Fort McCoy’s 2023 Armed Forces Day Open House is being considered a great success by installation officials as nearly 3,000 people visited the installation to see numerous vehicle and equipment displays, interactive and information displays in tents, and much more.
The day’s activities were centered on the Commemorative Area, which features the History Center; five World War II-era buildings filled with historical equipment and displays, the outdoor Equipment Park, and Veterans Memorial Plaza. Visitors were treated to sunny day and temperatures in the 70s as well.
“We had a great day to hold the event, and we had a steady flow of people throughout the day,” said Fort McCoy Public Affairs Officer Tonya Townsell. “Within the Commemorative Area, we had more than displays set up under tents. We also had guided installation bus tours, a sandbag-filling station, personalized ID tags, military equipment displays, marksmanship galleries, and more.”
The free event ran from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and people appeared to enjoy everything that was available, Townsell said. The Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office even put together a special four-page history and heritage edition of The Real McCoy newspaper to support the event where more than 2,000 copies were distributed.
Also included in the 2023 event for the first time in several years was the inclusion of an Army band. The Army Reserve’s 204th Army Band of Fort Snelling, Minn., played at the event for several hours to the delight of event-goers. An Army band last played at the Fort McCoy Armed Forces Day Open House in 2019.
Among the most popular stops for the open house is often the natural resources and wildlife exhibit organized by the Fort McCoy Directorate of Public Works Environmental Division Natural Resources Branch (NRB) where they have live turtles and snakes for people to see.
Biologists Kevin Luepke and Jessup Weichelt with the NRB oversaw the NRB exhibit. Hundreds of people stopped to see them and their wildlife friends.
“I thought it went great,” Luepke said. “Lots of kids were able to handle and learn about Fort McCoy’s reptiles and turtles, learn about some furbearers and handle pelts, and we were able to showcase the Natural Resources Branch and its programs to the interested adults and parents. Great turnout and interest!”
Also popular among the stops were the many information tables set up by veterans organizations, including the Veterans Administration, Monroe County Veterans Services Officer, American Legion, and more.
Ward E. Zischke, command historian for the 88th Readiness Division, was also on hand once again to give hundreds of event-goers a deep look into Army history as he set up in one of the historical buildings. He worked near members of the Deke Slayton Museum of Sparta, Wis., as well as the Monroe County Local Historical Room — also of Sparta.
And for a second-consecutive year the open house had food trucks available for people attending. The trucks saw a steady flow of people placing orders and then enjoying their food on the nearby picnic tables and benches.
In equipment displays, the 86th Training Division, Fort McCoy Noncommissioned Officer Academy, Fort McCoy Directorate of Emergency Services, Regional Training Site-Maintenance, 181st Multi-Functional Training Brigade, Wisconsin National Guard Maneuver Area Training Equipment Site, Wisconsin Air National Guard, Wisconsin State Patrol, and more had something to show.
Among possibly the most popular equipment displays was the M109 Paladin, which was a first for the open house.
One of the open house attendees, Stephen Dressel, said he enjoyed the event.
“Was my first time going and won’t be the last,” Dressel said. “Everyone did an amazing job that helped facilitate it. I was impressed and most importantly my kids loved it.”
Another visitor, Dave Jorgensen, said he enjoyed it as well in a comment on a related Facebook post.
“We were there with my grandson, and we all loved it,” he said. “So proud to see all the fine young men and women in service to the country, and the tour bus announcer did a great job. … Fort McCoy is a well-kept secret that everyone in Wisconsin should be proud of.”
Another event-goer, Jan Pensinger, also added about the event, “This was a fantastic event! Thanks to everyone who made this possible.”
And many people also visited the many things to offer at the historic Commemorative Area. The Commemorative Area features five historic World War II-era buildings, artifacts ranging from Fort McCoy’s inception to modern times, an Equipment Park with more than 70 military vehicles and equipment, and Veterans Memorial Plaza. A picnic pavilion is on site and had plenty of use during the event.
And just as one open house is completed, Townsell said work has already begun on planning for the 2024 Fort McCoy Armed Forces Day Open House. That event will take place on May 18, 2024.
Fort McCoy’s motto is to be the “Total Force Training Center.” Located in the heart of the upper Midwest, Fort McCoy is the only U.S. Army installation in Wisconsin.
The installation has provided support and facilities for the field and classroom training of more than 100,000 military personnel from all services nearly every year since 1984.
Learn more about Fort McCoy online at https://home.army.mil/mccoy, on the Defense Visual Information Distribution System at https://www.dvidshub.net/fmpao, on Facebook by searching “ftmccoy,” and on Twitter by searching “usagmccoy.”
Also try downloading the Digital Garrison app to your smartphone and set “Fort McCoy” or another installation as your preferred base.