ST. LOUIS -- The spirit of St. Louis was alive and well in June as tens of thousands of spectators came out to various locations throughout the city to meet America's Marine Corps. They tested the latest Marine Corps technology; climbed aboard state-of-the-art Marine vehicles and aircraft; and experienced the full strength of the Corps' capabilities during combat demonstrations on the Mississippi riverfront by air, land and sea.
Missouri is the “Show Me” state, and that’s exactly what Marine Corps Systems Command (MCSC) did for its part during Marine Week St. Louis. Set up in tents under the famous Gateway Arch, more than 100 members of the Command showed local citizens the equipment, vehicles and systems they are fielding to the warfighters. These included weapons, ammunition, optics, a Command Operations Center, a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) All-Terrain Vehicle, computer technology, training systems, robots, infantry combat equipment, medical gear and so much more.
“We were able to show mothers and fathers of currently deployed service members the type of lifesaving equipment their sons and daughters have with them overseas,” said Kevin Joyner, Family of Field Medical Equipment. “I feel it truly provided them with some relief just knowing that someone was constantly working to ensure that the medical equipment is always being reviewed and updated as needed.”
“About 20 percent of the visitors that came by were mothers, fathers, relatives or friends of Marines that are currently serving,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Peter Garibaldi, MRAP Joint Program Office. “They appreciated and were amazed seeing what their son or daughter is using, and not just hearing about it in a letter or over the phone.”
The public really wanted to see the Infantry Weapons display as the line snaked around inside the tent and extended outside.
“I was simply astounded by the enthusiasm of the public to see the weapons and optics that we had displayed,” said Captain Robert Tavzel, Infantry Weapon Systems. “It was wonderful to behold the excitement of young people able to get a photo with their favorite sniper rifle or gaze about the room with a thermal imager. It was a great opportunity to connect with the next generation of future Marines.”
“The equipment was more advanced than I thought it would be,” said Zack Brown, an 18-year-old student from St. Louis who is considering becoming a Marine. “It was awesome. I can see how this stuff can help keep Marines safer.”
Many of the visitors noticed the progress the Marine Corps has made through the years.
“It was very interesting seeing the advancements since I was in the Corps,” said Ken Francisco, a Vietnam veteran from Foley, Mo. “I wish we’d had some of this gear in Vietnam. After seeing all this, if I was able, I’d like to serve again today.”
“This is pretty incredible,” said Darrin Bruno, a Marine Corps veteran from Wentzville, Mo., who has a son in the Corps. “Comparing today’s technology to 1984 when I was in the service, there is no comparison.”
For most of the MCSC team working the event it’s the positive comments from the public that makes their work exciting.
“I am honored to attend events such as these,” said Master Sergeant Trenton Widdis, Combat Equipment and Support Systems. “I was privileged enough to be at Marine Week in Chicago in 2009 and now St. Louis, and each time I am surprised by the turn out as well as the interest level from the public.”
“It was an awesome experience,” said Master Gunnery Sergeant Larry Freetage, Ammunition. “I would do it again in a heartbeat. The people of St. Louis were great.”