More than 250 family members from the 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment came out July 2 to smash away stress and anxiety during a “Bring Down the Hammer Night” at the unit’s motorpool in Fort Stewart’s 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team’s compound.
Despite the evening’s intermittent rain, participants lined up for an opportunity to don protective eyewear and gloves while slinging a sledge hammer at two salvaged SUVs to alleviate their stress. The family-friendly event also featured a bounce house, a high-striker challenge and corn-hole games. A homemade Lowcountry boil dinner was also available for purchase.
Capt.. Daniel Evans, the 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment infantry home detachment commander, said that the unit’s family members are almost halfway through a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan. He recognized the need to provide a stress-relieving outlet.
“At this point in the deployment, we recognized the need for families on the home front to participate in a group-therapy session that would also be unique and fun. We wanted to provide them with something they couldn’t do every day,” he said.
Even though military family members have multiple avenues available to improve mental health and wellness — such as Military One Source and Military Life Consultants — Evans said he understands that they still deal with stress and anger that builds over time.
“Some of the most fun childhood memories I have of being an Army brat were during unit-organizational days and static displays on military installations, and I wanted to provide an event that not only helped relieve stress, but got families out of the house and together to socialize and have fun as a group,” he said.
The idea for the event came from a brainstorming session Evans held in his office with other home-detachment soldiers. Plans for the night have been in the works for the past few months and were coordinated by home-detachment soldiers.
The car smashing was the evening’s bit hit. The two SUVs were donated by a local salvage-yard owner who heard about what the unit was putting together.
The windows, headlights and taillights of both vehicles were the first things to get smashed, and the crowd cheered and clapped as pieces of broken glass and plastic flew in all directions. Spectators were kept a safe distance away from the “smashing area,” which was roped off and under cover to protect participants from rain.
Many family members came away from smashing the cars with big smiles. Nicole Smith, the battalion’s senior advisor to the Family Readiness Group, had the smashed one of the car’s windshields. It took a few swings to completely break through the safety glass, but she did some major damage to it.
“Wow, that was awesome. … I’ve never done that before!” she said.
Participants also were given cans of spray paint so they could spray their frustrations on the SUVs before smashing them.
The bounce house was full all evening with children happily bouncing to their hearts’ content. The high striker was a big hit with older children and teenagers who took turns testing their strength and trying to hit a bell. When it wasn’t raining, several families played games of corn hole with their children.
A Lowcountry boil dinner of shrimp, smoked sausage, potatoes and corn was prepared by home-detachment cooks who volunteered their time to put together the meal. The preparation area drew a crowd of people who could smell the food cooking, and a line formed quickly. At the end of the night, they had sold nearly 50 gallons of Lowcountry boil.
“What a blast! The boil was delicious, and being able to smash the windshield was exhilarating! I want to thank all the soldiers who worked so hard to make this happen,” Smith said. She added that she was pleased with the big turnout and happy to have so many families support the event by coming out to have some fun.
Evans said the unit plans to hold a similar event when the unit returns from deployment to allow the soldiers who currently are deployed a chance to participate and relieve some post-deployment stress.