No, Baltimore is not being invaded by hostile forces.
If downtown looks a little like a military encampment, rest assured that it's all for show. Piggybacking on tomorrow's 108th Army-Navy football game at M&T; Bank Stadium, the two service branches have hauled in all manner of hardware -- including assault vehicles, Humvees, a Black Hawk helicopter, and a dozen ships and landing craft -- mostly as a lure for people who might consider signing up.
"They're very much a recruiting tool," Maj. Kristine L. Henry, a public affairs officer for the Maryland National Guard, said as she stood next to the UH-60A Black Hawk, which had just landed in a swirl of whipped air at the Inner Harbor's West Shore Park. The 60-foot-long helicopter, a medevac unit from the 29th Combat Aviation Brigade that was in Iraq for several months starting in 2004, and the other military equipment will remain on view downtown until after the game, during which four other Black Hawks will take part in a flyover.
Might the traditional rivalries between the services, Henry was asked, play out by the placid Inner Harbor?
"I'm sure there will be some of that," she replied, laughing, "but it'll all be in fun."
As part of the festivities, both service academies will stage pep rallies today at noon at the Harborplace Amphitheater, with free hot dogs, soda and popcorn. On game day, beginning at 9:15 a.m., about 8,000 cadets and midshipmen will parade from Camden Yards to the stadium. The game is set to kick off at 12:16 p.m.
At dusk tomorrow, there will be a parade of lighted boats from the Inner Harbor to Fells Point. Organizers suggest that people watch from Constellation Dock, the Fells Point Broadway Pier or the decks of two ships -- the Navy's 323-foot HSV-2 Swift or the USAV Missionary Ridge, a 174-foot Army landing craft, normally used to carry equipment and troops ashore. Both ships will be docked at the Inner Harbor's West Wall.
Visitors may also roam the decks of a pair of 179-foot Navy coastal patrol boats, the USS Thunderbolt and the USS Hurricane, at Pier 5, or four smaller Navy patrol boats at Pier 4.
The Army-Navy game was last played in Baltimore on Dec. 2, 2000, a 30-degree day. That game, before 70,685 people, was the first in Baltimore between the two rivals since 1944.