The third signing of the Fort George G. Meade Community Covenant recognized the installation’s status as the nation’s platform for information, intelligence and cyber operations.
Garrison Commander Col. Tom Rickard, Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger and Rep. John Sarbanes, along with other state and local political leaders and business, education and community representatives, signed the covenant in a 30-minute ceremony Monday afternoon at the Odenton Regional Library.
Established in 2011 by the Fort Meade Community Covenant Council, the covenant “formalizes the ongoing commitment between Fort Meade and the surrounding communities,” said Chad Jones, the Fort Meade public affairs officer who served as emcee.
The council works “to provide the Fort Meade military community with the support and resources that are reflective of the commitment of the more than 56,000 men and women working on the installation,” Jones said.
In signing the covenant, the communal leaders pledge to present a unified voice for the Fort Meade community; increase the region’s awareness and understanding of Fort Meade, its goals and objectives; connect the Fort Meade community on and off post with beneficial partnerships and opportunities; serve as the garrison commander’s resource for relevant information related to the surrounding region; and assist the garrison in supporting the mission for its agencies and tenant organizations.
Tim O’Ferrall, chairman of the Community Covenant Council, said that since its inception, the covenant has been signed by each new garrison commander.
Distinguished guests included Maryland Secretary of Veteran Affairs George W. Owings III; Turhan Robinson, senior civilian aide to the secretary of the Army; Del. Mark Chang; Del. Pamela G. Beidle; state Sen. Guy J. Guzzone; Anne Arundel County Councilman Pete Smith, District 1; Greg Pecoraro, executive director, BWI Business Partnership; Steve Tiller, president, Fort Meade Alliance; John Falin, director of center operations, USO of Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore; Raj Kudchadkar, president and CEO, Central Maryland Chamber of Commerce; Dr. Dawn Lindsay, president, Anne Arundel Community College; and Dr. George Arlotto, superintendent, Anne Arundel County Public Schools.
Staff Sgt. Jeremy Cady of the U.S. Army Field Band sang the national anthem.
In his remarks, Rickard acknowledged the work of the council to contribute to the stability and growth of Fort Meade and its impact on the lives of service members and their families through various projects.
“The efficacy of this powerful council is widely respected and deeply appreciated by our Fort Meade families,” Rickard said.
Addressing Fort Meade’s prominence in cyberspace operations, Rickard said “Fort Meade is a frontline fort.”
Scores of the installation’s service members and DoD civilians work every day, he said, “coding, decoding, translating, hacking and counterhacking” cyberspace entities that are “necessary for our national defense.”
Rickard said Fort Meade’s cyber growth provides an opportunity to “develop a talent pipeline” from the installation’s schools to meet the demand for cyber operators to work on behalf of the country’s national security.
In his remarks, Ruppersberger spoke of Fort Meade’s critical role to the nation.
“Fort Meade is so important to our national security. … They need our support,” he said.
Ruppersberger called Maryland “the cyber security capital of the world,” and in the future, the state will be known as a “pioneer” in cyber security.
“It’s so important the we have this mission here, and we can’t make it without what the covenant does here today,” he said.
Sarbanes said the signators have agreed to renew their commitment to Fort Meade over the years because “it means so much to us.”
“We stand by this partnership because it’s that important to the base and surrounding community,” he said.
Sarbanes said that the political divisions in the country make it critical for people of diverse political and social backgrounds to come together to achieve common goals.
“We need to find the spaces that bring us together and this is that space,” he said. “We have to protect these spaces and we have to develop them. … This covenant is an example of how people can come together.”
During his introduction of O’Ferrall, Jones said O’Ferrall’s efforts to reach out to business and community organizations, such as the BWI Business Partnership and the West Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce (now the Central Maryland Chamber of Commerce), led to the creation of the council and the covenant.
In his remarks, O’Ferrall praised the council’s founders for their efforts.
“[They] all really wanted to see good things happen,” he said. “We are really, really pleased with the success of this community covenant.
“The importance of us working together cannot be understated. … We have the opportunity to play a significant role and [have] a positive impact on the future of the installation. …
“We look forward to the challenges ahead. We’re not afraid of them. This [council] will be a big part of solving them,” O’Ferrall said.