CAMP EDWARDS, Mass. -
The Blackhawk helicopter came in low, appearing to fly inches above the trees. As it approached an open field, four ropes were thrown from the sides of the copter; within seconds heavily armed Soldiers were sliding down the ropes and charging across the field … and towards a group of cheering and applauding onlookers.
“It’s pretty incredible,” said Jackson Goddard, a resident of Marstons Mills, Mass., and a Boy Scout with Troop 75 in Brewster,” It’s amazing, I’ve never seen so much in my life. It’s awesome.”
Camp Edwards, located on the Massachusetts Military Reservation, here, held its second annual Open House this weekend.
“We like to have a community outreach program, so the public can see what we do,” said Lt. Col. Richard Bertone, acting base commander, Camp Edwards.
Approximately 1000 people visited Camp Edwards, braving an overcast sky (which gave every indication that rain was imminent), to see the displays, the demonstrations and meet the Soldiers.
“I knew it was here, but I didn’t know a lot about it,” said Goddard, “It’s incredible how big the base is.”
The Massachusetts Military Reservation is home to Camp Edwards, Otis Air National Guard Base, Coast Guard Station Cape Cod and the U.S. Air Force's 6th Space Squadron.
Besides the Soldiers fast roping from the helicopters there were air assault demonstrations, military re-enactors from different time periods in history; from colonial times to the Vietnam War era. The World War II re-enactors representing Soldiers from Massachusetts’ own 26th Infantry Division, along with British and Free French troops, battled the Germans in mock combat.
Different units of the Massachusetts National Guard had static displays from the artillery to the military police. The U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard and Veterans Administration also had displays at the open house as well.
On a different section of Camp Edwards there was a rappelling demonstration for members of the public. Heavily equipped Servicemembers slid down ropes as from a towering platform as local residents watched.
Visitors to Camp Edwards also had the opportunity to tour Tactical Training Base Kelley; a training site modeled after a modern military that base many U.S. Servicemembers may find themselves deployed to in different parts of the world. At TTB Kelley (named after Sgt. Michael Kelley, a Massachusetts Army National Guardsman, who was killed in Afghanistan), personnel from various branches of the military can train and sharpen their skills before deploying.
“I think it’s healthy for the citizens to see this,” said Mr. Joe Kelley, Sgt. Kelley’s father, “To see the preparation and what the military is all about, I think it’s helpful.”
As people moved throughout the different displays and exhibits, some visitors were reminded just how dangerous a Soldiers service can be. For Kimberly Fish, a Falmouth resident, seeing the amount of armor on a HUMVEE was thought provoking.
“You get to see firsthand how frightening it is … dangerous and frightening,” said Fish, ”It’s very brave for them to put themselves in that position,” she said.
For Navy veteran Bill LeBeau, attending the open house, was a way to support the troops.
“You guys (Guardsmen) don’t get half the credit for the amount of work that you’re doing,” said LeBeau, “You guys do a hell of a job, nobody could do it any better.”