FORT WORTH, Texas — A dedicated group of leathernecks from several Marine Forces Reserve units in Texas and Louisiana sacrificed some of their holiday vacation to showcase their equipment at the 2009 Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl at Texas Christian University (TCU) here Dec. 30-31.
“The Marine equipment is tremendously instrumental at the Adventure Zone,” said Brant Ringler, the executive director of this seventh annual Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl. “It lets families come out and see what the military is all about. When people meet the Marines and see, feel and touch the equipment they get a better idea of what it is all about, what our service members do.”
The Marines showcased their military hardware at the Adventure Zone, where troops from all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces set up interactive exhibits across the street from the TCU stadium.
Marine Forces Reserve displays included small arms such as rifles and machine guns, as well as a 155mm Howitzer and a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System from the 14th Marine Regiment.
“This gives the Marines a good chance to get out of their comfort zone; instead of just performing maintenance and shooting these weapons, they are here to explain their capabilities in detail, and talk about what we do in the Marine Corps,” said Sgt. Derek Knight, a howitzer section chief with Battery O, 5th Battalion, 14th Marines. “This is a great educational experience for everyone.”
Many parents throughout the region brought their children to the Adventure Zone for this learning opportunity during this winter school break.
“He’s never been around the military much, and he’s amazed by the technology and the Marines and soldiers displaying it,” said Phil Sulak of Rosenberg, Texas, who brought his 11-year-old son. “His grandfather fought with the Marines in the Pacific during World War II, so it’s great for him to meet the Marines here today.”
Marine Corps veteran Nick Cariotis, who served two tours in Vietnam with Lt. Col. Paul X. Kelley’s 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment between 1965-1968, was in his element at the Adventure Zone Dec. 30. Now the assistant district attorney for Dallas County, this was the seventh year in a row Cariotis has attended the Armed Forces Bowl festivities.
“This is what the Marine Corps is all about, these young Marines out here …. These guys are our spokesmen. They are why we have such a strong relationship with the public. They are why America loves its Marine Corps,” said Cariotis of the Marines in uniform on-site. “There is no such thing as an ex-Marine. I walk around with this hat on, and all day long people look at me, smile, and say ‘Semper Fi!’”
Pilots from Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 773, a reserve unit based in Belle Chasse, La., impressed visitors with the AH-1W Cobras, which they flew onto the TCU campus as part of the Adventure Zone Dec. 30.
The Cobra pilots and crew explained the helicopter’s capabilities to spectators as children got the opportunity to explore the inside of the aircraft.
“This is the perfect marriage between the military and the community,” said Gunnery Sgt. Bobby Adkins, who served in the Corps for 20 years as an air frames and hydraulic systems mechanic and retired in 2004, settling down in Fort Worth to work for an electronics repair company. “It’s great for these folks to come here and meet the reservists and understand what they do. The only thing that most Americans know about the military is what they see on TV. This is more real.”
The Marine displays also included a remote landing site transportable air
traffic control tower from Air Traffic Control Detachment A, Marine Air Control Squadron 24. This high-tech piece of gear is used in expeditionary airfields in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Marines who operate and maintain this equipment must have the requisite skills and training.
“The best part of this is that the public can see the kind of bright young Marines we have today,” said Master Sgt. James John, the staff non-commissioned officer in charge of Detachment A. “Many people think that all we do as Marines is carry guns and shoot at the enemy. These guys are highly skilled as operators and technicians. It’s important that the public sees that.”
Just prior to game time on Dec. 31, the Marines put away their gear and headed across the street to the crowded TCU stadium to watch the football game.
Thousands of Marines and fellow service members braved the frigid weather, cheering for the Air Force Academy, who upset the University of Houston by a score of 47-20. This was good news for Air Force fans, who saw their team defeated by the Cougars last year.
“It’s great having the Marines out here,” said U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Samuel D. Cox, the commandant of cadets at the Academy. “Out here with the Air Force and all the other services, this is representative of the joint nature of our forces today. It’s important that the American public sees this.”