BLT 1/6 spouses get a taste of shipboard life

2 Nov 2003 | Gunnery Sgt. Keith A. Milks

For the spouses of deployed Marines and Sailors, it is often difficult to visualize their deployed loved one's descriptions of life aboard ship. References to the mess deck, galley, head, a coffin rack, flight deck, upper 'v' and well deck are usually all but lost in translation.However, a group of spouses from the 22d Marine Expeditionary Unit's ground combat element, Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 6th Marines (BLT 1/6), won't have that problem after a visit to Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia.There, they were treated to a tour of ships on which their husbands will deploy early next year; USS WASP, SHREVEPORT, and WHIDBEY ISLAND."The visit should give the wives a hands-on appreciation of what their husbands are dealing with while deployed and living aboard ship," said Navy Lt. John D. Hoke, BLT 1/6 Chaplain.Upon reaching Norfolk, the approx. 30 spouses were divided up according to which ship their husband will deploy aboard and then given a tour of the vessel by members of the ship's crew.The battalion's Key Volunteer (KV) coordinator, Alicia Hill, said the trip should go far in preparing the spouses for the deployment. "They [the spouses] should come away with a better appreciation of the living conditions their husbands will have aboard ship," said Hill, who is married to Gunnery Sgt. Nathaniel Hill, the company gunnery sergeant for Alpha Co., BLT 1/6's designated mechanized company.The upcoming deployment holds a particular sense of uncertainty for the wives of BLT 1/6 Marines. For the past several years, the battalion has regularly deployed to the Far East as part of the Unit Deployment Program (UDP), but has not been with a MEU since the late 1990s, so having their husbands aboard ship will be a new experience."This was an excellent opportunity to answer a lot of questions and put some of the uncertainty about the deployment out of my mind," said Kristi Connolly, whose husband, 1st Lt. John Connolly, is the commander of BLT 1/6's reconnaissance platoon. "It gave me insight as to what he will be going through aboard ship."During the visit to the WASP, for example, the spouses were shown the main areas of the ship including a typical work space, the enlisted mess deck, well deck, vehicle storage, gym, medical, flight deck, enlisted and staff non-commissioned officer (SNCO) berthing, and the ship's bridge.According to Cheryl Khan, wife of BLT 1/6's commanding officer, Lt. Col. Asad A. Khan, the visit to Norfolk did more than just give the wives an idea about life aboard ship, it improved the relationship among those left behind."It gave me the opportunity to meet wives I wouldn't have had otherwise," said Khan, who serves as an KV advisor. "It helps us develop a sense of camaraderie among the wives because in many cases, this is the only chance to get to know one another."The visit to the WASP, SHREVEPORT, and WHIDBEY ISLAND is but one facet of the preparations BLT 1/6 is conducting to ensure its spouses are ready for their husbands' departure. Along with Family Days, monthly meetings of the Key Volunteers, and newsletters from the command, BLT 1/6 hopes to make the difficult job of being a Marine wife a bit easier.In addition to its Command Element and BLT 1/6, the 22d MEU consists of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 266 (Reinforced) and MEU Service Support Group 22. Each of these elements are preparing the families of its Marines and Sailors for the deployment through events similar to those undertaken by BLT 1/6.For more information on the mission, organization, and status of the 22d MEU, visit the unit's web site at
22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit