APRIL 11, 2019 – For 275 years, Faneuil Hall has been the site of meetings, protests, and debates. To this day, people continue to gather at the historic site–where Revolutionary-era meetings and protests were frequent and generations to come would meet to discuss the meaning and legacy of American liberty.
It was only fitting that Boston’s first-ever Army Week kicked off on Apr. 8 in the building’s Great Hall; Soldiers and distinguished guests gathered for an opening ceremony, below George P. A. Healy’s massive 1851 painting depicting the great debate where Massachusetts Senator Daniel Webster famously said, “Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable!”
There was no debate between the guests on this day as none could protest the proud tradition between Massachusetts and the U.S. Army.
“It’s been amazing to me, as the state’s chief executive, to get to know just what exactly today’s Army is all about,” said Charlie Baker, 72nd governor of Massachusetts. “It’s about cybersecurity. It’s about autonomous vehicles. It’s about leveraging the technology genius that exists here in the United States of America, and especially here in Massachusetts, so that the future of the Army can be one that will continuously make us proud and keep us free.”
Baker mentioned the challenges that today’s Army faces including cybersecurity issues, combat, activities involving engagements with friends and enemies, and, in many cases, the equipment and technological expertise that is required for Soldiers to perform their duties.
“I know that I speak for the people of Massachusetts when I talk about our great relationships, both corporate and military, from the Natick Soldier Systems Center, Northeastern University’s facility in Waltham that works with the Army, and many other examples of partnership and collaboration, including Lincoln Labs which in many respects is the crown jewel of the technological infrastructure that provides for the men and women in the armed services,” continued Baker.
“We are so proud to be a big part of the next generation of the Army and the next generation of the defense, preservation, and protection of this great country and this great Commonwealth.”
Brig. Gen. Vincent Malone, senior commander of the Natick Soldier Systems Center and deputy commanding general of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (CCDC), spoke on behalf of the active duty Army and punctuated Baker’s remarks on Army technology and innovation.
“Many people don’t realize that the research and technologies developed behind Kevlar fibers, advanced body armor, and high nutrition and long shelf life foods, just to name a few, that research and development is conducted just west of here at the Natick Soldier Systems Center, also known as the Natick Labs.”
Malone continued, “This week is an opportunity for our Army to get out and tell its story. In the Army, our people, our Soldiers are our greatest asset. But without the trust, confidence, and the support of the American people we cannot maintain our all-volunteer Army.
The reality is that less than 1 percent of America’s population serves in the Armed Forces today. However, of that, 79 percent of that do serve have family members that have served. Why is that? It’s because they have a chance to hear the Army story.”
Malone, who will celebrate 30 years of service in the Army next month, said, “The army has been exciting, rewarding, and fulfilling. When I entered the Army as an Airborne infantry platoon leader I had no idea that the Army would give me the opportunity, fully funded, to go to graduate school. I certainly had no idea I would have the opportunity to serve in my current capacity as the senior commander of the Natick Soldier Systems Center, where scientists and engineers advance innovative technologies every day.”
The Army offers over 150 career opportunities, 50 alone in the medical field. Those in uniform know well about the comprehensive training and education opportunities the Army offers its Soldiers–99 percent have related civilian credentials, and last year alone, 6,900 Soldiers completed their degrees while serving.
Boston’s Meet Your Army Week is a Total Army community outreach effort to connect the city’s community and its citizens with the Army they haven’t met yet, which includes active duty Soldiers, the National Guard, and the Army Reserve.
The City of Boston has a longstanding history with the military. Martin J. Walsh, 54th mayor of Boston, said, “We’ve been home for generations of patriots. Our brave men and women, who continue to put their lives on the line for our city and our country, we will never take them for granted.”
Boston is home to the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS Boston), one of 65 in the country, where individuals are processed for enlistment or induction into the armed services. Approximately 11 thousand individuals are processed through MEPS Boston with more than five thousand of those joining the Army.
“We’re also home to one of the largest veterans’ community; nearly 17 thousand veterans live right here in the city of Boston,” said Walsh. “It’s a special community that continues to grow every single year. We always look forward to welcoming home our new veterans, tell them that Boston will always support them, and we never miss an opportunity to say thank you.”
The ceremony included the reading of proclamations from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the City of Boston declaring Apr. 8 to 15 as Army Week and ended with the presentation of U.S. Army flags to the city and state by Maj. Gen. Gary W. Keefe, adjutant general of the Massachusetts National Guard, and Maj. Gen. Mark W. Palzer, commanding general of the 99th Readiness Division.
Army Week Boston events include a cybersecurity symposium hosted by the Army Cyber Institute at West Point and Northeastern University, military research and development exhibits at Lincoln Labs at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, an Army Futures symposium, a parachute jump demonstration by the Army Special Ops jump team, the Black Daggers, virtual reality experiences and fitness challenges, and performances by the Army Drill Team, Six String Soldiers, and 78th Army Band.
By David Wedemeyer, Natick