Patty Warmbrodt, of Fenton, provides her son, Pvt. Matt Warmbrodt, with a cooling shower after he completed the obstacle course during RSP Family Day at the Festus National Guard Armory. (Bill Phelan photo)
FESTUS, Mo. - Patty Warmbrodt, of Fenton, grimaced as she watched her son, Pvt. Matt Warmbrodt, work his way through an obstacle course Saturday at the Festus National Guard Armory.
"This isn't the path I would have chosen for Matt," she said. "It looks really hard. But we need people to protect our country and I'm proud of him for that."
Warmbrodt was one of several hundred moms, dads, sisters, brothers and girlfriends to attend Family Day at the Festus armory, an annual event that gives Families and friends of National Guard Soldiers a chance to watch their loved ones go through drill. Amid shouts of encouragement, about 60 G Company Soldiers of the Guard's Recruit Sustainment Program completed an obstacle course, performed a land navigation exercise, rappelled down an 18-foot tower and assaulted a position.
For many of the Soldier's relatives and friends, Family Day is an eye-opening event.
"This is pretty cool," said Bob Copeland, of High Ridge, the father of Pvt. Zachary Copeland, who was joined by his wife, Karen. "It's great to be able to see what your child is going through. It's clear that Zach loves this."
"This is a great experience," added Colin Rumpsa, of Oakville, the father of Pvt. Taylor Ann Rumpsa. "I wish everyone could do this."
The Recruit Sustainment Program gives new National Guard recruits a real taste of Army life before they attend Army basic training, schooling Soldiers on military drill and protocol.
And while RSP Family Day is designed for fun, organizers hope it will also provide some piece of mind for Soldiers' relatives.
"We have to have the support of Soldiers' Family members," explained Master Sgt. Bradley Kohler, the Guard's senior noncommissioned recruiting officer in the St. Louis area. "We have to show them what benefits military service has and how it will enhance their loved one's lives. For some of these 17-year olds, military service can be a shock. Recruit Sustainment prepares these Soldiers for what they will encounter at basic training; that your grandmother isn't going to be there to pick up your socks."
For many parents, Family Day is a solidifying factor in their offspring's decision to volunteer for military service.
"This gives me piece of mind because I know what (Taylor) will experience later on," said Anita Rumpsa. "There's no question my daughter is in good hands."
"Most people have no idea what goes on in military training," added Patty Warmbrodt. "We only know what we see on television."
In some cases, parents are so inspired by watching their children go through drill, they want to join in.
"I swear of I didn't have a graduation party to go to later today, I'd crawl through the mud pit," said Karen Copeland.
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