ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — Building relations across the region that surrounds Aberdeen Proving Ground lays a foundation for success of both the U.S. Army operations at APG and to the region’s economy, workforce and public safety.
APG’s new Senior Commander and Commanding General of the U.S Army Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM), Maj. Gen. Randy S. Taylor, welcomed federal, state, county and municipality leaders and first responders to the quarterly Community Leaders event, May 11.
Based on feedback from the community, the APG Garrison began coordinating quarterly Community Leader Luncheons last year, at locations on APG and in Harford and Cecil counties, to continue the strong ties that bind the on- and off-post communities.
Since taking command at APG on April 13, this was Taylor’s first formal activity designed to bolster improved ties between the APG military base and local community partners. One such tie can be found in the mutual assistance agreements in place with many regional first responder organizations.
On an average basis, APG Directorate of Emergency Services fire and emergency service crews provide assistance to Harford County communities 225 times per year, while Harford County municipality crews return that favor dozens of times per year to the installation. APG and community law enforcement agencies also routinely train, share intelligence and operate together to keep both base and the surrounding communities safe.
During the event, Taylor, along with APG’s DES, notably recognized first responders and police agencies from both Cecil and Harford Counties for their steadfast support of the APG mission and the communities they serve.
“Our first responders set a great example,” Taylor said. “They protect our workforce, the community and the assets unique to APG, found nowhere else in the world. And they protect them at any cost.”
Taylor singled out representatives from the Harford County Department of Emergency Services, Harford County Sheriff’s Office, Havre de Grace Ambulance Corps, Abingdon Fire Company, Susquehanna Hose Company, Jarrettsville Fire Department, Bel Air Police Department and Aberdeen Police that in recognition of their mutual assistance response to both APG and Harford County emergency events.
Taylor expressed enthusiasm for being assigned to a post that he strongly desired to command due to the tight knit community bond across the APG region. Taylor said his local ties to the University of Maryland added to that interest, but also expressed that while he has been at Aberdeen for only one month, he can already see that APG has a valuable partnership with Harford, Cecil, Baltimore and Kent counties,.
“I happen to believe APG is the Army’s best kept secret,” Taylor said. “It was our first choice to come here when we were given the opportunity to request my next assignment.”
In addition to Taylor offering introductory comments, the forum also enabled Harford and Cecil County representatives to outline key economic initiatives that affect the APG community.
“We are extremely interested in APG. We know how many Cecil County residents work at APG and we want to see the success of the mission here as much as you all (the Army) do,” said Chris Moyer, director of the Cecil County Office of Economic Development, while highlighting Cecil County and APG partnerships. “It has been a sincere pleasure to work here and help the mission.”
Steve Overbay, the deputy director of Harford County’s Office of Economic Development, outlined several county and state efforts focused on technology transfer between APG’s high-tech Army laboratories and local small business partners. In discussing these efforts Overbay highlighted continuing initiatives between Harford County and APG to enable small business incubation.
“I can’t say enough about the relationship Harford County enjoys working with APG. There is a tremendous amount to be done still, and I am excited about some of the opportunities we are currently working on and our opportunities to support the warfighter,” Overbay said.
“We are positioning for how we set ourselves up for the next five, 10, 50 – 100 years we could say, since we’re celebrating the (APG) Centennial, but we really want APG to be a part of this community and continue to thrive.”
During the event, community leaders also heard from Mike Hitchings of the Army Research Laboratory, and Erica Bertoli, the educational outreach team lead at the Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center.
Hitchings explained that ARL scientists are the Army’s “dreamers of dreams,” when it comes to researching cutting-edge, novel technologies. One such dream is ARL’s proposed Army Innovation Hub at APG.
The hub would make it easier for collaborative partners from industry and academia to work with Army researchers for the mutual benefit of both parties.
“It will break down barriers, reduce the bureaucracy and paperwork, and accelerate technology that can be developed for the battlefield and the commercial market,” Hitchings said.
Bertoli highlighted the CERDEC’s five-year STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) Superstar program that visited every Harford and Cecil county elementary student since 2012. STEM programs across APG tenant organizations reach nearly 30,000 students each year.
“We’re building the future workforce for the Army,” Bertoli said, “and by being a good neighbor in the community, we’re helping building a strong economy and giving students the skills they will need to excel in the future.”
Community outreach events will continue a part of normal business for APG. Future activities include APG participation in upcoming Memorial Day activities, July 4th events and public celebrations of APG’s Centennial Anniversary, culminating with an open house event in October of this year.
“Family and community are key components across any enterprise,” Taylor said. “While I can see that we have a great network strongly involved in mutual support already in place here, it is my pledge that those ties will continue during my tenure here and we will work to continued improvements. Our community is not one defined by fence lines. Mutual support will always go both ways.”
Quarterly Community Leaders luncheons and socials are coordinated by the APG Garrison Community Relations Officer. Since the program’s inception last year, attendance by community members has tripled and it was recognized by the Installation Management Command as the 2016 first place winner in the Keith L. Ware Public Affairs Awards, Community Relations Program category.