the early morning envelope. My night owl self was appreciative and I made sure to drink some very strong iced tea quickly so I would not offend my two roommates unnecessarily. Necessary offenses are one thing, unnecessary ones are another. Here we are, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, in our husbands' gear... except for Amy... she is a former Marine. Cheater.

Left to right: Nilce, me and Amy.
Snapped this shot for the spouse. He SO wishes he could have been there to see my participation in Jane Wayne Day.
We had been briefed the week before regarding the schedule of events. We were getting a little taste of everything, including mess hall food for lunch.

The thing I was most looking forward to: The boot camp experience. I wasn't sure how I would react to getting yelled at repeatedly for no real reason. Or even for a real reason. I know the spouse avoids screaming at me... for good reason. The thing I was least looking forward to: The obstacle course. I am more fluffy than athletic, and I avoid pain whenever possible. I knew I was going to get hurt on the obstacle course, the question was: how badly?

But first, some more photo opps...

Badass me. The spouse commented on Facebook that he liked this one.

The MACS-4 mission. Do not ask me to explain this jargon to you. I would fail miserably.
 First things first... they made sure we signed our lives away to keep the lawyers happy.

The MACS-4 commanding officer, Lt. Col. Barry, welcomed us and let us know we are appreciated as USMC spouses. And then the real fun began...

Fun that required Kevlar and Flak, my new best friends. Kevlar protects the head, Flak, the upper body. Hello, boys. Here are all the pairs of Kevlar and Flak lined up, ready to go:

My Kevlar and Flak, especially the Flak, was stained and dirty and just... gross. I had a true "Jane" moment when I grasped the Flak in my acrylic-finger-nail-tipped hands and asked the Marine who handed it to me, "Mine has a big stain on the back. Don't you guys ever clean this stuff?" Turns out, as the Marine was quick to inform me (but in a friendly way, with a smile) that that particular Flak jacket had gotten him safely through two tours in Afghanistan. Oops... open mouth, insert foot. Well, crap. Sorry, dude. Give me that dirty Flak. It should keep me safe through the obstacle course then, right?

Before I knew how to wear the Kevlar properly.

Once we donned our day's apparel, it was time to meet the truck people, otherwise known as Motor T. The Flak and Kevlar weren't just for the "experience," apparently. Per the lawyers, or some other safety code, we were required to wear them any time we stepped foot in to our chariot, which was a 7-ton truck. Everyone called it a 7-ton, but the Marines were sure to tell us what it was really called, which was about 7 words long and came with it's own acronym. I'm sorry, I did not commit it to memory, but I am sure you could Google it of you care enough. I do not. Below is the 7-ton as we were loaded in to it. A step stool and a ladder were required.

Apparently, each 7-ton full of civilian women comes with its own two Marines assigned as babysitters. They made sure to sit closest to the open back end of the truck so none of us spouses got the bright idea to try to escape at any time.

Peace... because I really don't want to have to do this more than a day. Hopefully I'm too old and too female to ever be drafted. And I finally learned how to wear my Kevlar properly.
Each 7-ton full of civilian women also comes with its own humvee ambulance and medic, following closely behind. Good news for me if my Flak doesn't hold its luck.

First up, the Boot Camp Experience. It sounds like something Disney might host. But, instead it was a former drill instructor (the guys looking at the camera below) who did the honors:

He is actually a really nice guy, but he did single me out for persecution because I found the whole thing amusing and couldn't stop smiling. I did not get photos of the Boot Camp Experience or the Obstacle Course because I was participating. The Part 2 of this blog post will come when I get photos taken by others. I also heard rumors of a video...

I did get hurt on the obstacle course as expected. I landed wrong in the rubber pieces meant to soften the course after sliding across a waist-high log and twisted my ankle, but was able to walk it off. I also, with a little boost, climbed over a shoulder-high wooden wall, but managed to bruise my arm in the process. I like to say the wall fought back, but I won.

After the Obstacle Course was MCMAP. Nope, not lunch at McDonald's, but Marine Corps Martial Arts. Rodney is actually a black belt, so I got to see some of the ground fighting he has endured to earn that belt. All I knew about it before from him was bruises and whining. The Marine in charge of our demonstration made it in to a bit of a self-defense class, too. Watch out... my wedding ring set is a weapon!

I tired to tell Nilce that smiling when kicking someone is just... wrong.

Amy knew the moves... but she's tiny. I think I could take her. Even if she does know how to kill someone with a napkin.

This move was the most fun. We were encouraged to try it on our children when they misbehave.

I noticed that the women, myself included, kept apologizing when we accidentally hit or kicked something other than the pad. That was really dumb and jus goes to show how we've been brainwashed to behave. I am sure these guys have experienced worse, probably just warming up for our arrival. And I doubt any of the Marines apologized.

After MCMAP was lunch... and I was definitely hungry by this time! Cafeteria food is not my favorite, but, really, the selections weren't bad.

My lunch. I ate everything.
While we ate, the MACS-4 Sergeant Major read to us (famous Marine...?) Sergeant Major Dougherty's words about the culture of the Marine Corps... it is the one U.S. military branch that recruits people specifically to fight. Think you misread that? You didn't. All the other branches promise kinder, gentler things. You can read it for yourself here. Pretty motivating if you're in to that sort of thing. And I'm competitive, so I am.

After the Sgt.Maj. motivated us and got us shouting "ooh-rah" and "semper fi"(on the inside... he didn't make us do it out loud, although that would have been fun) it was time to play with some firearms. Do not say "guns." Someone will yell at you for that.

So, we got to play with the weapons... without any bullets. What?! No fair! Well, it turns out that the firing range is an hour away from the base we were on, so we had to try our hand at "imaginary" shooting with "imaginary" bullets (I am not supposed to call them bullets, either, but can't remember what I AM supposed to call them... rounds, maybe?)

24 pounds of weapon. I thought of you, Dad.
Fortunately, we got to try a shooting range simulator. Of course, I got the gun that only registered 1 of my 3 shots, but it was nearly a bullseye, so I'll take it.

Next up: To see what our husbands actually do when they go to "work." MACS-4 basically makes it so planes can take off and land safely, and directs our planes to the bad guys. And there is a lot involved in that: Air traffic controllers (that is what my spouse, Rodney, does), technicians to fix and maintain the equipment, communications people (think of the telephone and Internet companies, only entirely mobile in a desert somewhere). and people to forecast the weather. Seriously. I guess Weather.com isn't good enough. But, so far, in my experience, the Marine Corps weather people haven't been any more accurate than the TV forecaster people. Just sayin'.

So what you have below are trucks and towers. Starting from the left, we've got a mobile air traffic control (ATC) radar truck. Watch the movie Pushing Tin and then imagine the blip screen things inside a humvee. The photo below the one below shows what it looks like inside. Then you have a water tower looking thing. That is another kind of radar. Then you have radar on a truck, costing about $8 million, then, last, you have a mobile air traffic control tower that can be built in a matter of hours.

The good news is most of these vehicles are air conditioned... but not for the Marines. It's to keep the electronics cool. Whatever, as long as I have A/C, I don't care why I have it.

Rodney said he has worked out of a truck like the one below, a tower on the back of a humvee. It's not very high, but in the desert I'm sure it is better than being on the ground.

Because I could. ;)
Next up: Dog fighting. Well, not really. It is a police dog demonstration. Fortunately, none of us had to volunteer to be the "suspect." The dog squad brought their own volunteer. The woman on the left below was the Kennel Master and she showed us the protective pants and arm sling. The arm thing wasn't as heavy as I would have thought.

Then it was time for the demonstration. They kept us behind a chain link fence because it was "safer." I had zero problems with that. I like dogs and want to keep liking dogs. But these dogs were very well trained and didn't rush the fence once. They are bred in Germany and bond with their handlers... until the Marine handler has to PCS (permanent change of station... move to another base), and then they bond with the next Marine. The kennel master said personalities have a lot to do with whether a dog will bond with a particular Marine or not.

The dogs will never have their handler be the "suspect" for them.

After the dog demo (and those dog squad Marines came out on their day off to do the demo for us... thank you), it was time to see the communications part of the squadron. It has an acronym; it's "TACO" misspelled.

They set up a tent to show us what remote, mobile operations would look like. My husband thinks it was missing some sand. The guy with the head phones tells our planes where the other aircraft in the airspace (up to 300 miles or so) is, as needed. Basically, he watches his iPad to find multiple bogies. Just kidding. Sort of. I asked him if he gets to say "bogies" and he said "sometimes." Apparently bogies are only one of dozens of different classifications of enemy and friendly aircraft. There is a whole matrix of identification that is pretty complicated. Top Gun did not explain that well.

In real life, there would be all sorts of tables, people and equipment in this tent.

Bogie Man and a Marine impersonating a pilot so we could hear how a "call" would sound. Lots of acronyms, numbers and jargon. Something was "tight." That's all I remember.

This truck was so top secret that they checked my camera to make sure I had not taken a picture of the inside of it... I had not.
A portable radar... this fits in the back of a 7-ton truck. The fence-looking dish part on top actually fits inside the box it is mounted on. What a fun puzzle to try and figure out.

This radar on the truck below is larger and more expensive than the one above. It takes three 7-ton trucks to move it. And when it is parked, it has a gorgeous view of the ocean.

And, last but not least, We headed back to the conference room for snacks and the graduation ceremony. Ooh-rah, semper fi, and all that. And the ambulance humvee wasn't used once. Score one for the spouses!

I would like to thank all of the MACS-4 Marines who took the time to make this event so much fun. It was very well organized and I loved how each Marine we were introduced to showed pride in his or her job and were eager to share what they do with us. Additionally, thank you to the Okinawa spouses who welcomed the Iwakuni spouses with open arms, and were friendly and kind each time we saw them. You were a class act. This Jane Wayne Day is an experience I will never forget.

Click here for the third and final installment.

No comments: