An operations research analyst with the U.S. Army Materiel Systems Analysis Activity surpassed 50 years of federal service at Aberdeen Proving Ground this year. Matthew Rosenblatt, a native of New York City, had never heard of APG before he received orders to report there in 1966.
While growing up in New York, Rosenblatt lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan with his parents and his brother, David. He said his father ran his law practice out of the living room and his mother ran her insurance brokerage out of the dinette. At night, his parents slept in the one bedroom while he and his brother slept on cots in the living room. When he was 8 years old, the family moved to the Highbridge section of the Bronx near Yankee Stadium where he grew up and finished high school.
After high school, Rosenblatt attended Harvard College in Cambridge, Massachusetts, majoring in math. The day before he graduated, in 1962, he received his commission as a second lieutenant in the Army Reserve. He was deferred from active duty, however, so he could attend graduate school at Yale, and in October 1966, he received the fateful letter directing him to report to APG.
“That’s exactly what brought me here,” he said. At first, Rosenblatt had no idea where APG was.
“I had confused it with White Sands Missile Range. I thought Aberdeen Proving Ground was in New Mexico and I would be going 2,000 miles away from home. So I was pleasantly surprised that it was so close to New York, I could come home if I had a weekend pass.”
He reported to the U.S. Army Ordnance Center and School’s Officer Basic Course. Time in grade had made him a first lieutenant. He graduated the course in January 1967.
“There were maybe a dozen of us in my graduating class who had scientific degrees,” he recalled, “and the Ballistic Research Laboratory [BRL] was looking for military with PhDs in the sciences. We did not have anyone in my class with a PhD in math, so they settled for me,” he smiled.
BRL personnel took the Soldiers on a tour of the organization offices and laboratories. The first stop was the computer lab, where Rosenblatt met Dr. Ceslovas Masaidis, a renowned Lithuanian mathematician who was chief of the Applied Mathematics Branch at the Laboratories.
According to his obituary, Masaidis taught graduate courses in mathematics at an Extension of the University of Delaware, 1957-69. He also was a part-time faculty member and then assistant professor of the School of Medicine, University of Maryland in Baltimore. His publications include over 40 technical reports and papers in ballistics, applied mathematics, and biophysics. Masaidis passed away Sept. 7, 2007 in Putnam, Connecticut at the age of 95.
Rosenblatt said Masaidis told them ‘if you come to work for me, I will have you programming computers to solve differential equations.’
“But I didn’t know how to do any of those things,” Rosenblatt said.
The next stop was the Methodology Office run by Keith Myers— a future Director of the U.S. Army Materiel Systems Analysis Agency— who impressed Rosenblatt with a helicopter vs. tank simulation in the Weapons Systems Lab, or WSL. Rosenblatt liked Myers right away and worked for him for two years. In 1968, WSL and part of the Surveillance Lab were made into separate entities which became the U.S. Army Materiel Systems Analysis Agency. In January 1969, near the end of his service, Myers offered Rosenblatt a civilian position. He accepted and started two weeks after his military service ended, going from research coordinator to operations research analyst.
“And for a while I had a job titled ‘mathematician’ but it was all the same thing,” he said.
Today, Rosenblatt is only one of two people who have been with AMSAA since “the beginning.”
“And she’s been here longer than me,” he quipped.
He added that he remembers the “old days” vividly.
He remembered map and compass exercises in the wooded areas of the post when he was still a Soldier, cooking his meals in the BOQ and shopping at the commissary and the Ordnance School bookstore. He said he still has the foreign language dictionaries he brought there.
He also recalled his first home off post on E. Bel Air Avenue in Aberdeen, where he found a townhouse that “was so new the walkway from the sidewalk was still wet.”
“It was so close I could sometimes ride my bike to work,” he said, adding the Aberdeen Gate was his main route.
“There were MPs [military police] on the gates and cars had to have stickers,” he said. “You had to go slow so they could see them.”
There was no footbridge over the railroad tracks that separate E. Bel Air from W. Bel Air then and Rosenblatt recalled how he would cross the tracks to go to the post office. He said a movie theater stood where the Harford Bank stands now and that he still has the same post office drawer he first rented in 1968.
He said a “mushroom man” from Pennsylvania used to make rounds on post every week.
“He would come right to the building and you could buy fresh mushrooms from him,” he said.
Rosenblatt started out working in Bldg. 328 and eventually held positions in Bldgs. 367 and 392 but is back in 328 today.
He married in 1977 and lived on Stepney Road until 1985. He and his wife, Tova, had three sons by then and the family moved to Randallstown where his children grew up.
At work, the gradual change from a manual to a digital age has been the most startling, he said.
“We had manual typewriters and calculators. There were no printers; you had to take what you had up to the top floor to get a printout.”
There was also a sign-up sheet for those who needed to use the ORDVAC or Ordnance Discrete Variable Automatic Computer. Computing via remote terminals came to AMSAA with access to a Universal Automatic Computer, or UNIVAC, at Edgewood.
“Civilians worked from 7:15 to 4:15,” Rosenblatt said, “so when I was a Soldier, and the civilians disappeared at 4:15, I could use the ORDVAC as long as I wanted.”
Rosenblatt said his brother, who also served at APG, arrived as an Army doctor in 1974. He ran the surgical clinic at then Kirk Army Hospital and also stayed on as a civilian when he left the service.
Now in his 50th year at APG, Rosenblatt looks back with appreciation. He said the role of operations research analyst, which was written in 1969, has meant several things. He once volunteered for a team that traveled around the country observing the roles of operations research analysts in other organizations. He’s also recruited new hires for AMSAA.
“We always told them we were looking for people who were looking for something new,” he said.
Overall, he said he feels blessed to have been sent to APG.
“I stayed here for the opportunities, and I could not have asked for a better work environment or people to work with,” he said. “I’m proud of my service and sometimes I miss the military, but I feel I’m recognizing that time with Army systems for the Soldier.”