PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. - Six future Soldiers, along with U.S. Army recruiters from offices in Hackettstown and Morristown, visited Picatinny Arsenal on August 14 with hopes of receiving a better understanding of the products and services the installation provides to the U.S. military.
The high school graduates have each signed their initial contracts with the U.S. Army and will report to basic training sometime within the calendar year. They first received general information about the Combat Capabilities Development Command Armaments Center and its mission, before getting first-hand exposure to some of the robots used by the Army's Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit.
"Picatinny is the Army's Center of Lethality," Mohamed Elalem, the Armament Center's Executive Fellow in charge of the visit, told the group. "We provide more than 90 percent of the Army's lethal armaments and munitions to our warfighters."
Joseph Casterline, 19, was the first of the group to transition to the status of a U.S. Army Soldier. He shipped just four days after the visit.
"I wasn't sure exactly what I would see here at Picatinny," said Casterline, who enlisted to become a Blackhawk helicopter repairman. "I wanted to see what is like on a military post."
Jason Huggan, Picatinny Arsenal Cultural Resources Manager, and Jeff Ranu, the Center Historian, collaborated to present the group with a historic overview, and with a "windshield tour" by vehicle of the installation.
The visitors also learned about Next Generation Squad Weapons, Multi-Role Anti-Armor Anti-Personnel Weapons Systems, Long Range Precision Fires, 3-D manufacturing and more.
Sgt. 1st Class Paul Stavar, one of the recruiters, said: "I've been in the Army for 15 years and I haven't seen most of the stuff we are seeing here today."
Stavar, now in his third year as a recruiter, said he and his two fellow recruiters brought the future Soldiers to Picatinny to "enlighten them with what is out there in in the military."
"They only get to see a fraction of the Army's weapon systems while in basic training," Stavar added. "There is just so much here that even a career Soldier doesn't get to see it all."
Brian Gerges, 19, is a volunteer fireman in Hackettstown. His grandfather worked at Picatinny for many years, which sparked an interest in what goes on behind the Cannon Gate.
"I wanted to see what it like to be here on post, and see some of the technology that comes from here," said Gerges, who leaves for basic training on Nov. 11, Veterans Day.