AAAA Family Forum / By Janelle L. Bradford, Ed.D.: The he sun rises and sets across the Mojave Desert, as UH-72 Lakotas, UH-60 Blackhawks and MQ-1C Gray Eagle UAVs dot the sky, completing missions across the majestic and wild expanse.
Spouses from the 2916th Aviation Battalion gather for a January social. Raptor gatherings serve as a valuable opportunity to welcome new spouses to the unit and Fort Irwin community. /PHOTO BY JENNY SANTOS
Fort Irwin, CA is home to approximate-ly 25,000 Soldiers, civilians, contractors and family members who support the mission of the National Training Center (NTC). NTC receives an average of 10 Rotational Training Units (RTUs) each year. The RTUs descend on the desert to conduct tough and realistic operations designed to ensure combat readiness of Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs) and other enabler units.
Capabilities of the 2916th Aviation BN
An essential asset to the premiere training environment is the 2916th Aviation Battalion (BN). The 2916th supports air movement, air assault, aero-medical evacuation, aerial attack and re-connaissance. Raptor assets are allocated across five crucial companies, each with a unique identity and purpose. A and B Company maintain UH-60 and UH-72 aircraft at Barstow Daggett Airfield more than 30 miles from Fort Irwin. C Co and HHC oversee MEDEVAC and administrative resources in the Fort Irwin footprint. B/229 is an MQ-1C Gray Eagle company operating at Goldstone Airfield. As highlighted by Natasha Perry, spouse of MAJ Perry, Commander of C Co, “From ferrying VIPs to remote locations, battle simu-lations and support and MEDEVAC”, the Raptor team relentlessly provides exceptional aerial coverage.
Raptor Families Support Each Other and Their Community
The Raptor family is engaged and valued throughout the Fort Irwin community. Despite the physical separa-tion between some Soldiers and fam-ily members living and operating from Barstow / Daggett, and others tucked away at Fort Irwin, the unit facilitates a cohesive identity and fosters mutual support amongst families. Spouses serve in the civilian and active duty workforce, volunteer in the schools, contribute to local organizations, coach youth sports, pursue education goals, serve on com-mittees, support religious services, or-ganize fundraisers, participate in Soldier and Family Readiness Group activities, and seek opportunities to improve the quality of life at NTC and MCLB. Ol-ivia Templeton, spouse of 1SG Temple-ton of B/229, stated the 2916th “is spe-cial because of its diversity among the units… the way they are all integrated makes this place extremely unique.”
Cultivating a Positive Perspective
Living at the National Training Center affords special adventures and novel chal-lenges. When prompted to share positive aspects of living in the Fort Irwin com-munity, one spouse stated, “the very diverse set of spouse-owned small business-es…has been a lifesaver”. From profes-sional photography, to balloon and flower arrangements, to gourmet food and des-serts, talented Fort Irwin spouses deliver! Raptor spouses agree, the short commute time, predictable rotational schedule, and close-knit community enhances the desert experience. Family members ex-press appreciation that children have safe places to play and explore, and the varied on-post extracurricular activities benefit young children and families.
When asked about the NTC battle rhythm, unit missions and impact on families, 2916th spouses offer valuable insights. Natasha Perry indicated de-spite the initial adjustment to a demand-ing mission schedule; the predictability has been great. CPT Perry states, “it’s good to know when we can see family or take road trips”. While spouses agree the high op-tempo can be stressful and feel unrelenting at times, the predictable schedule offers families something to look forward to. Olivia Templeton ex-plains, “Fort Irwin is within 2-3 hours of great destinations like Las Vegas, Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, Six Flags and Universal Studios, and Sea World…Families can make the most of four-day and other free weekends”.
As Soldiers and spouses gear up for another series of rotations at NTC, one seasoned 2916th spouse acknowledged that despite challenges associated with the isolated location, “It’s a great com-munity of people who care”. Olivia Templeton offers further encouragement to Soldiers and families headed to the Mojave, “Fort Irwin can truly be an awe-some experience if you are open to it.”
Janelle offers her appreciation to the many spouses (named and unnamed) who contributed to this article as well as to Bethany Moreshead and Jenny Santos the 2916th Avn. Bn. Senior Advisors.
Janelle Bradford has an Ed.D. in Educa-tional Leadership, an MA in Counseling Psychology and is the spouse of COL Ken-neth Bradford, Cdr., 916th Support Brigade, NTC and their SFRG Advisor; she offers her appreciation to the many spouses (named and unnamed) who contributed to this article as well as to Bethany Moreshead and Jenny Santos the 2916th Avn. Bn. Senior Advisors.