Fort McCoy News March 14, 2014

Fort McCoy Open House set for May 17

Fort McCoy's annual Armed Forces Day Open House is back for 2014!

It's not too early to mark your calendar and make plans to attend Saturday, May 17 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

Fort McCoy Public Affairs Officer Linda M. Fournier said it is exciting to once again plan to host this popular event, which was cancelled in 2013 due to sequestration.

Armed Forces Day recognizes past and present members of the armed forces and is observed across the nation on the third Saturday in May.

"Fort McCoy's Armed Forces Day Open House is a perfect opportunity to pay tribute to the role the installation and its people have had in supporting the nation's defense efforts since 1909," Fournier said.

"Our open house allows us to share the Fort McCoy story with the public and showcase the post's role as a Total Force Training Center that serves all branches of the U.S. military," she said.

"We will highlight the variety of training that is conducted on the installation, as well as showcase our post's rich history with period displays of artifacts, uniforms and military equipment. It also is a great chance to dialogue with people and answer questions."

The installation's historic, award-winning Commemorative Area will be at the center of all event activities.

The History Center and all Commemorative Area buildings will be open throughout the day, as will Veterans Memorial Plaza and the recently expanded Equipment Park, which now displays 70 pieces of historic and present-day military equipment.

Guests at past events have stated the most-enjoyed activities have been having a personalized ID tag made, viewing military vehicles, testing their skills at the interactive marksmanship shooting van, scooping sawdust at the sandbag-filling station, and taking a guided, narrated bus tour of the installation. Each of these activities, along with many more, will be part of the 2014 celebration.

Forrnier said the open house requires staffing far beyond what her office, alone, could support.

"Many Fort McCoy employees take this opportunity to support the open house effort by performing duties as tour guides, display representatives or Commemorative Area building monitors for this one special day in May," she said. "And many have returned year after year because they have pride in the installation they work at and the job they do throughout the year. They particularly enjoy interacting with the public and hearing the many, many stories that visitors share."

Tour guide Pete Hodges, who works as a contract management support officer at the post's Resource Management Office, said he thoroughly enjoys his open house role.

"It is a pleasure to share with our open house visitors the history and current events associated with Fort McCoy," he said, noting the event is special for his entire Family, with his wife and daughters enjoying the day as participants.

Employees who staff the World War II-era Commemorative Area buildings have said it is a special treat to listen to the many stories and memories shared by open house visitors and answer their questions.

Public Affairs Specialist Theresa Fitzgerald said the buildings, which are preserved as closely as possible to the original 1942 construction state, transport many visitors back to a different time in their lives.

"It's common for veterans and prior-service personnel, who either have trained or mobilized at the post, to reminisce about the 'good old days' or comment about all the changes that have taken place on the installation since they last served here," Fitzgerald said.

"Many also bring Family members to the open house to show and share with them where they previously trained. It's meaningful to hear the interaction and sharing of stories between generations."

Building 905, which is adjacent to the park-like setting of the Commemorative Area, and surrounding parking lots will serve as a location for many more displays, activities and opportunities to learn about Fort McCoy.

A food-and-beverage concession stand will be operating during the event. A covered pavilion with picnic tables also is located on the grounds.

Visitors can access the event site via Gate 15 off of Wisconsin Highway 21 between Tomah and Sparta. Adult visitors must be prepared to show photo identification upon entering.

The Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office has overall staff responsibility for open house planning and coordination. Any Fort McCoy organization can sponsor an event or set-up a display; call Public Affairs at 608-388-2407 to learn how.