We thought it would never arrive, but Thursday marked the completion of Base Closure and Realignment at Aberdeen Proving Ground. Yes, BRAC is done.
To mark the day six years in the making, Aberdeen Proving Ground commemorated the event in an early morning ceremony Thursday with civilian employees, service men and women and public officials, including Harford County Executive David Craig.
The American, Maryland, Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard flags stood in the center of the stage in APG's auditorium while several people spoke, including Executive Director of the Governor's Executive Council Asuntha Chiang-Smith, Deputy Garrison Commander for Transformation Col. Andrew Nelson and APG Installation Commander Maj. Gen. Nick Justice.
BRAC has been a long time coming, and has effectively added six organizations to the installation, 6,500 net jobs and new and renovated space totaling 2.8 million square feet.
"It's hard to believe we've arrived at this date," Nelson said. "Six years ago this date seemed so far away."
Nelson commented on the "extraordinary transformation" he's seen since arriving at APG in 2008. At the time, he said he was "amazed at the complexity of the mission ahead."
Nelson went on to acknowledge the entire team that worked on the project and "worked tirelessly to ensure a successful execution." The transformation APG has gone through wasn't just about BRAC, Nelson said, it was about evolving the post's missions, reorganizing, mission growth and improving the way of life on post.
"It's about creating homes and communities on the installation," he said. Though, Nelson added, it has been difficult to say goodbye to longtime members of APG.
After concluding his speech, Nelson was called back on stage by Justice, who said Nelson had "failed to say 'thank you' to one person" — himself. Justice then presented him with the Meritorious Service Medal for his role in BRAC.
After a standing ovation for Nelson, APG's incoming organizations were recognized and their flags were brought up on stage to join the colors of the other organizations already on post.
Those joining Team APG are Army Tem C4ISR (Command, Control, Communications, Computers Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance), which is comprised of six organizations — Communications-Electronics Command, Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Centers, Army Contracting Center, Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications-Tactical, and Program Executive Office for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors — that develop, acquire, provide, field and sustain C4ISR systems, as well as Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense, Army Test and Evaluation Command, Army Research Laboratory Vehicle Technology Directorate, Army Research Institute and Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.
Chiang-Smith presented a proclamation from Gov. Martin O'Malley to Justice commemorating BRAC's successful completion.
"The Army always pauses to celebrate the passage of great events," Justice said.
He commented that the anniversary of the Battle of Fort McHenry, the catalyst and birthplace of the "Star Spangled Banner," was just a few days ago on Sept. 13 and 14. "The words in the national anthem explain what we're doing here today," he said. He went on to explain that the visual symbolism of a flag "let's people know we are all right," just like the "dawn's early light" revealed the tattered American flag to Francis Scot Key the morning the battle ended.
On Wednesday, APG was still working on bringing in units, Justice noted. He repeatedly thanked Maryland's leaders and citizens, saying, "Rarely have we experienced the kind of engagement and involvement [from a] state than we [have] from Maryland."
"People in this state have gone out of their way to ease this [BRAC] process," Justice said. "Associations here have welcomed us with open arms."
Concluding the ceremony, Nelson and Justice unveiled a pictorial tribute to commemorate the event.
Later Thursday, there was a dedication ceremony at APG's campus courtyard for the C4ISR Center of Excellence, which was relocated from Fort Monmouth, N.J., and other locations. C4ISR moved more than 7,200 jobs, 120 laboratories and 80,000 pieces of equipment to APG.