Military appreciation event celebrates APG, community partnerships

By Rachel PonderJune 3, 2024

Military Appreciation Luncheon
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Local leaders and members of the APG community attended the 47th annual Military Appreciation Luncheon at Top of the Bay May 16, 2024. The theme was “APG: An Installation of Choice with a Community that Cares.”

(Photo Credit: Photo by Hannah Miller, APG Garrison)
Maj. Gen. Janeen L. Birckhead, the Adjutant General of Maryland
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Maj. Gen. Janeen L. Birckhead, the Adjutant General of Maryland, delivers the keynote address during the 47th annual Military Appreciation Luncheon hosted by the Harford County Chamber of Commerce at Top of the Bay May 16, 2024.
(Photo Credit: Photo by Hannah Miller, APG Garrison )

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — The Harford County Chamber of Commerce hosted the 47th annual Military Appreciation Luncheon at Top of the Bay May 16, 2024. The theme was “APG: An Installation of Choice with a Community that Cares.”

Angela Rose, the president and chief executive officer of the Harford County Chamber of Commerce, said 280 people attended, which included about a 50/50 split of representatives from the local business community and the APG workforce.

Harford County Executive Bob Cassilly welcomed attendees and noted that APG, home to more than 90 tenant organizations, plays a critical role in our nation’s defense.

“As county executive, I am ever mindful that Aberdeen Proving Ground is our largest employer and an incredible economic contingent for this region,” he said.

Cassilly also thanked business leaders for their continued partnership with the installation. Harford County was named a Great American Defense Community in 2018 by the Association of Defense Communities, he added. This program highlights communities and regions in the U.S. that provide exceptional support to service members, veterans, and military families.

Michael MacPherson, the president and chief executive officer of Freedom Federal Credit Union, gave sponsor remarks.

“We hold this event because you matter,” he said. “This is an opportunity to help demonstrate our commitment to you, show the appreciation you so rightly deserve, to recognize and celebrate the extraordinary service that you provide as well as what you mean to this community and beyond. Thank you for your service.

After MacPherson’s remarks, Rose asked the active duty, veterans, and Gold Star family members to stand and led the audience in a round of applause.

‘Year for Military Families’

Maj. Gen. Janeen L. Birckhead, adjutant general of Maryland, served as the guest speaker. Birckhead advises the governor of Maryland and leads a force of more than 6,300 Soldiers, Airmen, and federal and state employees.

Birckhead thanked service members for defending the nation and noted that military family members are resilient and selfless servants. She recounted how her family made sacrifices to support her through deployments, military school, and a demanding schedule.

“We all do this together; it is not just one person in the military. It is the whole family,” she said.

According to Birckhead, to help offset some of the challenges military families face, Maryland Governor Wes Moore declared 2024 as the “Year for Military Families.”

The recently passed Families Serve Act provides preferential hiring for spouses of active-duty service members. For state agencies, the legislation expands the preferential hiring process currently in place for veterans to include military spouses.

The Time to Serve Act, also passed in 2024, doubles military leave available to state employees in the National Guard or military reserves. This legislation will give service members flexibility to use their leave for personal purposes. Additionally, the bill expands the Disaster Service Leave for state employees from 15 days to 30 days.

Building strong community partnerships, preparing for the future

Birckhead said she is proud of the work accomplished at APG and praised the Harford Chamber of Commerce for bringing together people from all walks of life to achieve a common goal: creating a safe, inclusive community.

“Aberdeen Proving Ground is an installation of choice because you have created a community that cares. I didn’t do it—you all did that,” she said.

Birckhead called APG “Maryland’s technological megabase.” In order to succeed, APG needs a skilled workforce, especially in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. She said APG leadership works closely with local community colleges and the surrounding school districts to ensure students receive a quality education that will prepare them for a STEM-focused career.

Birckhead praised APG for hosting Immersion Day in March, which brought more than 30 high school principals, administrators, and career program managers from Harford and Cecil County schools to the installation to understand the unit’s missions on post so they could share this information with their students. Birkhead challenged attendees to share with others the numerous STEM careers available at APG.

Birckhead also commended APG leadership for supporting the Maryland Freestate Challenge Academy. Located on APG South (Edgewood), this program provides Maryland teenagers with academic resources, job skills, and life skills training in a positive, structured environment.

Selfless service 

APG Garrison Commander Col. Philip J. Mundweil gave closing remarks and thanked the Harford County Chamber of Commerce and APG partners on behalf of the installation senior command team.

“We at Aberdeen Proving Ground recognize and appreciate how hard you work to advocate for our military and its members within this community and what wonderful partners you are to us,” he said. “Your ability to connect our installation and our military members to the community is invaluable.”

Mundweil said active-duty service members, reservists, veterans, and military family members genuinely know what it means to serve because they put aside their safety and comfort for the nation's greater good. Mundweil said Gold Star family members will always be part of the military family, and APG is committed to preserving the legacy of their fallen loved one.

“Their memories and their sacrifices will never be forgotten.”

Mundweil recognized the APG Non-Commissioned Officer Best Warrior winner, Staff Sgt. Christopher Miller, U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, and the APG Soldier of Year winner, Spc. Nikolas Henderson, U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense.

Henderson and Miller were selected to represent APG because they were winners of the APG and CECOM Best Warrior Competition. Participating NCOs and Soldiers were graded in the following areas: weapons range, Army Combat Fitness Test, obstacle course, written exam, land navigation, and administrative board.

“As the Army looks toward the future, we will look to these amazing young Soldiers, and troops like them, to lead, shape, and influence the military of tomorrow,” Mundweil said.  “While their accomplishments are personal, this recognition will greatly benefit the entire military and, subsequently, our community.”

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