ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - Local, state and federal community leaders attended Immersion Days on Aug. 22 and 23, 2022, to gain a big-picture perspective on the groundbreaking research conducted on APG.
Maj. Gen. Robert Edmonson II, U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command’s commanding general and APG senior commander, hosted the educational and fun-filled events. Throughout the tours, attendees learned how APG organizations are putting people first and readying the nation and our warfighters.
Community leaders including three Maryland Civilian Aides to the Secretary of the Army, county and state political figures boarded a bus bright and early to find out what both APG North (Aberdeen) and South (Edgewood) employees work on every day. Since APG is Harford County’s biggest employer, Immersion Day gave local leaders insight into their constituents’ jobs.
Many APG leaders attended the tour as well, including CECOM Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Conaty, now-retired CECOM deputy to the commanding general Larry Muzzelo and APG Garrison commander Col. Johnny Casiano.
Muzzelo welcomed everyone for the day and reminded guests that this is the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began that community leaders have been invited on base.
“COVID brought its challenges, but throughout my tenure here you all have found ways to welcome me and my teammates into your organizations and activities,” Muzzelo said. “I can promise you that we are in for an exciting day.”
Guests had the thrilling opportunity to fly in a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter for an aerial tour of the installation. They got to see some hidden gems of APG, such as training facilities and ammunition testing.
“Days like today showcase how connected our installation is with our regional community,” Muzzelo said. “Without the support of all of you, we could not successfully prove all the missions we house here; the missions that ensure our military remains the best fighting force in the world.”
Each day began with a bus ride down to APG South. Guests learned about what the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense does, like eliminating the suffering caused by chemical threats and non-kinetic battlefield injuries. They experienced MRICD’s Wide Angle Virtual Environment center, which is used for training Soldiers on chemical and biological threats.
Dan Boehm, field medical education specialist for the Chemical Casualty Care Division at MRICD, demonstrated how the four-dimensional immersive center works. The center has wide panel screens, simulated debris, and mannequins that are as heavy as a person and programmed to react to the training scenario.
“[Soldiers train here first,] that way the first time they see this kind of catastrophe, it’s not as high stress,” Boehm said. “They are prepared because they’ve seen the simulation before in training.”
The WAVE center is completely customizable and the technicians can change the basic scenario based on the Soldier’s training. Boehm said they will have augmented reality capabilities coming soon to immerse Soldiers further.
While on APG South, guests visited the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Chemical Biological Center’s product development facility to learn about 3D printing, virtual and augmented reality and the Maker Space.
Mark Schlein, associate director of engineering at DEVCOM CBC’s product development facility, said their job as engineers is to get products in the field very quickly and efficiently.
“Soldiers deserve the best of the best,” Schlein said. “We partner with industry or other organizations on APG to get that to them.”
The Maker Space at the product development facility exists to develop products and test them quickly and easily. According to Schlein, the best ideas are simple.
Immersion Day guests tested some of the VR equipment in the Maker Space to see how Soldiers might use it to train.
Engineers in the Maker Space work on developing video games for Soldiers to train with. They can learn how to use a device, how to repair it if needed and how to complete complex tasks in real-time.
Bobby Henry, CASA for Southern Maryland, said his purpose in attending Immersion Day was to better tell the Army’s story.
“[Today] I’ve learned so much of the capabilities that we as a military have right here on APG,” Henry said. “[At DEVCOM CBC] one of the presenters said he was a gamer and was so excited about what he did. I know that it reaches young people. I bet most kids do not know that the military is at the forefront of all that.”
Henry said he wanted to have a more in-depth understanding of what happens at APG every day. He hopes to be able to take what he saw and better recruit in the future.
Immersion Day guests boarded two Maryland Army National Guard Black Hawk helicopters to witness a 20-minute aerial tour of APG’s 144 miles of coastlines. They landed up the road from Top of the Bay, where they were treated to a five-course meal and watched a performance by the Freestate ChalleNGe Academy’s newest drill team.
Also at Top of the Bay was a U.S. Army Command, Control, Communication, Computers, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance technology exposition following lunch. Guests learned about different C5ISR capabilities and equipment. They even had the chance to take photobooth pictures with APG’s mascot, Baldwin.
After lunch and the tech expo, guests boarded back on the bus to head over to the U.S. Army Aberdeen Test Center. A major highlight of the day was a trip “behind the fence” at ATC to test small arms.
Col. Tim Matthews, commander of ATC, said that a common question he gets is ‘why are the sounds of freedom so loud?’
“If you hear our testing, that’s a good sign,” Matthews said. “It means we’re working. If it’s shot, driven or it’s worn, we test it here at the Aberdeen Test Center.”
Matthews shared a video with guests about the science of sound and how things like weather patterns and temperature changes can influence how loud testing sounds are and how far they travel.
Guests got to handle and test two different small arms.
Mary Jane Jernigan, CASA for central Maryland, said testing the small arms was an “awesome way to spend [her] birthday.”
The last stop of the event was to the U.S. Army 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives Command to meet the nuclear disablement team.
Guests used different radiation detectors in a hands-on display.
Maj. James Bowen, nuclear and countering weapons of mass destruction officer for the 20th CBRNE, said the command’s missions are to rapidly and efficiently exploit and disable nuclear or radiological WMD, and to alert, mobilize, deploy, plan collections and collect debris as requested. He said it’s their job to determine if something is a threat.
The hands-on display included backpacks and hand-held detectors to determine if something - or someone - has been exposed to radiation. The 20th CBRNE staff allowed guests to practice with the devices to try and find hidden sensors and learn about how to keep a team safe.
Tell our Army story
Dr. Mary Way Bolt, Cecil College president, said learning about MRICD and how those teams operate was the highlight of the day.
“I’m always looking for opportunities for workforce development in our community,” Bolt said. “[Immersion Day] was a great way to see what there is to offer.”
Edmonson hoped that guests had three takeaways from the special day: He wanted guests to see what APG does for our country, see how the tenant organizations on APG collaborate and see that APG is only able to accomplish what it can because of Harford and surrounding county residents.
“We are only able to do this because of your constituents,” Edmonson said. “People live here year after year and generation after generation. I’m convinced they love the community and love working here because of [local leadership]. We hope you can tell our Army story.”