Fort McCoy News April 22, 2016

See, experience Fort McCoy at May 21 open house

Public Affairs Staff

Fort McCoy will celebrate Armed Forces Day May 21 with an open house designed to show and tell visitors about the post's dynamic training support mission and its 107-year history.

The free event runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and is open to the public. Adults must be prepared to present IDs upon entering the installation. Food is available to purchase at the event, but visitors also may bring their own lunches and dine at the picnic pavilion.

The central location for the event is in and around the post's historic Commemorative Area, which features the History Center, which now is handicapped accessible; five World War II-era buildings filled with historical equipment and displays; an outdoor Equipment Park; and Veterans Memorial Plaza. Nearby building 905 and the areas surrounding it also will be filled with open house activities.

Fort McCoy 2015 Armed Forces Day Open House visitors take time to snap a photo at Veteran’s Memorial Plaza.
Fort McCoy 2015 Armed Forces Day Open House visitors take time to snap
a photo at Veteran's Memorial Plaza.
File photo

Planned activities include guided installation bus tours, a sandbag-filling station, personalized ID tags, camouflage face painting, military equipment displays, marksmanship galleries, and more.

Public Affairs Specialist Theresa Fitzgerald said all of the tours, displays, information booths, and events are designed to tell the story of Fort McCoy and the organizations that support the post or call the installation home.

"There is a lot to see and do," she said. "It's educational, as well as being fun, and offers something for people of all ages."
The Armed Forces Day Open House has been a very popular event throughout the years. Annual attendance counts near 5,000 people are not unusual.

"But with the expansive grounds and the parklike setting of the Commemorative Area, it never seems crowded," Fitzgerald said. "There is plenty of parking and room for people to join in on the fun."

While Fort McCoy's Public Affairs Office has the overall lead to plan and coordinate the annual open house, staging an event of this scale would not be possible without the significant investment of time and commitment of Soldiers and members of the civilian and contract workforce at the installation, she said.

The 2016 event has expanded to include several new displays from the Medical Simulation Training Center, the 181st Infantry Brigade, a cultural-resource display from the Natural Resources Branch, and a mobile unit from USO Wisconsin. Fitzgerald said representatives of the Army, Army Reserve, Navy, Coast Guard auxiliary, and Marines will be on site.

"I get excited when I tell people about open house," she said. "It is an important community outreach event for the installation, and it provides one of the best opportunities for the public to see what Fort McCoy is all about. Open house is a way to show people the enduring value of Fort McCoy."

Central Issue Facility staff members talk about military equipment to visitors at the 2015 Armed Forces Day Open House.
Visitors inspect a piece of military equipment during the 2015 Armed
Forces Day Open House.
File photo, not in print edition

"Members of the armed forces have trained on this post since 1909, and today we are continuing to fulfill the vision of Maj. Gen. Robert Bruce McCoy, our post's namesake. That is an important message to communicate."

Open house also is "a wonderful opportunity for us to hear about the stories and memories of peoples' experience with Fort McCoy through the years," Fitzgerald said. "It reinforces what Fort McCoy has done and has meant to people throughout the years."

The guided bus tours are a longtime favorite of visitors. This year, 23 tours are scheduled throughout the day. Tour guides and bus drivers are members of the Fort McCoy workforce. Sheila Peterson, Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security Operation Support Division chief, has served as a tour guide supporting open house events for about a decade.

"It's so much fun for me," Peterson said. "It's interesting to hear some of the stories that some people will tell … those who were here years and years ago for their training."

She said her favorite part of the tour is going out to training areas to show visitors the world-class facilities and terrain the post has to offer.

The tours allow civilians to see what Soldiers have available to them for training. "That's something people in the general public don't get to see every day," Peterson said.

She said the most important part of open house for her and the directorate she works in is telling visitors about why Fort McCoy and its mission are so important.

"Without the things that we do, the Soldiers wouldn't be ready to go to war," Peterson said. "We're here to help these Soldiers come back alive, because that's the ultimate goal — to get every one of them back."

Central Issue Facility staff members talk about military equipment to
visitors at the 2015 Armed Forces Day Open House.
File photo, not in print

Property Book Officer Thomas Lovgren with the Central Issue Facility (CIF) has been organizing and manning his organization's display for about six years. He said the CIF display features hands-on displays of both old and new equipment to give the general public a better idea of what a typical Soldier uses on a daily basis.

"(We) let people pick it up and see what it feels like," Lovgren said. "People like to see the body armor, the helmets, the cool stuff, (like) the ballistic glasses. … I have some damaged equipment, some damaged helmets and glasses, that people can look at. You can see the protection (it provides)."

He said he updates the display every year to include new equipment, such as the new camouflage patterns currently being rolled out or the cold-weather equipment the CIF began fielding several months ago.

"They get to feel it, they get to try it on, so hopefully it gives them a better perspective of what these Soldiers are going through while carrying all this equipment," Lovgren said. "We try to make it meaningful to people who have not been around this type of equipment."

He said the open house is extremely important to show the public how the CIF fits into Fort McCoy and supports the Soldiers.

"Every (Soldier) coming through the door, it's (our) responsibility to make sure they get all the equipment they're authorized, the best that we can get for them, and in all the correct sizes … so they can do the training they need to do," Lovgren said.

"We enjoy talking to people about what we do. We're pretty proud of this post and everyone else here," he said.

For more information about Armed Forces Day Open House, call Public Affairs at 608-388-2407.