The James W. Blackburn Armory is located at 4185 Dalton Pike S.E., next to Waterville Elementary School.
Guard recruiter Sgt. John Thompson said the day is an opportunity for the community to learn how it fits into the nation’s defense because when a National Guard Unit deploys, the whole town goes with them. Soldiers deploy with, and return home with lifelong friends, to families and jobs in the community.
“Every armory is a microcosm of what a U.S. Army unit has to offer, so it’s nice to share that and let people reminisce, to see what’s new and give them a glimpse of what our capabilities are,” he said. “When I went to my first Guard open house, I went with my dad who was a Marine Vietnam vet and it was a good opportunity for him to show me about the weapons he used. It was fascinating for me as a kid to watch my dad pick up an M-16, take it apart and put it back together again; that was impressive to me.”
Fulltime civilians could have the opportunity to fire blanks from small arms and crew-served weapons. In military terminology, a weapon operated by more than one soldier is generally classified as crew-served, unlike the smaller M-4 carbines.
“Crew-served is what most people would call a belt-fed machine gun,” he said. “They’ll definitely have all the weapons out where people can see and touch.”
There will be Humvees on display. Area residents should be familiar with the vehicle since it was a Cleveland-based guardsman who questioned Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld about the vehicle’s lack of armor.
Spc. Thomas Wilson, assigned to Troop A of the 278th Regimental Combat Team, asked in late 2004, "Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles?"
Thompson said the new Armored Security Vehicle, designed for military police work, will also be on display. The ASV looks more like a tank than a car, but its flared design makes it resemble an amphibious vehicle. The vehicle was designed for urban operations, “but in light of the IED experience, to be more blast proof.”
He said the 252nd wants the open house to become an annual event and Thompson is glad to see them bring it back to the community.
“I remember going to one when I was a kid and it seems like we got away from them a few years ago,” Thompson said. “The 252nd leadership just wanted to invite the community in. That’s all it is. It’s not a fundraiser. Everything you see or do there is completely free. It is meant as a time to learn what the National Guard and particularly, the 252nd Military Police Co.’s mission and capabilities are, and to have some hands-on fun.”
The armory was home to the 278th RCT until after it returned from Iraq in November 2005. The Tennessee National Guard reorganized and Cleveland became the home of the 252 M.P. Co.
The 252nd deployed to Iraq in July 2009 and returned home in July 2010. Missions of note include providing security for both inaugurations of President Barack Obama.