APG Armed Forces Day one to remember
May 28, 2009
- APG celebrates Armed Forces Day
- Tree dedicated to Gold Star Families of Maryland
- Army Family Covenant re-signed
- Sy Liebergot, Apollo 13 flight controller, special guest
A dazzling array of military pageantry, featuring Army uniforms, equipment and technology, greeted visitors to the Aberdeen Proving Ground Armed Forces Day celebration May 16. The APG celebration was the first - and one of the largest - that was opened to the public since the 9-11 terrorist attacks.
Maj. Gen. Paul S. Izzo, commander of APG and the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, and RDECOM Command Sgt. Maj. Hector G. Marin hosted the event and welcomed visitors and special guests during the opening ceremonies held on Fanshaw Field.
"We want to open our gates and our arms to everyone in the community," Izzo said prior to the ceremony. "And when we invite them in we want to make sure they understand that we really care and are thinking about them."
Thirteen Gold Star Families attended a private breakfast prior to the opening ceremony hosted by Izzo, Marin, and Col. Jeffrey S. Weissman, APG Garrison and deputy installation commander and Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Pedro Rodriguez.
In regard to the 13 Maryland Gold Star Families, Izzo, who recently returned from Afghanistan, said the post would take pains to expand on the relationship it has established with the Families to include sending them periodic updates.
"It's important that we keep in touch," he said. "We must never forget our Soldiers out there in harm's way in caves and alleys, serving our country for our freedom. We need to remember and reflect."
Along with local and state politicians and public servants, special guests to the opening ceremonies included patients from the Veterans Administration Medical Center at Perry Point.
Narrator Janet Dettwiler, APG adjutant, welcomed all to the program on behalf of Izzo.
"Our theme today is to recognize and honor the men and women who serve in uniform and their Families," she said.
The sounds of the traditional "Ruffles and Flourishes" played by the U.S. Army Materiel Command Band, led by Chief Warrant Officer 4 Frederick Ellwein opened the ceremony followed by the boom of Howitzers as the 61st Ordnance Brigade salute battery led by Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Smith of the 16th Ordnance Battalion fired a 13-gun salute.
All stood as the band then played the national anthem and APG Garrison Chaplain (Col.) Ruben Colon, offered the invocation, giving thanks for the occasion and asking for continued inspiration.
"Inspire us all to serve with courage, loyalty and faith," Colon prayed. "May this occasion serve to rededicate our lives to serving this nation and you."
Dettwiler directed attention to the field where the Soldiers, Marines and Airmen of the U.S. Army Ordnance Center and Schools' Ordnance Mechanical Maintenance School and its combined color guard stood in formation along with a display of Army aircraft, vehicles and equipment.
In his remarks, Izzo said the combined attendance of service members and civilians gathered to honor the nation's armed forces represented a nation that remains a symbol of freedom to nations around the world and he encouraged listeners to "find a way to say thank you to our young men and women" serving the nation.
"Remember the heavy load our service men and women carry," he said. "They carry it for us all. Don't let the burden they carry become invisible."
Izzo then unveiled the Gold Star Families oak tree assisted by Sgt. Elizabeth Thompson, APG Noncommissioned Officer of the Year from the 1st Area Medical Laboratory and newly-promoted Sgt. Benjamin Salazar, APG Soldier of the Year from Company B, 22nd Chemical Battalion (Technical Escort).
A re-signing of the Army Family Covenant followed with Izzo, Weissman, Marin and Rodriguez signing the documents as observers, representing all the Soldiers and Families on APG looked on. The observers were Thompson, Salazar, and Sgt. Eric Scheier, a recent Purple Heart recipient from Kirk U.S. Army Health Clinic, and his wife Leslie, 2-year-old son Connor and 3-week old daughter Ava.
"The covenant says that the strength and support that comes from a Soldier's Family is what makes our Soldiers successful," Dettwiler explained. "It pledges that our senior commanders will steadfastly, throughout the years, continue to provide for the support of those Families."
The two covenant documents will be displayed in the Garrison Headquarters in the Aberdeen Area and at RDECOM headquarters in the Edgewood Area, she added.
Musical closure to the ceremony was provided by the Chapel Hill Sensations, a group of more than 30 fifth-graders from Chapel Hill Elementary School in Perry Hall, led by vocal music teacher Di Ciccotelli, who sang the song "Americans We," which was warmly received by the audience.
The group, which won last year's Manic Monday Group of the Year Award on the Channel 13 WJZ Morning News show, was proud to be a part of the APG celebration, Ciccotelli said.
"It was very exciting for our children to have this as a memory," she said. "We were very honored to participate in Aberdeen Proving Ground's Armed Forces Day."
In celebration of the Year of the NCO, the Soldiers of the Basic Noncommissioned Officer Course presented a Pageant of Uniforms, modeling clothing and gear worn by U.S. Army Soldiers during America's conflicts - from the Colonial Era to today's 21st century Soldier. As each model entered the field the AMC Band played period music as the narrator detailed the conventional mood of each era. The Soldiers received enthusiastic applause and a standing ovation at the pageant's conclusion.
A thrilling ending to the opening ceremonies was the playing of the Army, Navy, Marine and Air Force songs by the AMC Band and the retiring of colors by the color guard.
After the opening ceremonies, visitors and guests toured the military equipment, aircraft and vehicles on display on Fanshaw Field and technology exhibits by APG tenant organizations on the adjacent field, as well as exhibits by historical groups and organizations that support the armed forces.
Vehicle displays included a high mobility multi-purpose wheeled vehicle; two Blackhawk helicopters; a Stryker armored vehicle, a mine resistant ambush protected vehicle; a Buffalo Surrogate Vehicle from the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center and a state-of-the-art Weapons of Mass Destruction Elimination operational command post from the 20th Support Command, the Army's chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high yield explosive headquarters.
As they watched their children explore the vehicles, parents shared their thoughts on the day.
"I brought him out here because I wanted him to see what the military is all about," said Randy Craig, a member of the Havre de Grace City Council, as he showed his son, Donovan, 4, the armored HMMWV. Craig said he found the opening ceremonies impressive.
"They did a great job, especially on the uniforms," he said.
At the Stryker vehicle, the Nash Family of Baltimore - one of the Gold Star Families who would be observing the second anniversary of the death of Sgt. Casey W. Nash just two days later on May 18 - expressed their gratitude to APG.
"The ceremony was very nice," said Sandra Nash, the mother of the fallen Soldier. "It was special for me because I got to talk to another mother who had lost a son. Sometimes you feel isolated so it was nice for us to be able to share our thoughts."
Nash's sister, Sarah, said she was impressed with the attention paid to the Families.
"It was nice to be able to talk with a general and politicians and see how much they care," she said.
As they took in the sights and sounds of the day, Dr. Donald and Mrs. Mary Jane Walton, the Gold Star Family of Lt. Col. James J. Walton of Rockville who was killed in Kandahar City, Afghanistan, when his vehicle encountered a makeshift bomb and small arms fire, June 21, 2008, said they found the day's activities "wonderful."
"It was a wonderful morning," Walton said. "We enjoyed the band, the displays, and we really liked the uniforms."
Children seemed to have the most fun exploring the Buffalo Surrogate mine clearing vehicle. As he watched youngsters climb in and out of the vehicle, Richard W. Decker, ECBC technical director, explained that the vehicle was made in cooperation with the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, which fielded the MRAP.
Decker said that due to high demand for the Buffalo vehicle in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Army route clearance teams scheduled for deployment to OIF were in need of equipment to train on. The task to create surrogate vehicles was brought to ECBC which rapidly developed the first surrogate deployed within 33 days.
"It's actually a five-ton truck with much of the same equipment and the look of the actual vehicle," Decker said.
The BSV features the actual ladder, lights, hydraulic arm, camera, in-cab display, non-ballistic hull and safety glass found on the actual vehicle as well as upgraded air conditioning and similar interior. The first 5-ton truck was shipped to ECBC in June 14, 2006, and the first BSV was shipped to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif. July 15, 2006.
"Because of it, our troops have something to train on so they can go into theater fully prepared," Decker said.
Success of the original surrogates has led to an ongoing production fleet of 35 BSVs.
Army Technology on display
At the Base Realignment and Closure display, Syreeta Gross of MCFA Planning and other representatives of the APG Transformation Office briefed visitors, answered questions and presented an APG 2012 video that included before-and-after renditions of how certain areas of the installation will appear after the transformation's conclusion.
"People were most interested in job opportunities and C4ISR construction," Gross said.
MCFA owner Rebecca Fuhrman of Bel Air, who attended her first Armed Forces Day with her son Zachary, 10, said she thought the entire day was "well put together."
"I was really impressed with the opening," she said. "It was a moving, wonderful ceremony."
Charles Hough, a representative from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is overseeing APG construction activities said the Baltimore and Philadelphia districts are working together on Phase I C4ISR which involves about "a half-billion dollars in construction."
"The corps is happy to assume this responsibility to further the transformation of APG," Hough said.
A contract has recently been awarded for the construction of the new home of the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command in the Aberdeen Area and site preparations are underway for the non-medical chem-bio defense facility in the Edgewood Area, added David Ruderman, public affairs specialist for the Baltimore District ACofE.
Ruderman said the completion of the Route 715 gate, a $23 million project, was the first BRAC project to be completed in the state.
"We're proud of this very first completed stepping stone for the future of the installation," Ruderman said.
At the display for the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine, Allison Bruno distributed pamphlets and guides on health issues from the H1N1 virus to heat injuries.
"All of the information is available for downloading from our Web site at http://chppm-www.apgea.army.mil/," Bruno said.
In a Combat Feeding display, representatives from RDECOM's Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center demonstrated the latest in field rations to include the First Strike Ration, Meals Ready to Eat and the Utilized Group Ration-Express and presented samples of the family of operational rations from World War II to Vietnam.
Mike Acheson, Natick food technologist, said that since 1953, more than 200 food items have been added to Soldier rations which are field tested on Soldiers annually. He said a big breakthrough was the First Strike ration which requires no heating, can be eaten on the go and will sustain Soldiers for their first 72 hours in combat.
"We're also proud of our Utilized Group Rations which come in three types, A, refrigeration; B, dehydrate and C, heat and serve," Acheson said.
"I think it's wonderful," said Viki Marzetti as she and her 10-year-old daughter Crystal, who was a member of the Chapel Hill Sensations, viewed the display.
"I like to learn about things that support our troops," Marzetti said.
Another 20th Support Command (CBRNE) exhibit area on Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mitigation, displayed protective suits, sampling kits and chemical detection equipment currently in use to evaluate and remove harmful agents.
Staff Sgt. Harry Thompson, EOD technician, Sgt. Joe Casper, CBRN NCO and Sgt. Keon Christopher, decontamination team leader, answered visitor's questions and demonstrated the equipment.
Sgt. Pedro Requena, CBRN NCO, said most visitors were interested in the test equipment and protective measures.
"We explained what we do when we come across an unknown substance, how we identify it, and how we protect ourselves against those hazards," Requena said. "They seemed reassured to know that we train daily on this equipment."
"It's very impressive," said Adrian Howard, an education researcher with the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense, as she viewed the display. "They all seem very knowledgeable of their equipment," she said.
A Mobile Dragon Lab by the 1st and 9th Area Medical Laboratories drew a large audience where Staff Sgt. Eleuterio Baez and Spc. Katie Show explained how the Chemical Warfare field lab is used to collect, sample, extract, analyze and report on possible chemical, biological or radiological contaminated samples.
"Our mission is to monitor the environment to make it safe for our troops," said Sgt. Maj. Gerardo Soto of 9th AML. "We can go wherever we are needed and we train regularly with civilian components with like missions."
A guest exhibitor was Sy Liebergot, who was the senior flight controller during the Apollo 13 mission crisis, which was made into a 1995 movie starring Tom Hanks.
Liebergot, author of the book "Apollo EECOM: A Journey of a Lifetime," said he spends much of his time on speaking tours sharing his story at grade schools, colleges and universities around the country. He said most people who stopped by wanted to talk about Apollo 13.
"Some engineers wanted to discuss the details of the mishap," he said, "and I had a nice talk with some RDECOM Soldiers."
He said that he focuses on more current issues while lecturing because, "a lot of them weren't even born yet; it's a story from their parents and grandparent's generation.
"I've got a lot to write about now," he added, noting that people can learn more on his Web site, www.apolloeecom.com. "The best part of what I do is talk to kids," he said. "This week I talked to more than two-thousand. Watching their reactions to new information is all I care about."
In the Apollo 13 movie, Clint Howard, the brother of director Ron Howard, played Liebergot.
Driving the point home about oral health, the U.S. Army Dental Activity offered a Knock Out Tooth Decay toss game for children.
"It helps to make it fun for them," said Col. Colleen Shull, commander DENTAC, as she blew bubbles over the children.
While viewing one of the many technology exhibits, Mary Jane Jernigan of Bel Air and her daughter, Rain Weaver, called the day "a great experience."
"I liked how they recognized the Gold Star Families, and I learned a lot from the uniform pageant," Weaver said. "It was a real eye-opener for me."
Jernigan, who is president of the Aberdeen Chapter of the Association of the United States Army, said that she gained even more respect for APG's Soldiers and leaders.
"Every Soldier we talked to was so knowledgeable; it makes you realize they are much more than just Warfighters," Jernigan said. "This [day] brought me closer emotionally and intellectually to our Soldiers and their mission. It was a wonderful day."
As they wandered the fields taking in the sights, Robert and Ruby Billow, accompanied by their daughter Pam, reminisced about their meeting on these same grounds on the same day 60 years ago.
They said they met in the old service club May 16, 1949, and were married six weeks later.
"A friend of mine asked me if I wanted to meet the prettiest girl in Harford County and six weeks later she was my wife," said Korean War veteran Robert Billow.
"When we heard about Armed Forces Day and saw the date, we said 'it's time to go back,'" Ruby Billow added.
The Bel Air couple said that although they enjoyed the festivities, they especially liked looking at the old Ordnance Museum tanks that sit on Fanshaw Field.
"They really brought back memories," Robert said. "We loved this Armed Forces Day."
Members of the Ordnance Corps Foundation displayed vintage military vehicles in preparation for the annual Military Vehicle flea market and rally held May 21 to 23 at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen.
See next week's APG News for more coverage.
The Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation had a variety of free activities for attendees after the opening ceremony.
Attendees dined on food and beverages while listening to Release, a band that the lead singer, Larry Smith, calls "aggressively eclectic."
"We figure a good song is a good song regardless of the genre," Smith said.
He said he is glad the band was able to play at Armed Forces Day at APG for the second year in a row, as most of the members have served in the military. Information on Release can be found at releasemusiconline.com.
For children, there was a bounce house and a climbing wall, along with activities hosted by Army Community Service like caricature painting, face painting and airbrush tattooing, along with information about their free programs offered for the Soldiers and the APG community.
At one tent, Child Youth and School Services sponsored an art project where children designed flags and made patriotic wreaths.
The APG Army Substance Abuse Program had a booth set up with information about their program, and a drunk goggle activity where participants tried to play ring toss while wearing the goggles, demonstrating the diminished hand-eye coordination under the influence of alcohol. At the Aberdeen Area gym, for Soldiers, there was a drunken driving simulator by the Save a Life Tour, a national high impact alcohol awareness program.
The Maryland National Guard was also there to give out information to attendees about their program. A tank and a truck was on display, where attendees could play the video game "Call of Duty." The tank was built by the National Guard in Havre de Grace.
Several National Guard Soldiers volunteered at some of the FMWR activities that day.
"The National Guard is here for the community," said Staff Sgt. Leo I. Sturm, MDNG recruiting and retention NCO.
Alice Orwick, whose husband works for the 1st Area Medical Laboratory on the Edgewood Area, remarked that she appreciated that the event was something that her whole Family could enjoy.
"This is a Family oriented program, that is not expensive," she said. "We can just hang out and enjoy the day."
Orwick commented that she also wanted to attend the event to show her support of the military.
Robert Dubree, a long time Harford County resident who attended the event with his daughters Katherine, and Cassandra DuBree, said that he appreciated that APG had an event that was open to the community.
"This is the first one I have been to in awhile," he said. "I think it is wonderful that they are trying to revive it. I used to attend Armed Forces every year," Dubree said. "I enjoy seeing what is happening in the military, and enjoyed seeing the new technology."
Chris Lockhart, marketing director for FMWR, said that she was thankful for sponsorship support, making the events possible. "Verizon Wireless and APGFCU (Aberdeen Proving Ground Credit Union) were proud sponsors of FMWR events."
Armed Forces Day 10K Run
The day started promptly at 7:30 a.m. as nearly 130 runners took off on the Armed Forces Day 10K Run an annual event in its fourth year at APG.
Hosted by the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, the 10K is sponsored by Charm City Run of Bel Air and is open to the public. About 300 Soldiers, Airmen and Marines from the installation's Ordnance Mechanical Maintenance School followed the runners. Service members traditionally run in mass formations in honor of Armed Forces Day.
Ralph Cuomo, APG sports director, expressed thanks to the FMWR staff, Charm City Run and all others who supported the event, including unit first sergeants from the 16th and 143rd Ordnance battalions and the APG Army Substance Abuse Program, which purchased the Armed Forces Day T-shirts that were given to each runner.
Kelly Dees, Charm City Run event director, said friendly coordination with FMWR has been the key to the event's success.
"They're always very helpful and give us great cooperation," Dees said.
With locations in Annapolis and Timonium as well as Bel Air, Charm City Run coordinates running events for groups like the Navy and police and fire departments, Dees added. "Interest is high for
this event, and we'd like to keep it up in the future," she said.
APG civilians come out on top
Four of the top five awards went to APG employees.
Jeff Damiano, a technical engineer with the U.S. Army Aberdeen Test Center won first-place overall with a time of 36 minutes, 51 seconds.
A technical engineer with the U.S. Army Aberdeen Test Center, Damiano said he runs regularly on the installation and that he took four minutes off his time from last year's run.
"I do most of my training here so I was comfortable with the route," he said.
Second place went to Niko Temple, a National Guard cadet and soon-to-be second lieutenant with the Edgewood Area's 29th Combat Aviation Brigade.
"I've never run this race before but I had a 'by' week so I thought I'd do this for fun," he said.
Fourth place went to a research chemist with the U.S. Army Research Laboratory. John Escarsega said he runs every day during his lunch break.
"The route was beautiful," Escarsega said, adding that he was glad to see it wasn't "too hilly."
"It makes for a fast course," he said.
The first female to cross the finish line was July Thompson, a logistics management specialist with the Clothing and Heraldry Product Support Integration Directorate, a division of the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive Armaments Command (Life Cycle Management Command) in the Edgewood Area.
"This was my first time running the [10K]," Thompson said. "I usually [circle] the airfield on Edgewood or run a short trail in Bel Air so I was ready for it. I liked the course. It was nice and flat."
Third place overall went to John Heller of Bel Air.
2009 APG Armed Forced Day 10K winners:
1st place, Jeff Damiano, 36 minutes, 51 seconds
2nd place, Niko Temple, 37 minutes, 27 seconds
3rd place, John Heller, 38 minutes, 14 seconds
1st place, Julie Thompson, 43 minutes, 2 seconds
2nd place, Nelly Budrow, 43 minutes, 45 seconds
3rd place, Brittany Hiatt, 45 minutes, 36 seconds
For the full list of runners, visit the Charm City Run Web site at www.charmcityrun.com
Remembering the fallen
Gold Star Families honored at the Armed Forces Day celebration included Family members or representatives of the following fallen:
Spc. Bernard L. Ceo, 23, Maryland National Guard, Baltimore, Md., Oct. 14, 2005
Sgt. Kendall K. Frederick, 21, Randallstown, Md., USA, Oct. 19, 2005
Lance Cpl. Norman "Wally" Anderson III, 21, USMC, Parkton, Md., Oct. 19, 2005
1st Lt. Robert A. Seidel III, 23, Emmitsburg, Md., USA, May 18, 2006
Lance Cpl. James W. Higgins, 22, Frederick, Md., USMC, July 27, 2006
Petty Officer 2nd Class David S. Roddy, 32, USN, Aberdeen, Md., Sept. 16, 2006
Cpl. Eric T. Campbell, 22, Salisbury, Md., USA, Jan. 7, 2007
Staff Sgt. Jay E. Martin, 29, Baltimore, Md., USA, April 29, 2007
Sgt. Casey W. Nash, 22, Baltimore, Md., USA, May 18, 2007
Sgt. 1st Class Collin J. Bowen, 38, Perry Hall, Md., MDNG, March 14, 2008
Lt. Col. James J. Walton, 41, Rockville, Md., USA, June 21, 2008
Sgt. Ryan P. Baumann, 24, Great Mills, Md., USA, Aug. 1, 2008
Capt. Jesse Melton III, 29, Randallstown, Md., USA, Sept. 9, 2008
Pvt. Charles Yi Barnett, 19, Bel Air, Md., USA, Nov. 20, 2008