Block Party: Annual National Night Out brings Fort Meade community together

Thousands gather Tuesday evening at McGlachlin Parade Field for the 33rd National Night Out. The event, which promotes public awareness of crime and drug prevention and strengthening bonds between the police and community, featured informational booths, free food and children's attractions. (Photos by Nate Pesce)

Sarah Lascurian’s toddler son wants to grow up to be a firefighter.

So the 3-year-old climbed behind the wheel of a 97,000 pound Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting truck at National Night Out and donned a firefighter’s helmet.

“He would love to drive one. He talks about it all the time,” said Lascurian, wife of Senior Airman Jonathan Lascurian of the 94th Intelligence Squadron. “We came to National Night Out last year and had a blast. We had to come back so he could see the fire trucks.”

Olivia Rose and her sister Sophia (right) check out the inside of an armored carrier vehicle on display.

Lascurian was among the hundreds of people who attended Fort Meade’s 33rd Annual National Night Out on Tuesday evening.

The three-hour event, held at McGlachlin Parade Field for the post community, is a collaboration between the Directorate of Emergency Services and Corvias Military Living. Its purpose is to promote public awareness of crime and drug prevention and strengthen the bond between police and the community, according to the National Night Out website.

Each year the National Association of Town Watch sponsors National Night Out nationwide on the first Tuesday in August.

“This is the largest National Night Out in Anne Arundel County,” said Diane M. Croghan, chief of staff for the Office of the Anne Arundel County Executive Steven R. Schuh. “We’re excited to be here.”

1st Lt. Anthony Hill, of the 200th Military Police Command, and Jonathan Beatty, 9, look out from an armored vehicle. Numerous military, police, firefighting vehicles were on display at McGlachlin Parade Field during the three-hour event.

The festive event began when a convoy of emergency vehicles rode down Cooper Avenue and stopped at the parade field after traveling through some Fort Meade neighborhoods.

Garrison Commander Col. Brian P. Foley, joined by Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Rodwell L. Forbes, incoming Garrison Commander Thomas S. Rickard and McGruff the Crime Dog, climbed down Fire Engine No. 45, along with family members.

In his final official appearance, Foley signed the “Community Night Out” proclamation with Robert Holmes, deputy director of the Directorate of Emergency Services, and Maureen Van Biesen, community management director of Corvias.

Dozens of emergency and military vehicles for children to climb and explore were displayed by the Fort Meade Police, Fort Meade Fire and Emergency Services, National Security Agency Police, the 241st Military Police Detachment and the Fort Meade Mobile Command.

Laurie Pierce, who works in the leasing center at Corvias Military Housing, folds and sets up National Night Out T-shirts. Corvias staffers also distributed free hot dogs, chips and bottled water during the annual three-hour event.

Colorful tents and informational booths representing Fort Meade service groups and agencies dotted the parade field. Among them were Army Community Service; the Fleet and Family Support Center; Child, Youth and School Services; the Officers’ Spouses’ Club; the Enlisted Spouses’ Club; Cub Scout Pack 377; the Exceptional Family Member Program; and SHARP (Sexual Harassment and Assault Response Program).

Private and nonprofit organizations included Warrior of Grace Karate, Chesapeake Antique Fire Apparatus Association, Columbia Bank, PNC Bank, Bri-Bet Security Solution, USAA, Xfinity, Johns Hopkins Medicine and the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs.

“We came to support the agencies that are here. What they do is so important,” said Staff Sgt. Brian Erickson, a journalism instructor at the Defense Information School who attended with his wife, Glenda, and 3-year-old daughter Liliana.

The family stood on line at the Maryland Child Identification Program, where representatives collected some of the data that law enforcement agencies require when a child is reported missing or abducted. The data includes the child’s name, address, height, weight, eye and hair color, birth date, photo and digital fingerprints.

“To me, it’s just another safety precaution,” Glenda Erickson said.

John McLaren, a volunteer firefighter with the Jessup Volunteer Fire Department, said the organization participated in the event to “interact with the community” and distribute information about preventing fires and protecting families against the Zika virus.

Kyla Wrinn, 5, of Hanover, shows her glee while wearing a pink Fort Meade fire helmet.

The fire department also displayed applications for new recruits. McLaren said a woman who resides at Fort Meade signed up to volunteer.

“We’re very much like the Fort Meade police and fire departments,” McLaren said. “We serve the same purpose — to protect lives and protect property.”

People stood in long lines for the free food and beverages: pulled pork and pulled chicken sandwiches from Mission BBQ; hot dogs provided by 7-Eleven and prepared by Corvias; Slurpees from 7-Eleven; samples of almond-nut iced coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts; and sugar-topped funnel cakes.

Children were entertained by a military K-9 demonstration from the 2nd Military Working Dog Detachment, and several inflatable bounce houses and slides across the parade field. Other popular attractions included a zip line, rock climbing wall, laser tag, rope-walking, face-painting and giant, inflated hamster balls.

Dawn Williams, wife of Navy Reservist Aaron Williams, stood in line for the hamster balls with her 4-year-old son Zion.

“We came out to have a good time,” she said. “We came last year. We came for the fun, the ride and the food.”

Zion couldn’t wait for his turn in a hamster ball.

“My favorite thing is running in the bubble,” he said. “When you run, it doesn’t pop.”

Youngsters also climbed inside a tank, examined a World War II-era bazooka, and rode on ponies led by Buffalo Soldiers in Union uniform.

(Left) Geneva Yearwood, 17, and Rowland Smith, 18, wear Pokemon backpacks as they play the Pokemon Go Scavenger Hunt.

A highlight of the evening was a Pokémon Go Scavenger Hunt sponsored by the Fort Meade Public Affairs Office.

Sgt. Jerick Chavez of the Maryland National Guard stood by as his wife, Angela, who claimed a prize for their participation, along with their three sons: Jathan 7; Jian, 5; and Jeimar, 3.

“I think it’s fun,” Angela Chavez said. “The kids get so excited. For them to catch one, they get so hyped up.”

Jathan captured a total of six creatures, including three in a row, winning a free flashlight. “It was cool,” he said.

Nine-year-old Jordan Feinstein of Pikesville traverses the rope-walking course at National Night Out on Tuesday at McGlachlin Parade Field. Children also enjoyed an inflatable hamster ball, pony rides, laser tag, a rock climbing wall and zip line.

A crowd also gathered at the display of two bomb robots from the NSA Police bomb squad.

The robots, named Betty and Bob, are used to pick up, open and explode bombs by remote control, said Cpl. James Williams, a bomb technician. They also open suspicious packages.

“It’s good for people to see what goes on behind the scenes and what capabilities we have, particularly when people live near us in the area,” Williams said.

Children also took their turn in the “smoke house” set up by Fort Meade Fire and Emergency Services. A firefighter pointed out fire hazards in the kitchen and escape routes. As fake smoke suddenly darkened the room, the firefighter instructed the youngsters to crawl out to safety.

Tech Sgt. Andrew Sharp of the 22nd Intelligence Squadron said he brought his 6-year-old son Alex to National Night Out because he believes children need to learn an important lesson that National Night Out teaches.

“They need to know not to be afraid of the police or fire department or their equipment,” Sharp said.

Alex, he said, does not hide from law enforcement.

“He knows who to go to for help,” Sharp said.

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