Be all that you can be honey

Joint base Lewis-mcChord – Ashley Mazzetti grinned from ear to ear Friday while she crawled along an Army obstacle course at Joint Base Lewis-McChord wearing a too-big helmet and borrowed fatigues.

She was down in the mud to get a sense of what a day at work is like for her fiancé, Sgt. Mark Smith of Tumwater.

He egged her along through the course, snapping pictures and giving her tips for how to haul her and her teammates over a wooden wall.

“I love a challenge,” Mazzetti, 24, said.

Smith was impressed but saw room for improvement on her next run.

“She’s so small, but it took her a long time to get through those tunnels,” laughed Smith, 28.

His Army infantry unit invited spouses to the training course for its “Jane Wayne Day,” an event intended to build ties between soldiers and their families. It was held on the annual observance of Military Spouse Appreciation Day, designated by President Ronald Reagan in 1984 to fall on the Friday before Mother’s Day.

The 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment is a heavily masculine crew, so there weren’t any “John Waynes” on the course to support their soldier-wives.

The battalion is expected to have its longest stretch of time at home since the war in Iraq began eight years ago. It is part of the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, which has deployed to Iraq three times since 2003. The brigade came home from its last deployment in August, and doesn’t have a combat mission on its calendar.

Lt. Col. Steven Soika, the battalion commander, said the time at home combined with events like Friday’s will help Army spouses build support networks for the next time their significant others are called overseas.

“We have a great opportunity to find a balance and become more resilient,” he said.

Soika’s wife, Jennifer, said she couldn’t wait to hit the course and rappel off a wall. They participated in a similar event at one of their previous duty stations.

She said the activities help spouses feel “like you’re part of a bigger family.”

Amber Alexander, 30, of Puyallup finished the obstacle course and found that she preferred her role in her household. She hustled along a rope course, pulling herself on a track about 15 feet above the ground.

“I thought I was going to fall off,” she said, still flush from the exercise. “It’s hard – a lot of it’s physical. I think I like being a housewife.”

Her husband, 1st Sgt. Aaron Alexander, 30, asked her to take part in the event.

“When we deploy, we have each other. That’s battle-tested support,” he said. “We’re building that support and camaraderie among the wives.”

Adam Ashton: 253-597-8646 adam.ashton@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/military