MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- The high-pitched whine of the turbine engine of an M1A1 Abrams tank filled the air as it moved around an obstacle course. The 70-ton behemoth moved deftly up steep hills and around tight corners.
As it came around the final bend, an unusual sight appeared in the gunners turret. A distinctly female arm, definitely not belonging to any of the four man crew that normally operates the tank, began waving in true beauty pageant fashion. As the tank rolled to a stop, the excited female gunner exited through the top, and then reached down to pull her companion, another woman out of the loaders seat.
On this day the sight of two women crewing a tank wasn’t unusual at all though.
Marines from 2nd Tank Battalion, 2nd Marine Division and their wives took part in the unit’s annual Jane Wayne Day here June 9. The event is designed to give the wives of Marines an idea of the daily life of their husband.
“I’m having a blast,” said Stacey N. Sprenz, the wife of GySgt. Mark A. Sprenz, who is currently deployed to Iraq. “It’s nice to be able to see what they do, to be the Marine for the day.”
The Marines went all out in their efforts to display what their job entails to their wives. They had static displays set up of machine guns, tanks, amphibious assault vehicles supplied by 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion, and tank extractors supplied by 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion.
“It’s been really fun,” said Tabitha M. White, the wife of Cpl. Nathan G. White. “ I liked the whole display, the 50. Cal was really cool.”
The wives were also provided an opportunity to ride aboard an M1A1 Abrams tank and an AAV.
“My favorite was riding in the tanks,” said Sprenz, a 34-year-old from Kansas City, Mo. “I was amazed at how small they really were inside and how many buttons and levers they had.”
The highlight of the day for many wives was the pistol and rifle ranges. Every wife was given the opportunity to fire the M9 service pistol and the M16A4 service rifle.
“The wives had a chance to get behind a weapons system and squeeze a couple rounds off,” said 1st Lt. Mark H. Toone, 30, from Pocatello, Idaho. “This took two or three months of planning to come together, but it has gone excellent.”
For many wives it was their first time firing a weapon, an experience that was “very fun, exciting, and scary,” according to Erin M. Nagle, the wife of Sgt. Anthony F. Nagle.
As the festivities drew to a close Maj. Shawn S. Farrington, a 38-year-old from Napa, Calif. reemphasized the goal for the day, to provide the wives with a greater understanding of their husbands job.
“Our major goal was for the wives to see what their husbands do,” he added. “We brought them to a range we commonly use for training and gave the Marines a chance to show off what they do. The biggest thing is that this is important to do for family readiness, with the amount of deployments we do, this will help bring the families closer together.”