More than a thousand people from the surrounding communities came to Fort Hunter Liggett’s Open House celebrating 80 years of supporting troops and the nation, May 15, 2021. This event provided the public an opportunity to see what an Army installation looks like, to engage with Soldiers and Army Civilians, and the rare chance to try their skills in a weapons simulator.
The event started with the smooth landing of a WWII C-47 named Betsy’s Biscuit Bomber at Schoonover Airstrip. Those expecting a dramatic landing with a big dust cloud were disappointed, because the FHL Fire Department wet the dirt airstrip prior to the landing to avoid just that. The Estrella Warbird Museum flew in passengers from their Paso Robles airfield, and transported them in one of their WWII trucks to the different attractions on post. The museum also provided military vehicles from WWI and WWII beautifully restored by their members for display at Schoonover. The aircraft landing was the top-rated event feature based on a participant survey.
“I was one of those lucky enough to fly in on Betsy‘s Biscuit Bomber to take part in the celebrations,” said Adam Masters. “Everyone I encountered on the base was very professional and courteous. It was a great day that was both informative and enjoyable.”
“I did not expect to see so many people waiting and watching for us to land. I felt like a celebrity getting off the plane!” said Yvonne Cryns.
Modern-day Army vehicles from the FHL Equipment Concentration Site 170, and the 102nd Training Division Army Training Center were also on display at Schoonover.
The opening ceremony began with a 13-gun artillery salute by the 91st Training Division as Col. Charles Bell, garrison commander; Maj. Gen. Alberto Rosende, commanding general of the 63rd Training Division; and Brig. Gen. Patricia Wallace of the 91st Training Division marched in as the official party.
The event included remarks from Bell, Rosende, and Wallace. Also speaking were district directors from Congressmen Jimmy Panetta and Salud Carbajal’s offices, and the King City Mayor Mike LeBarre. Other dignitaries in attendance included Army Reserve Ambassadors, and tenant unit leaders.
Bell spoke of how since 1941, the installation has continued its mission to support troop readiness by providing the best training facilities and support to ensure that they are ready to deploy. He thanked the installation staff that helped organize the open house; and the many tenant units and community groups that supported the event, such as the Estrella Warbird Museum, Camp Roberts, and law enforcement from the surrounding cities. He also thanked the media for covering the event, and helping us promote the event during their newscasts.
Rosende provided some information on the post’s namesake, Lt. Gen. Hunter Liggett, and the Army Reserve’s role in supporting the Department of Defense. He urged everyone to walk up to Soldiers and get to know them, “That’s what we’re here for.” Being able to engage Soldiers was ranked second in participant favorites. District Director Phil Deppert presented Rosende and Bell with a Congressional Proclamation to honor the anniversary.
“It’s always a pleasure to come to Fort Hunter Liggett,” said LeBarre, who also presented the post with a proclamation from King City. “Every time I am here, I am reminded of how many fellow Americans have chosen to step up to protect our nation, our way of life, and our Constitution.”
The Future Service Members Swearing in Ceremony was another big hit with open house participants. “Events like this are not just symbolic, it is the beginning of a calling,” said Lt. Col. Lawrence Grant with the Central Recruiting Battalion. “It’s a visceral commitment.” He thanked the families for supporting the new recruits and allowing them to serve the country. Rosende led the 40 future Soldiers and Marines to swear their oath of enlistment.
Two special presentations appealed to military history buffs: Sgt. Major Daniel Sebby with the California Military Museum at Sacramento enthralled many with his presentation about the military build-up at FHL, Camp Roberts and the Central Coast in preparation for WWII. U.S. Army War College student Lt. Col. John Armstrong’s “The Future Behind Us” video highlighted how the Combat Development and Experimentation Command conducted many important tests at FHL from the 1950s through the 1990s, and laid the groundwork for many other experimentation units to be established throughout the country.
Other attractions included the Coast Guard Rescue Helicopter landing; re-enactors from the California Historical Group who set up a bivouac and wore WWII-era uniforms to engage with public; the Army’s Mobile Gaming Center, Army and Marines Corp information booths, tours of a modern barracks, and other post facilities.
The Open House concluded with another artillery salute, and recognitions to those who helped make the day a success.