Military, Public Interact at Public Service Recognition Week Exhibits
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May. 2, 2003 Eleven-year-old Ryan Jones' eyes grew wide as he sat down behind a real, black and silver U.S. Army M-240B machine gun.
Afterward, when asked about his feelings about the rapid-firing infantry weapon and other DoD equipment on display downtown as part of Public Service Recognition Week activities here, Jones exclaimed, "It's cool!"
Boys will be boys, explained Army Spc. Cecil Holifield, a 82nd Airborne Division soldier -- and Afghanistan combat veteran -- who'd pointed out the M-240B's fine points to Ryan.
Invariably, when young boys see military equipment like the M-240B, "it catches their interest," remarked the 21-year-old infantryman.
Holifield and other service members are participating in the exhibition on the National Mall containing displays from 60 military and federal agencies. The exhibition free and open to the public -- started today and runs through May 5. Public Service Recognition Week runs May 5-11 and displays, exhibits and special programs across the nation will celebrate the occasion at local, regional, state and federal levels.
Jones' father, Brian, said he likes military participation in venues like this.
"It's good for recruiting (and) I think it's good to show our young people what kind of people are in the military," the Brackettville, Texas, native remarked.
Other equipment on downtown display from the military services ran the gamut, to include an Army M-1A2 Abrams tank, an Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon jet fighter, a Marine Corps' M-198 howitzer, Navy Mark 16 diving gear system -- and much more.
And the public seemed to love it. For example, as grownup "30-something" Jennifer Cleary peered into the cockpit of the F-16, she wondered aloud what it'd be like to actually sit inside the combat jet.
Navy Chief Petty Officer Paul Muir, 35, noted that female visitor Teri Roberts asked many questions about the Mark 16 gear, which Muir noted is used for aquatic missions by Navy SEALS and other special operations troops.
"She was asking about what was required for our training," Muir recalled, noting he works at Virginia Beach, Va., as a Navy diving instructor.
Pointing to a nearby swim tank where submerged Navy scuba divers were waving to the public, Muir said he'd offered Roberts "a swim." The woman, he noted, laughed and declined the offer.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Caporaso, a tanker from Fort Knox, Ky., who works with the Army's Stryker program, was atop one of the prototype vehicles with 5- year-old Will Moore.
Caporaso said he enjoys showing off the 38,000-pound machine, asserting it "is a great vehicle."
"It's great to be able to get out and show people" the Stryker's attributes, the noncommissioned officer remarked, noting that even many soldiers have never seen the Stryker up close.
U.S. Marine reservist Lance Cpls. Wilbert Allen, 19, and Christopher Morehouse, 19, were up early today tending to their M-198 howitzer -- a gun that shoots 155 mm shells up to 18 miles. The H Battery, 14th Marine Regiment, troops from Richmond, Va., pointed out that other M-198s were used recently to good effect against enemy forces in Iraq.
Allen and Morehouse both said it was good for the public to interact with service members and see the exhibits, a sentiment echoed by their NCO, Sgt. Anthony Paciello.
"The public can see the stuff we use" and learn how service members perform their jobs, Paciello pointed out.
Besides showcasing military hardware to the public, such exhibitions "are an opportunity to show our appreciation to the people who serve" in the military, remarked Brian Jones, who'd shaken Holifield's hand and thanked the soldier for his service.
Ryan's mother, Lorna, noted that she'd worry about her son if he joined the military one day and "went in harm's way."
However, "I'd be proud if he served our country," she asserted.