ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - Communities surrounding Aberdeen Proving Ground reaffirmed their commitment to supporting the installation, its Soldiers, civilians and Family members with a joint signing of the Army Community Covenant during the Military Appreciation Luncheon at APG's Top of the Bay May 15.

The annual salute to APG's military is hosted by the Harford County Chamber of Commerce and its Military Affairs Committee, led by William B. Seccurro, president and CEO.

"We are privileged to witness the signing of the Army Community Covenant," Seccurro said as he called the signers to the front of the room. Maj. Gen. Fred D. Robinson, commander of APG and the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, also the event's guest speaker, and Col. Jeffrey S. Weissman, APG Garrison and deputy installation commander oversaw the signing.

Along with Robinson and Weissman, signers included Brig. Gen. James Adkins, Maryland Secretary of Veterans Affairs/Adjutant General; Turhan E. Robinson, civilian aide to the Secretary of the Army for Maryland; David Craig, Harford County Executive; Aberdeen Mayor Michael Bennett; Bel Air Mayor Robert Preston; Dick Molinaro, Chamber chairman of the board; Drew Nobles, APG retirement services officer; representatives of Maryland senators Benjamin Cardin, Wayne Gilchrest, and Dutch Ruppersberger and Havre de Grace Mayor Wayne Dougherty; and APG Noncommissioned Officer of the Year Sgt. 1st Class Stephen Spohn and his wife Staff Sgt. Wendy Spohn of the U.S. Army Materiel Command Band.

Wendy Spohn was a recent finalist of the 2007 GEICO Military Service Award for her volunteer work with organizations like the March of Dimes, Ronald McDonald House and Big Brothers/Big Sisters.

Seccurro said that in addition to the current signers, five personnel who would be selected as APG volunteers of the year during a ceremony later that evening, also would be asked to sign the covenant as representatives of all those who volunteer at APG.

"This community covenant represents what we have felt for many years about our friends and colleagues here at APG," Seccurro said. "May we have many more years together."

In his remarks, Robinson talked about the APG transformation, called APG 2012, saying that it is more than just the base realignment and closure, or BRAC.

"While BRAC is only part of the reason, it gives us the ability to measure our capabilities in ways we never thought possible," Robinson said.
With the addition of thousands of jobs at APG it means tremendous growth for the community, he said.

"We have to show them the opportunities that exist; the exciting work that makes a difference to our nation," he said.

He said that along with the construction of new offices and test facilities under the Enhanced Use Lease, other changes include the relocation of the Route 715 gate to allow access to the golf course; the realignment of shopping and food services to accommodate a dwindling military and growing civilian populace and the maintenance of medical services to support area retirees.

"That's how we're changing and that's how we're growing," he said. "It really is all about supporting the Warfighters and taking care of the work force."
He asked that everyone take a moment to "recognize and honor those men and women who have given their lives for this nation," during next week's Memorial Day weekend.

"Thanks a lot for what you do, and thanks a lot for the tremendous difference you make to our Soldiers and their Families and for the difference you will make for those who are coming to serve here in the future," Robinson said.

The program included the presentation of awards and gifts to the installation's outstanding service members of the year. They included Sgt. 1st Class Stephen Spohn; Staff Sgt. John Bostic, U.S. Army Ordnance Mechanical Maintenance School Instructor of the Year; U.S. Marine Corps Detachment NCO of the Year, Sgt. Jeremy Hazlett; and U.S. Air Force Detachment NCO of the Year Tech. Sgt. William Ingram. Kimberly accepted the award on for her husband who is deployed. Spohn and Bostic were awarded the Army Commendation Medal; Hazlett was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal and Ingram received a USAF Certificate of Achievement. All service members received a gift bag containing savings bonds, gift cards and other items from local merchants including dinner for two and a three-night stay at the Holiday Inn.
Organizers and honorees said they were pleased and honored to have been a part of the program.

Pete Bucha of Batelle, co-chair of the Military Affairs Committee and a retired APG colonel, said that the ceremony was in its seventh year at APG. He thanked the Garrison commander and staff for their support.

"This is indeed a special day because it gives us a chance to recognize all those at APG who serve our country with honor and distinction," Bucha said.
"We're always thrilled to partake of our military friends and associates here at APG," added Molinaro.

Spohn said that he was proud to have been included in the Covenant signing.
"It's a great feeling to be a part of Aberdeen Proving Ground history," he said. "I love the military. Hopefully, I can portray a positive image and serve as an advocate for Soldier support."

Hazlett, a systems administrator with the U.S. Marine Corps Detachment said that he was honored to have been named its NCO of the Year.

"I want to thank my wife for putting up with me and my command for supporting me through everything I've done," he said. "They respect me and that means a lot."

The program included the invocation by APG command Chaplain (Col.) Ruben D. Colon Jr. and the singing of the national anthem by Kelleigh Pangratz, a 10th grade student from Harford Technical High School.

Seccurro thanked Homestead Publishing Company and the APG News for the Military Appreciation Week insert that was distributed in May 9 issues of The AEGIS and May 15 issues of the APG News, in particular, editor Debi Horne and the chamber's advertising and sales committee.

"It was one of the best ever produced," he said of the insert.

In addition, George Mercer, APG public affairs officer, was named the recipient of the Maj. Gen. John G. Appel Recognition Award for his leadership on the chambers' Military Affairs Committee.

Seccurro said the award recognizes the individual who exemplifies what the chamber is all about.

"He has served faithfully as a member of our committee for the past ten years and without him it would be very difficult to put on our program," Seccurro said.

The Army Community Covenant

The Army Community Covenant is designed to develop and foster effective state and community partnerships with the Army in improving the quality of life for Soldiers and their Families, both at their current duty stations and as they transfer from state to state.

The Army Community Covenant is tailored at the local level, with leaders at both local and state levels participating in covenant signings, planned between April and December 2008, recognizing the strength of Army Soldiers and their Families and the support of their local Community.