By Susan A. Merkner, U.S. Army Installation Management CommandJanuary 8, 2018
SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Jan. 6, 2018) ─ While some of America's top high school football players warmed up for the 2018 U.S. Army All-American Bowl game, thousands of visitors outside the Alamodome learned about military readiness first hand.
The Go Army Experience featured interactive exhibits and opportunities to speak with numerous Soldiers, including four members of the World Class Athlete Program, which is sponsored by the U.S. Army Installation Management Command's G9 Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Programs.
"An event such as this is a good opportunity for parents and families to learn more about the Army, get answers to their questions and help them make decisions," said Brig. Gen. Bradley K. Dreyer, IMCOM G8 director, who was accompanied by his wife, Kelly, and daughters Ellie and Emma.
"When you look around and see 'Go Army' everywhere, and sense the enthusiasm among everyone here, it's a great feeling," Dreyer said.
Four members of World Class Athlete Program posed for photos and signed autographs while answering questions from guests. The WCAP provides training and support to qualifying Soldier athletes who work toward Olympic qualification while maintaining a professional military career and promoting the Army to the public.
Sgt. Shauna Rohbock wore her 2006 Olympic silver medal for two-woman bobsled from the 2006 games and allowed visitors to feel its heft. Now an assistant bobsled coach with the WCAP bobsled team and an Army human resource specialist, she said joining the WCAP was the best decision of her life.
"It's a great program," Rohbock said. "It's enabled me to stay connected to bobsledding. My Army Family and my teammates in WCAP are the best."
Staff Sgt. Dennis Bowsher, an assistant coach for the 2016 Olympics modern pentathlon team and a member of the 2012 team, credits WCAP for his participation in the sport, which involves fencing, swimming, equestrian, running and shooting.
"I couldn't have made the Olympic team without Army support," said Bowsher, who now is assistant coach for the WCAP pentathlon team and an Army motor vehicle operator.
He suggests young athletes consider the WCAP. "You should have a plan and make it as specific as possible, and then take the necessary steps to get there. Keep focused on your dreams, and you'll have an incredible journey ahead of you."
1st Lt. Selina Bocanegra was an All-Army women's boxing champion in 2017 and is a field artillery officer, one of the few women in that specialty, she said.
"Lots of people don't know about WCAP, so this is a good way to help spread the word," Bocanegra said. "It's enabled me to compete at the national level. Otherwise I couldn't have afforded that."
Staff Sgt. Spenser Mango, an assistant coach for WCAP wrestling and an Army motor vehicle operator, said he enjoyed sharing information about the program with parents and students.
Mango, who learned about WCAP as a college wrestler, says he tells young people to "get into what you love -- it will carry you throughout the rest of your life."
Attendance at this year's All-American Bowl game set an event record high of more than 41,000. Many of the guests passed through the Go Army Experience zone as they entered the stadium.
Sgt. Maj. Jan Vermuelen of the Army Recruiting Command, Army Marketing and Research Group, said events such as the Go Army Experience offer an opportunity to connect with those outside the military, especially when high-profile units such as the Golden Knights parachute team are included, as they were at the All-American Bowl event.
"It's important to speak to everyone we can," Vermuelen said. "We can interact with the general public and discuss our assets. It's a good branding opportunity. We can offer information on educational opportunities, particularly those related to STEM, the fields of science, technology, engineering and math."
Army readiness through cutting-edge technology was on display with several hands-on opportunities for visitors.
At several posts, virtual-reality glasses provided experiences such as taking an officer mission course, flying a drone and throwing a football. In the drone experience area, guests could fly an actual drone through an obstacle course, with the chance to win a free drone for a perfect score.
Resiliency was emphasized at several exhibits, including the Army fitness challenge, where drill instructors spurred on Soldiers and civilians through five stations: a weighted sled push, pullups, low crawl, decline pushups and weighted sled pull. The sled weights were 213 pounds for men and 150 pounds for women. Times were recorded as bystanders cheered.
The past and the future were marked at an exhibit dedicated to Army uniforms.
Sgt. April Schacher and Staff Sgt. Aaron Johnson from Fort Belvoir modeled the proposed "pink and brown" dress uniforms currently under consideration by top Army officials. The uniforms harken back to the 1940s, when certain shades of brown and taupe fabrics gave off a pinkish hue.
Go Army visitors could don helmets and the new Soldier protection system body armor, comparing it to the earlier, 35-pound combat vest, and peer through night-vision devices.
Greg Martin of San Antonio said he has been attending the All-American Bowl for several years and that the Army exhibits outside the Alamodome offer interesting and fun ways to learn more about the military.
Martin and his three children, Brianna, Sean and Aidan, were present Saturday to cheer football players Caden Sterns and Brenden Brady of Byron P. Steele High School in Cibolo, a San Antonio suburb.
"We started coming about five or six years ago, when I received free tickets, and now we enjoy it all so much that we buy our own tickets," Martin said.
The Go Army Experience offered photo opportunities with nonfunctioning display model rifles and all-terrain vehicles, and numerous giveaways, such as backpacks, T-shirts and dog tags. The event was free and open to the public.