As guests in military dress uniforms and formal evening gowns passed through the foyer of Club Meade on Saturday evening, they encountered The Emperor, a large high-tech chair that cyberspace operators can use for their work.
The display from U.S. Cyber Command was one of many eye-catching exhibits featured at Fort Meade’s 100th Anniversary Gala. The nearly six-hour event commemorated the installation’s establishment as Camp Meade in 1917 and its contributions to World War I and the wars and conflicts that followed.
About 400 people attended the formal affair, which was coordinated by the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation and several co-sponsors. Proceeds from the ticket sales will benefit Fort Meade families.
Retired Col. Kenneth O. McCreedy, a former garrison commander, historian and chairman of the Fort Meade Centennial Committee, called the celebration “a first-class event.”
McCreedy, who attended the gala with his wife, LeAnn, presented several lectures about Camp Meade and its participation in World War I at local libraries earlier in the year.
Speakers included Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, who represents Maryland’s 2nd Congressional District, and Rep. John Sarbanes, who represents the 3rd Congressional District.
Entertainment featured live music performed by the USO Show Troupe, the U.S. Army Field Band and The Four Strings, a local band. The groups performed popular music from the 1940s through the 1960s.
Hors d’oeuvres were catered by Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. Club Meade provided a cash bar.
“Based on the positive feedback we are receiving from guests, the event was a huge success,” said Candace Godfrey, marketing manager at FMWR. “All of the individuals involved in planning this event were determined to make this special, and their work paid off.”
Each room in Club Meade was decorated to highlight Fort Meade’s participation in World War I, World War II, the Korean and Vietnam wars, the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Global War on Terror.
Living historians and re-enactors in period dress were on hand to tell the story of how Fort Meade and the service members who trained here have contributed to the nation’s defense and how service members from opposing nations prepared to fight.
In preparation for the gala, Club Meade was closed for five days to allow more than five Fort Meade military units, tenant organizations and staff from the Fort Meade Museum time to set up the displays.
“This is lovely — especially the decorations in each room and the music,” said retired Lt. Col. Alfred Shehab, 97, one of Fort Meade’s oldest Soldiers.
During World War II, Shehab came through the installation in 1944 on his way to France to serve in the Battle of the Bulge.
Shehab said he might even “get up and dance” before the evening was over.
A Rich Experience
The gala began with the posting of the colors by the 3rd Infantry Regiment of the Military District of Washington. Sgt. 1st Class Randy Wight of the U.S. Army Field Band performed the national anthem.
Chad T. Jones, Fort Meade’s public affairs officer, served as emcee.
“Tonight is special for each of us,” he said. “… All of us in our own way help make Fort Meade what it is today — the nation’s platform for information, intelligence and cyber operations.
“And if you walk through the rooms today, please take the time to reflect on the millions of men and women who have come through this little Army fort in western Anne Arundel County to serve the greatest nation on earth.”
Jones acknowledged the many military units that helped to create each room at Club Meade and said they managed to transform the banquet facility into “a time capsule in history.”
Garrison Commander Col. Tom Rickard welcomed the guests.
“I’m humbled by the great leaders who preceded me and the outstanding contributions of all the units stationed at Fort Meade over the years,” he said. “So, from saddles to cyberspace, Fort Meade has been a key installation to our national security.
“And we continue to grow in size and infrastructure to meet our national security needs.”
Rickard thanked museum staffers for their expertise in helping to assemble the historical displays and encouraged the guests to visit each room.
“This is really a rich experience,” he said.
In his remarks, Ruppersberger called the event a “great evening” and said Fort Meade has played a critical role in the nation’s conflicts.
Ruppersberger said the installation continues to be at the forefront of the nation’s security and pledged his continuing support of the garrison, its service members and their families.
“I’m really excited for the next 100 years,” he said. “I think we can all confidently say that the best is yet to come.”
Sarbanes praised Rickard and his predecessors for their service.
“We’ve had incredible leadership,” Sarbanes said. Each garrison commander, he said, “brings a new set of talents and a commitment and dedication” to ensure Fort Meade is at its best.
Sarbanes said the installation has an “unrivaled” relationship with its community partners and the surrounding community.
He and Ruppersberger then presented Rickard with a declaration recognizing the history of Fort Meade that was entered into the Congressional Record.
In his remarks, Navy Adm. Michael S. Rogers, director of the National Security Agency, commander of U.S. Cyber Command and chief of the Central Security Service, said Fort Meade has always been “positioned for the future and not the past.”
“Fort Meade has always represented what is going on today and what’s going on tomorrow,” Rogers said.
The installation, he said, has been pivotal in the nation’s security, whether it was training doughboys in World War I or today as a center of information, intelligence and cyber operations.
“This is a brave ‘ol girl and she’s doing great stuff for the nation,” Rogers said.
The many other distinguished guests included Maryland State Del. Pam Beidle; Anne Arundel County Council members Peter Smith and Andrew Pruski; Air Force Maj. Gen. Sarah Zabel of the Defense Information Systems Agency; and Command Sgt. Maj. David C. Redmond of U.S. Cyber Command.
Among the former garrison commanders who attended in addition to McCreedy were retired Col. John W. Ives and his wife, Diana; retired Col. Daniel L. Thomas and his wife, Theresa; and retired Col. Edward C. Rothstein and his wife, Audrey.
Guests dined in Club Meade’s grand ballroom, which was designed to pay homage to World War I.
Service members and Department of the Army civilians from Kimbrough Ambulatory Care Center, the 200th Military Police Command and the Cryptologic Warfare Group helped decorate the room.
The decor featured posters of photographs of Soldiers training at Camp Meade as well as a 1921 photograph of then-Capt. Dwight D. Eisenhower when he was part of the Tanks Corps School.
An ice sculpture of the 100th anniversary logo was propped on a serving table in the center of the ballroom. It was designed by Ice Lab Ice Sculptures in Baltimore.
Living historians from the 79th Division Historical Group explained the significance of an exhibit of personal artifacts that Soldiers from the original World War I unit would have used as they prepared to ship to Europe.
The 79th Division trained at Camp Meade and was part of Gen. John J. Pershing’s American Expeditionary Force. The division fought in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, the major battle of World War I.
John Abels, a living historian with the group, said it was a “great honor” to participate in the Meade’s centennial.
“It’s one thing to read about this history in a textbook,” Abels said, “and it’s another thing to see it firsthand.”
Ives and his wife traveled from their Florida home to attend the gala.
“It’s an honor to have been one of the commanders to have made all of this happen,” said Ives, who served from 2002 to 2005 when Fort Meade’s Base Realignment and Closure went into effect.
Ives said that during his tenure, he and the garrison leadership aimed to “bring the community together to think about what we had to do to move forward into the future.”
Fort Meade was the couple’s last duty station before retirement.
“Fort Meade was God’s gift to us,” Diana Ives said. “She was our gift and we treated her like a gift. And oh my, how she’s grown!”
A highlight from the World War I room was a replica of a dugout that American Soldiers serving in northern France would have built on the side of a trench for combat.
Barbara Taylor, exhibit specialist at the Fort Meade Museum who has a background in theater set design, created the dugout using industrial paper mache´.
“This is where [the Soldiers] would have lived underground,” Taylor said.
On top of the dugout was a Vickers machine gun that the British brought to Camp Meade when they came to train American Soldiers before the war.
Taylor said she did not spend the evening looking at the exhibit displays or artifacts. Instead, she focused on the guests as they moved from room to room to learn about the installation’s 100-year history.
“I was looking at the smiles on their faces,” Taylor said. “That made my night.”