When Harry C. Kramer graduated from an all-boys high school in 1961, his future was unclear. Born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, Kramer decided to follow in the footsteps of his older brother and join the military. He enlisted Feb. 20, 1964.
“They had the selective short service then and it was better than getting drafted,” he said.
Kramer attended basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina then was assigned to aircraft mechanic school at Fort Rucker, Alabama. He applied for the aviator flight training program while at Rucker and passed the test for crew chief for fixed wing aircraft and got orders to flight school.
Kramer got his first look at Aberdeen Proving Ground in late 1964 when he was assigned as a crew chief at the Edgewood Arsenal’s Weide Army Airfield. Shortly after, he applied for and was accepted to Warrant Officer Aviator training at Fort Walter, Texas, near Fort Worth. He then returned to Rucker where he graduated and was promoted to Warrant Officer 1. It would be 18 years before he returned to APG.
It was 1966 and the war in Vietnam beckoned. Kramer was assigned as an Aviation Maintenance Officer with C Troop, 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry of the 1st Cavalry Division. He piloted scout, gunship and troop helicopters and completed what would be his first of two tours in 1967. He returned to Rucker where he served as a flight instructor and was promoted to Warrant Officer 2. While still at Rucker in 1969, Kramer received a direct appointment to 1st lieutenant in the Infantry Branch. He completed Infantry Officers Basic at Fort Benning, Georgia in 1969 then served a second tour in ‘Nam in 1970 as the executive officer of the 5th Aviation Detachment, 1st Aviation Brigade where he was promoted to captain. He went on to serve at Fort Benning, in Germany and again at Rucker as he completed officer training requirements that included the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College.
In 1982, Kramer returned to APG as an instructor with the Ordnance Center and School. He obtained master instructor and was promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1983. In 1986, he was assigned as the executive assistant to the director, Department of Test and Assessment, U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command and in 1988 he serves as the executive officer, Combat Systems Test Activity.
Kramer retired at the rank of lieutenant colonel Feb. 1, 1993.
He worked for Science and Technology Corporation, for 19 years as a project officer/analyst and as a program manager at the Aberdeen Test Center, supporting warfighters in Iraq and Afghanistan. He rose to corporate vice president of Science and Technology.
Kramer recalled he wasn’t impressed by his first look at APG back in 1964.
“There were lots of World War II barracks but I lived in a brick barracks,” he said. As an aircraft mechanic and crew chief he “used to fly all over the place,” and he recalled the picturesque qualities of the installation from the air as well as from the surrounding waters.
“At Weide, one of the civilians had a sail boat and we enjoyed a lot of time out on the bay,” he said. “It was just beautiful and still is.”
Kramer experienced APG from a different perspective after his return. As an officer, in his roles with TECOM and ATC he worked with civilians who were born and raised in the area, and he learned more about its history and gained a clearer understanding of the installation, its missions and its impact on the surrounding community. His curiosity was particularly piqued by the history of APG before there was a proving ground and he was captivated by stories about Michaelsville and Old Baltimore.
“There’s a lot of history behind the fence,” Kramer said. “There’s Michaelsville, an old railroad, post office, farms. And I learned Spesutie Island was once owned by [19th and early 20th century financier and banker] J.P. Morgan.
While at ATC, Kramer served in management and supervisory positions. He said he feels like he witnessed part of the history of ATC through the organizations innovations and testing that saved lives. He’s simply proud of his service, he said.
“Through the Gulf War I saw a lot of modernizations and I feel honored to have been a part of that. I felt that pride when I was involved in the development of the Aviation branch. And even as a civilian working on chemical demilitarization programs and dispensing the deployment of systems that saved lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Married for nearly 45 years, Kramer and his wife, Carolyn, raised three children, Carl, Stephanie and Jennifer. And while his children lived the transient lives of military children, he recalls the good times they had at APG, enjoying family outings and parades. He returned to the installation earlier this year for the Live Fire demonstration commemorating Armed Forces Week and the APG Centennial.
“We lived all over, but we settled here,” he said, noting that while his son was born in Alabama, his daughters were born in Baltimore.
“For us, Maryland is home, and for me, that includes APG,” he said.