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Aberdeen Proving Ground commander highlights 100-year relationship between Havre de Grace, Army

Maj. Gen. Randy Taylor, senior commander of Aberdeen Proving Ground, speaks during a Havre de Grace City Council meeting Tuesday. He discussed the post's relationship with the city, the state of the post in 2018 and developments for the future.
Maj. Gen. Randy Taylor, senior commander of Aberdeen Proving Ground, speaks during a Havre de Grace City Council meeting Tuesday. He discussed the post's relationship with the city, the state of the post in 2018 and developments for the future. (David Anderson/The Aegis / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Maj. Gen. Randy Taylor has made engagement with surrounding communities a key part of his leadership since taking on the role of senior commander of Aberdeen Proving Ground in April, not only because he says he enjoys it but because it is an essential part of keeping the Harford County Army post’s workforce of more than 20,000 soldiers and civilians safe.

“The well-being and protection of the workforce at APG starts long before you get to our gates, so I think what’s good for you is good for us, and we all benefit equally,” Taylor said Tuesday.

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Taylor spoke for about 20 minutes before the Havre de Grace Mayor and City Council regarding his vision for APG in 2018. The Army post, the largest employer in Harford County, was established in 1917 during World War I.

“APG has endured and thrived for the past 100 years, in part because of the patriotism and trust of the good people of Havre de Grace and Harford County,” Taylor said.

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Havre de Grace and APG have had multiple ties over the past century, ties that exist today. Taylor said 700 civilian employees, and their families, live in Havre de Grace; city leaders participated in putting together the 2016 Joint Land Use Study to “reduce potential conflicts” with the post’s Harford County neighbors, and he cited the many ties the city’s mayor and six council members have to the Army and APG.

The Havre de Grace Mayor and City Council held a brief check presentation ceremony Tuesday for the city’s planned Gold Star Family Memorial Monument, as Mayor William Martin presented a check for $10,000 in city funds, and Harford County Executive Barry Glassman presented $10,000 from the county.

Those ties include elected officials who are civilian employees and retirees, veterans of the Army or children of veterans, or work or have worked in businesses and institutions that support post employees, soldiers or their families.

Taylor said the ties between APG and Havre de Grace were “very obvious” when he spoke at the local Veterans Day observance in Tydings Park last November.

“I really got to experience first-hand the mutual respect and history shared by our communities,” he said.

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The general said Havre de Grace can thank APG for making it “the decoy capital of the world,” as the waterfowl hunters who occupied the 144 miles of shoreline now part of the post migrated to Havre de Grace after APG was founded in 1917.

The Aberdeen section of the post was established for weapons testing, and the Edgewood section, then called Edgewood Arsenal, for chemical weapons research and testing. The areas were merged into a single installation structure in 1971.

More than a century after its founding, Aberdeen Proving Ground remains the Army’s “home of innovation,” Taylor said. It’s population includes more than 28,000 soldiers, civilians, contractors, their families and retirees.

The state’s sixth largest employer generates an economic impact of $6.5 billion in the region, Taylor said.

“If a solider uses a piece of technology for protection, intelligence, to shoot, to move or communicate, chances are that it was developed, tested and fielded by an APG organization,” he said.

The post leads the Army, and “in many cases” the Department of Defense, in six key areas, according to Taylor.

Harford County's sons and daughters have never wavered when called upon to defend their country at home or abroad, and 2017 marked a special anniversary in Harford's long relationship with the military.

Those areas include C4ISR, or Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, research and development, testing and evaluation of equipment, weapons and vehicles, public health science — specifically preventing addiction, disease, injury and disability — defending the U.S. from chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive attacks as well as recovering chemical and biological weapons around the country and the world, as well as coordinating “personal security investigations,” or background checks, Taylor said.

He said the six “centers of excellence” have one thing in common: a “laser” focus on the Army’s top priority — readiness.

He said readiness means ensuring soldiers are “manned, trained and equipped to execute the wartime mission — tonight — anywhere that the nation would call them.”

Taylor described some of the equipment being developed at APG for future warfare, such as a quadcopter hoverbike, an “enhanced combat helmet,” mobile 3-D printing kits and sensors for the next generation of combat vehicles.

Employees at the Edgewood Area, or APG South, are working on technology so the military and law enforcement can better detect and protect themselves during chemical exposure incidents, as well as detect traces of explosives or narcotics, Taylor said.

The general reminded city leaders that the nation remains at war, more than 16 years after the 9/11 attacks of 2001, and soldiers are deployed on missions throughout the world.

“APG is your installation and your Army is your Army, and when an army goes to war, we all go to war,” Taylor said. “The entire nation goes to war.”

Taylor expressed his thanks to Havre de Grace’s elected officials and citizens for their support of APG.

“We could not do what we do without [you], and I look forward continued mutual support and partnership,” he said.

Mayor William T. Martin thanked Taylor, the general’s husband, Lucas, and Taylor’s support staff for attending Tuesday’s meeting.

Soldiers from Aberdeen Proving Ground visit with youths at the Aberdeen Boys & Girls Club during Harford County's second annual "Night of Conversation" Wednesday.

“For the last 100 years, the history of Harford County has been the history of APG as well, and the same thing could be said for the City of Havre de Grace,” he said.

Martin said temporary communities sprang up around Havre de Grace to support APG during World War II, and many people have moved to the city after being assigned to the post.

“We look forward to a very great and integrative relationship with Aberdeen Proving Ground over the next few years, and hopefully beyond that,” he said.

Council President David Glenn, who has worked at APG and whose father was a firefighter on the post, thanked Taylor for his service.

“What you do in Aberdeen, day in and day out, protects our unsung heroes, and those heroes are the warfighter on the battlefield,” Glenn said.

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