3/11 families see green side at ‘Warrior Day’

14 Oct 2005 | Lance Cpl. Brian A. Tuthill

“STANDBY!” She pulls the lanyard taut as she awaits the command to fire. “FIRE!” With the other end connected to a M777 155 mm lightweight howitzer ready to fire, she pulls the lanyard, sending a high explosive round down range with an earth-shaking explosion, its impact visible on a nearby mountain as a cloud of smoke and dust.For Yolitzen Jackson, this was part of a day of fun in the field with her husband, Sgt. Gary Jackson, as part of 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment’s “Warrior Day” Oct. 14th.More than 80 family members gathered at Del Valle Field here for the event and were greeted by a static display of howitzers, communications equipment, vehicles and small arms, as well as words of welcome from the battalion’s Marines and Sailors.“This is a day that gets families together and gives them a chance to see how their Marines perform on a day-to-day basis and it gives them a little insight into what the military life is like for their spouse,” said Maj. Neil Owens, executive officer, 3/11. “They know what it’s like when their spouse deploys, but they may not understand what it is that they do out there, and that’s what this is about.”It was not long before the crowd donned protective vests and kevlar helmets and boarded buses and trucks for a short, albeit dusty, ride out to the Prospect training area; they were met by the rocking blasts of artillery fire.“This was really interesting for me because I’ve always wondered what my husband actually does in the field so it was good to see,” said Jackson. “It was hot wearing all the gear out there, though.” The guests were broken down into three groups with different stations each would cycle through: the operations and firing of the M198 howitzer; shooting M16A4 service rifles, M249 squad automatic weapons (both with blank ammunition) and throwing practice hand grenades; and the firing of the M777, which six guests of each group were allowed to fire.“I got really excited about this,” said Jackson. “My favorite part of the day was firing the big guns off. It was kind of scary, though, they are really loud.”Although only a few were able to fire the howitzers, most of the guests who were not able to pull the lanyards still said it was a rewarding experience just watching.“We only had six rounds to fire for each of our groups, but just to have the opportunity to get out there, see how it works, get up close and be able to ask the Marines questions was great for them,” said Owens. “So even if they did not get a chance to fire, they still could see how it all comes together.”After the munitions were depleted, the families again loaded up and headed out, soon returning to Del Valle field where music and a barbecue lunch awaited them.“I thought it was really cool and I had a lot of fun out here,” said Gabriel Montoya, 14, who plans to join the Marine Corps when he is old enough. “This was my first time doing this and I got to fire a howitzer, throw grenades, see how the guns work. I also got to fire a SAW with the blanks in it.”“I really hope I can do it again,” said Montoya.For both the battalion and visitors, the day’s events were viewed as a success, said Owens. “Kilo Battery did a great job performing in the field for us as usual and I think it was a very successful day overall,” said Owens. “Everyone had a really good time. It was a great opportunity and all of the wives and families really had fun out there. And that was what it was all about.”
Headquarters Marine Corps