CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
Carbon and perfume filled the air. Delicate fingers clenched the M249 SAW pistol-grip until the pink and blue fingernails clattered together. The fluorescent-colored nails glimmered as she slowly pulled the trigger. The loud bang resounded through the valley as the round struck an old rusted tank. Like the other shooters before her, when the dust cleared, she stood to allow the next participant a chance to shoot the weapon during the "J. Wayne Day" event held here Feb. 1.
The event offered civilians an opportunity to experience elements of Marine training for a day.
Participants started at Landing Zone 16 where there was a static display that consisted of an exhibition of some of the many weapons and vehicles that Marines use. They also received live demonstrations of fighting tactics used during forward operations.
“I think it’s great that they let us wives have an opportunity to see the kind of equipment our husbands use in the field,” said Nicole Cavanaugh, a military spouse whose husband is currently deployed.
After viewing the vehicles and weapons they walked to the next stop on their journey, the obstacle course.
Kristyn Fleming, an operations assistant with the Armed Services YMCA, volunteered to be among the first participants to face the O-course.
Her muscles tensed as she scratched and clawed her way over a hurdle. She squeezed her abdomen tightly to help her legs as she swung her feet upward toward a metal pole. She then slid her way to a wooden plank. After planting her feet firmly to keep her balance, she then shuffled across huge logs to a wooden wall standing almost her height. She sprinted toward the wall, leapt as far and as high as she could and scaled it by digging her feet into cracks large enough for only the toe of her shoe to fit in.
“The O-course was awesome because I felt like I’d overcome fears I didn’t know I had,” said Fleming. “Even though I was nervous, there were a lot of Marines there to help me get through the obstacles, and they really made the whole experience fun.”
Next, the group rode buses to the Explosive Ordinance Disposal museum and learned the importance of awareness in combat zones where improvised explosive devises might be present.
“It was scary. I still can’t believe how many different types of explosives can be made by so many different things,” said Cavanaugh. “Learning that IED’s can be hidden so effectively and in so many objects was a real eye opener.”
As they continued their day in the life of a Marine, they reached range 407 where they fired the M9 pistol, M16 A2 service rifle and even the M249 SAW.
“The whole experience was really exciting since I’d never fired a weapon before in my life,” said Fleming. “Not only was it my first time shooting but I got to shoot four or five different weapons, and the machine gun was definitely my favorite.”
As the event came to a close and the sun began to set, everyone gathered on benches at the range and Col. Michael Cordero, commanding officer of Headquarters and Support Battalion here, took a moment to address the participants and facilitators.
“This event really knocked my socks off,” said Cordero. “The professional and positive attitude, cooperation and teamwork of all in attendance really made this event something to be remembered.”
Contact Cpl. Christopher Duncan at Christopher.firstname.lastname@example.org