Army displays draw crowds at Armed Forces Day event
May 18, 2009
By Carroll Kim
ANDREWS AIR FORCE BASE, Md. (Army News Service, May 18, 2009) -- The Army displayed technology, community and opportunity this weekend at the 57th annual Joint Service Open House at Andrews Air Force Base, Md.
The Golden Knights Parachute Demonstration Team, the 82nd Airborne Division, recruiters and the Virtual Army Experience were only a few of the groups that were involved in the open house, May 15-17, which highlighted each branch of the armed forces.
The event gave Soldiers an opportunity to talk with members of the community and be among other servicemembers.
"It's fun to be in an environment where all of the branches are shown equally," said George Munro of the Army Virtual Experience team.
The Army Virtual Experience was a new addition to the event. The 25-minute simulator put participants on a virtual mission to reopen a supply route for a humanitarian group. Participants were placed into a team where they were briefed on their mission and taken to a simulator room stocked with humvees and virtual weapons. After the mission was completed, the team performed an after-action review to evaluate the mission and talked to Soldiers serving a subject-matter experts.
"We're trying to give them a taste, in 25 minutes, of what the Army's all about," said Munro. "People think about the Army because they don't have the same word-of-mouth information they used to. We're trying to show off the amazing things that Soldiers do..."
The 82nd Airborne Division display connected veteran paratroopers and families to some of the newest privates.
"We've also been talking to some retired guys who were in the 82nd Airborne," said Pfc. Kevin Ouwenga. "We talked about the types of parachutes they used versus what we have now and the different types of training."
"You get a lot of old-timer stories," said Pfc. Kyle Williams. "You fill in the history with actual experiences."
Talking to families about their personal experiences was a major function of the day for even the youngest members of the 82nd. "We've also been talking to a lot of families and their kids - they want to know what it's like to jump out of airplanes," said Ouwenga, who enlisted nine months ago. "I don't have that much experience, but if there's someone who's interested in joining, I can tell them exactly what it's going to be like."
Army Recruiting also drew a variety of visitors throughout the day. "We've had a pretty good mix of people coming out here today," said Sgt. 1st Class Frank McClaine of the Oxon Hill Recruiting Station, Landover Recruiting Company, Baltimore Recruiting Battalion.
"People want to know what the age requirements are to join, what sort of bonuses are available, and what sort of jobs are available," said McClaine.
Both teens and adults were interested in opportunities with the Army.
"The teens are interested in how the Army can help them attain a certain goal or job while the adults are the ones tired of bouncing around from job to job and want to know about how the Army can give them a stable job," said McClaine.
The Golden Knights' Black Demonstration Team also performed several jumps from more than 12,000 feet in the air. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Golden Knights and a special commemorative parachute was opened to highlight the milestone.
"In 1959, 19 members of the U.S. Army got together and formed the strategic corps parachute team and it developed into the Golden Knights," said Sgt. Rachel Haddon, Black Team member and narrator of the demonstration. "Each member was selected to assist in the development of modern parachuting techniques, provide world-class competition parachuting, and to perform live aerial demonstrations in support of Army Public Relations and Recruiting."
"In 1961, we were dedicated to be the Army's official aerial demonstration team and one year later, we adopted the name, The Golden Knights," said Haddon.
Haddon also explained that tandem jumps are also performed by the Golden Knights to some re-enlisting Soldiers, community leaders and celebrities.
The team featured tandem jumps and a variety of jumping techniques by the 14 members. Each member of the Black Team has logged at least 300 free-fall jumps.
The Joint Service Open House 2009 attracted tens of thousands of visitors. From free-fall jumping to facilitating virtual missions, the Soldiers involved were able to reach out to the community in a uniquely joint environment.
"I've never been a part of anything this big ... we're all on the same team, fighting the same fight," said McClaine.
"This has been a great experience for us," said Pfc. Tyler Johnson. "I would love to come back next year - I'm having such a blast in D.C."