Nov. 4, 2009

Fort Pickett hosts local community at Fall Festival

By Sgt. 1st Class Anne Burnley
Maneuver Training Center Public Affairs

FORT PICKETT, Va. — Hundreds of youngsters and adults visited the Virginia Army National Guard Maneuver Training Center, Fort Pickett to enjoy events that marked the Commander’s Fall Festival and Open House Oct. 24. The weekend began with the Commander’s Halloween Masquerade Ball Oct. 23 and ended with a Haunted Hay Ride Oct. 24.

  Fort Pickett Fall Festival

Deputy T. E. Coleman of the Nottoway County Sheriff's Office and Blackstone resident Loraine A. Reyes help Amenain A. Reyes hold the ink pad used in the Ident-a-Kid program during the Fort Pickett Fall Festival and Open House Oct. 24, 2009 on the Blackstone Army Air Field. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Anne Burnley, Maneuver Training Center Public Affairs)

“Halloween is a big deal in Blackstone,” said Col. Thomas P. Wilkinson, commander of the Maneuver Training Center. “The staff and Soldiers said that it had been many years since Pickett had done anything along these lines. The local community is also my community as the Fort Pickett commander. I wanted to start something that we could all rally around to strengthen our relationships. The Open House allowed us to showcase our way of life at Pickett and bring the community together as well as foster the patriotic spirit that is so prevalent here.”

“Participation from the community was outstanding,” said 1st Lt. Mike Schaeffer, commander of 157th Engineer Company.

Ticket sales for the Commander’s Halloween Masquerade Ball and Haunted Hay Rides were used to bolster the Fort Pickett Morale Welfare and Recreation fund.   

“We tied the MWR piece to the Fall Festival as a link to foster support for our Soldiers,” Wilkinson said. “We will use the funds to upgrade equipment at the MTC gymnasium.  Ultimately, the MWR funds will also be used to help us open the swimming pool on post. The Commander’s 1st Annual Halloween Masquerade Ball and the Hay Ride events were both ways for us to have a little fun in the process.”

The Blackstone Army Air Field was the setting for the Fort Pickett Open House. Events and static displays varied and appealed to both children and adults. Games and face painting were popular activities for younger children.

“I came here to be closer to my grandchildren,” said Janet S. Lundquist, of Blackstone. “I heard about the open house through my daughter, Dawn R. Granger, who works for the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Department. My grandchildren Hunter, Chase and Kendall went on the tanks and are having fun.”

History buffs had the opportunity to view the Fort Pickett History Office display “Pickett Through the Ages,” featuring photographs of the post from its inception as the United States Army Camp Pickett to the present. Artifacts from Native American inhabitants and civilian settlements were also featured.

  Fort Pickett Fall Festival

Sgt. Michael L. Campbell, of the Virginia Army National Guard Maneuver Training Cetner, watches as Sgt. William R. Waller, prepares to lift his daughter, Alauna, to view the interior of the M109A6 155 Howitzer during the Virginia Army National Guard Maneuver Training Center Fall Festival and Open House on Oct. 24, 2009. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Anne Burnley, Maneuver Training Center Public Affairs)

Lewis D. Custer, a Nottoway County resident, viewed the history display with interest.

“I worked at Pickett in 1989,” said Custer. “I have a brother who was in World War II.  He lived in a nearby farm house and worked on building this post when he was sixteen or seventeen before the war. I saw a poster in the local newspaper about the open house and brought my two grandsons to Fort Pickett today.”

Children participated in a fishing and casting competition featuring the Fort Pickett Fish and Wildlife Department and the National Guard and Veterans of Foreign Wars professional anglers. These pros gave youngsters a chance to hone their angling skills. 

The National Guard “Guitar Hero” display offered teens an opportunity to exhibit their musical talents.

Parents learned about children’s safety while watching Deputy T. E. Coleman, Nottoway County Sherriff’s Office, create fingerprints of their children for the Ident-a-Kid program.

“This has really been nice,” said Loraine A. Reyes of Blackstone as she watched her daughter Amenain touch the ink pad.  “The Ident-a-Kid  program can help me keep track of Amenain in the future.”

  Fort Pickett Fall Festival

Lewis D. Custer, a resident of Wilson's in Nottoway County, examines photos in the "Pickett Through The Ages" display during the Virginia Army National Guard Maneuver Training Center Commander's Fall Festival and Open House held on Oct. 24, 2009 at the Blackstone Army Air Field, Fort Pickett. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Anne Burnley, Maneuver Training Center Public Affairs)

Children and adults had an opportunity to meet Virginia National Guard Soldiers while having a hands-on experience with military vehicles including tanks and tracked vehicles.

“The Fall Festival and Open House was designed to present military missions, equipment, facilities, and personnel to a local or regional community to satisfy public interest in the defense establishment and its role in national and security affairs,” said Wilkinson. 

National Guard recruiters, the Maneuver Area Training Equipment Site personnel, Counterdrug personnel, the Nottoway County Sheriff’s Office, the Fort Pickett’s History Office, the Local Reuse Authority, the Nottoway County High School Junior ROTC, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and MTC Soldiers worked in conjunction as the concept for the fall festival developed.

“The VaARNG MTC Department of Public Works was the driving force behind it all,” Wilkinson said. “Key personnel were Lt. Col. Howard. W. “Whit” Bragg, director, MTC DPW,  Ms. Donna Martin, my wife, Pat Wilkinson,  Mrs. Melody McGhee, and the MTC Directorate of Plans, Training and Safety. A big HOOAH goes to the Soldiers on 124 man-day support who volunteered to help out. All the directorates pitched in, it was a true team effort and I am very proud of the way it turned out.”

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