By Lisa R. RhodesAugust 4, 2011
FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. - About two weeks ago, Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Rodney Starling and his family moved to Fort Meade from Wilmington, N.C.
"We love it," said Starling, of Surface Forces Logistics Center in Baltimore. "It doesn't look like a military base. [It's] very community-oriented and we like that."
To learn about all Fort Meade has to offer, Starling and his family were among the more than 300 people who attended the installation's third annual Newcomers' Fair held Saturday at McGill Training Center.
"We've come to see what the opportunities are in the community," said Starling, who resides in Meuse Forest.
Introducing new military families to the amenities and services at Fort Meade and in the surrounding communities is the purpose of the four-hour event, said Jean Jordan, special events coordinator for the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation.
The West Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce was a major contributor to the event, Jordan said. The organization provided the signage that advertised the fair on post as well as the cloths covering display tables at McGill.
More than 75 post organizations and outside vendors displayed information booths and offered resource material for service members and families. They included the public schools on post, Army Community Service, Kimbrough Ambulatory Care Center, the Fort Meade Credit Union, the Rotary Club of West Anne Arundel County and Coldwell Banker.
Martha McClary, director of DFMWR, greeted participants.
"This is awesome," said Installation Commander Col. Edward C. Rothstein, who attended the event with Installation Command Sgt. Maj. Charles E. Smith.
It was the colonel's first public appearance since taking command as Fort Meade's new leader on July 26.
Rothstein said the event was the perfect opportunity to talk to military families about his philosophy of balancing work with family life.
"We lead by example," said the colonel, whose wife, Audrey, and two children also attended the fair. "The command sergeant major and I did not have to be asked to be here."
Linda Bruckhart, a public health nurse at Kimbrough, said the staff at the Preventive Medicine department wanted to remind families about the importance of staying safe in the intense heat that the region has experienced over the past several weeks.
"Use plenty of sunscreen and stay hydrated," Bruckhart said.
Parents also stopped by to gather information on water safety.
Retired Sgt. Maj. Mark Butera, vice president of the Parent Teacher Student Association at MacArthur Middle School, invited parents to meet Stacy Gray, the school's new principal, at two meet-and-greet sessions today from 8 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 5 p.m.
"She's very energetic, very caring and committed to the kids' well-being and education," said Butera, noting that the PTSA is also recruiting volunteers for the new school year and that new parents are welcome.
Lt. Col. John Petraccca, of Army U.S. Cyber Command, and his wife, Unjung, arrived at Fort Meade a few weeks ago from Heidelberg, Germany.
A father of three, Petracca said the fair was very informative.
"We've found everything from churches to child care to after-school programs," he said.
Katherine Moore, second vice president of the Enlisted Spouses Club, said the Newcomers' Fair is one of the club's favorite events.
"We're trying to do a little community outreach to let people know we're here to help," said Moore, noting that several people passed by the ESC booth to express interest in its activities.
A highlight of the event was a karate demonstration by children enrolled in Macon's Karate & Fitness, a martial arts school in Severn.
Sgt. Tanikwa White, a human resources specialist with First Army Division East, said she came to the fair to cheer on her 8-year-old son, Tyrell Crockett, in his first karate performance.
"He's so nervous," White said. "He's actually doing very well. I'm very proud of him."
In addition to her son's debut, White said she was glad she attended the event so she could gather information for the new Soldiers and civilians working at First Army.
White plans to provide new employees with binders filled with flyers she collected at the fair.
Visit http://www.ftmeade.army.mil/soundoff/newcomersfair for more photos of the Newcomers' Fair.