BOSTON -- In the early morning hours of Apr. 19, 1775, British troops crossed Boston Harbor intent on seizing military supplies stored by Patriot militiamen in the town of Concord, Mass. It was there, at the Old North Bridge, where the first shot of the American Revolution was fired and subsequently immortalized by American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson as the "shot heard round the world." Two months later, on Jun. 14, the Continental Army was established.
That April day is memorialized in Massachusetts as Patriots' Day (observed on the third Monday of April) and is known as a time of celebration of the Boston Marathon. In light of this historical significance, it was apropos that the first-ever "Meet Your Army" expo took place during Patriots' Day Weekend on Apr. 13.
"I was asked a few minutes ago 'what does it feel like to have the first Army Week in the City of Boston in the history of the Army,'" said Martin J. Walsh, Boston's 54th mayor. "I said that it's important that during Patriots' Day Weekend that we have this expo here on Boston Common, as many men and women lost their lives right here to create the country that we have."
The day's rainfall cleared in time for the gathered crowds to see the U.S. Army Special Operations Command Parachute Demonstration Team, also known as the Black Daggers, perform a parachute jump with the American and MIA/POW flags in tow.
Maj. Gen. Gary W. Keefe, 43rd adjutant general of the Massachusetts National Guard--who made quite the entrance as he arrived to the event aboard a UH-72 Lakota helicopter--welcomed expo participants on behalf of his 6,400 Soldiers and 2,200 Airmen. Keefe also presented an American flag that was flown in Afghanistan (and carried down with the Black Daggers) to the City of Boston.
The senior active-duty leader present, Brig. Gen. Vincent Malone, deputy commanding general of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (CCDC), said that the past week has been a total Army outreach effort to connect the City of Boston and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts' communities and citizens with the Army they may not have met yet, including active-duty Soldiers, the National Guard, and the Army Reserves.
"What a great opportunity to showcase our Army right here in the heart of New England," said Malone, who is also the senior commander of the Natick Soldier Systems Center. "As you walk around here today you will see exhibits from all three components of the Army, as well as Army ROTC, recruiting, special operations, acquisitions, science and technology, and others.
"You may even see some things that surprise you, some things you didn't know the Army was involved in: robotics, virtual reality, and other science and technologies. The reality is that innovation is an integral part of the Army's modernization effort, to optimize the performance of our Soldiers so that they fight and win our nation's battles and come home safely."
Expo attendees had the opportunity to experience the science and talent behind the Soldier, including gear developed by the Combat Capabilities Development Command Soldier Center (CCDC SC), including the Advanced Combat Helmets (ACH) and Soldier Protection System (SPS), the Program Executive Office Solider (PEO Soldier) featured equipment including the Enhanced Night Vision Goggle-III (ENVG-III), M240 Machine Guns, and M110 Sniper Rifles, a binary game developed by the 781st Military Intelligence Battalion (Cyber), combat vehicles including a M1126 Stryker, a demonstration by the U.S. Army Drill Team, and performance by the Six-String Soldiers, who played the familiar Boston tune "Sweet Caroline."
Several members of the public said they had no idea that the Army actively participates in the development of such technology. One college student who is studying engineering said that he was very impressed with the advanced technologies seen at the expo. "People only know of the Army they see in movies, but they never think about the science and tech behind it all," commented the student.
However impressive, the showstopper was not the military equipment or vehicles or entertainment, but the men and women in uniform and the approximately 40 new recruits who were sworn in during the expo.
"Today I have the opportunity to welcome some of our nation's finest into the Army family," said Malone who performed the oath of enlistment.
"You will not make a better choice for your future than raising your right hand and taking that oath," added Keefe. "You are now less than one percent of the nation who has done what you are going to do."
Walsh concluded, "To the new recruits, congratulations. You make us very proud here in Boston and New England for standing here today and what you're about to embark on.
"I want to thank all the men and women in the United States Army for what you do every single day, for putting your lives on the line for us to give us a free nation and a free city. Without you we would not have the freedoms we have as a country. We live in the greatest country in the world, the United States of America, because we have the greatest military in the world that protects us and keeps us safe and keeps us free every single day."
Army Week continued throughout the three-day weekend at locations across Massachusetts. Army science and technology exhibits were on display at the Boston Museum of Science, where food technologists from CCDC SC's Combat Feeding Directorate featured a Meal Ready to Eat (MRE) ration display and demonstrated how flameless ration heaters work, as well as a demonstration of one of the Army's new rucksacks and how muscular skeletal considerations are taken into account during load carriage design.
On Patriots' Day, CCDC SC, in conjunction with the New England Community Advisory Board, hosted an Army history, science, and technology display on the Common in Hopkinton, Massachusetts (the location of the start of the Boston Marathon). Technologies featured there included two air beam shelters, the T11 and T11 Reserve Parachute System, a combat ration display and flameless ration heater demonstrations, and a historical uniform display. Participants in the display included the Minutemen Chapter of the Association of the United States Army, or AUSA, the New England Army Recruiting Battalion, Massachusetts Army National Guard Recruiting, U.S. Army Special Operations Command, and the Fort Devens Museum. Notable visitors included Gen. James McConville, vice chief of staff of the Army.