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Marines 'Infiltrate' Central Park for Fleet Week

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

NEW YORK, May 29, 2005 – With Fleet Week 2005 cruising along here, the Marine Corps rolled through the streets of the city on May 28.

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Marine Capt. Michael Pretus lets fourth-grader Shayne Narro check out his 18-pound M-40A3 sniper rifle. Pretus was in Central Park with a display of Marine Corps vehicles and equipment as a part of Fleet Week 2005 in New York. Photo by Samantha Quigley

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Theirs was a simple mission in support of Marine Day in New York City: Public outreach and education.

"Everybody out here is so excited to see everything," Marine Capt. Michael Pretus said as he stood in sniper's camouflage. "They get a chance to ask the guys straight questions."

Those questions included what it was like to be in battle. Though some of the Marines participating in the event held at the Central Park band shell had served at least one tour in Iraq, it was still a tough question to answer.

"It's exciting, and it's scary," Pretus said. "(It's) a whole range of emotions."

He also said that it's difficult to explain to someone who has not experienced combat.

A Light Armored Vehicle-25 rolled through the streets as pedestrians stopped to watch and cabbies honked and waved. Staff Sgt. Leslie Ryan said no one was fazed by the military vehicle traveling down the streets. In fact, they thought it was great, he said.

Originally from New York, Ryan said it had been a dream of his to drive the vehicle through the city. The LAV is "street legal" and can move at speeds of approximately 60 mph.

"It drives just like a big truck," Ryan said.

A Humvee also proved to be a great point of interest, especially for children.

"I'm being ambushed (by kids)," Lance Cpl. Anthony Hager said with a smile. "It happened to me in Iraq, too."

Jennifer Theodosiou, 9, of Long Island climbed right in and began asking question about how the Humvee's gun was loaded and how far it could fire. She listened very intently as Hager answered her questions.

Jennifer wore a combat helmet as she shook her head in understanding. "It was like about 200 pounds," she said.

Theodosiou said that getting to "go on top of the Marine thingy" was her favorite part of the event.

Arthur Gonsalves of Long Island heard music from "Jason Yudoff and The New Hotness," one of the bands that provided entertainment for the event, and figured he'd check it out while the rest of his family visited the Central Park Zoo.

"My brother is in special operations with the Army," he said.

To see the actual equipment was helpful, he said, adding that it gave him a better understanding of what the Marines deal with on a day-to-day basis.

Gonsalves said he was impressed by the Humvee and the professionalism of the Marines. He said the Humvee he saw was "a lot more stripped down than the ones we see on the roads."

That kind of realization is one of the things that that Marine Day is meant to bring about, Ryan said.

"Most people get to see (the vehicles) on the news," he said. "They never really get to see how capable these vehicles really are, so we bring them out here and they can look inside, touch the vehicle. It gives them more confidence in are military and what were doing and that we're well protected."

Maj. David C. Andersen, a New York City public affairs officer and the Marine in charge of organizing events for Marines during Fleet Week, echoed that thought.

"What we want to do all of fleet week is just a showcase of the Marine Corps, the Navy, the Coast Guard. What we want to do is open our doors to the public, let them in to see what we're about," Andersen said. "We have Marines off the front line. ... The American public gets to see their heroes face -to face and (see) really how young they are."

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Light Armored Vehicle-25

Click photo for screen-resolution imageMarine Lance Cpls. Kevin Webb (left), Richard Baffa (center), and Robert Wagner stand atop a Light Armored Vehicle-25 at the Central Park band shell as civilians ask questions about the vehicle. Photo by Samantha Quigley  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageJennifer Theodosiou, 9, of Long Island listens as Lance Cpl. Anthony Hager answers one of her many question about the Humvee she was sitting on. Her brother Michael, 8, also found the vehicle fascinating. The Humvee was sitting at the Central Park band shell with other Marine Corps vehicles as a part of Marine Day in New York, a Fleet Week 2005 event. Photo by Samantha Quigley  
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