According to records of the Army Communications-Electronics Command and Fort Monmouth's Historical Office, a veteran of service at Camp Vail -- the military installation’s name before it gained permanent status as Fort Monmouth in 1925 -- remarked on the steadfast loyalty to the Jersey Shore Army installation.
“The place sort of gets into your blood, especially when you have seen it grow from nothing into all of this. It keeps growing and growing, and you want to be part of its growing pains.”
The veteran is nameless in the citation, so I can use my imagination and pretend that he was one of the first 32 soldiers to arrive at Fort Monmouth on two Model T Ford trucks in 1917. He, along with his fellow soldiers, was dropped off at what was the old Monmouth Park Race Track and charged with clearing the land and setting up the initial camp facilities for Camp Little Silver, soon to be called Camp Vail. When it gained permanent status, it was named Fort Monmouth in honor of the Revolutionary War Battle of Monmouth Courthouse.
Fast forward 94 years and what this veteran said still holds true for most of the Fort Monmouth community, including me, a former member of the Fort Monmouth Public Affairs staff. Not knowing anything about the Army or the military when I started in January 2002, I remember being extremely nervous my first few days. I needn’t have been because everyone I met in those first few weeks was very kind and helpful. The officers and noncommissioned officers didn’t even seem to mind when I stumbled over their ranks. They patiently corrected me and oftentimes shared stories of their first few days in the Army with me.
It didn’t take me long to catch on and I quickly grew to love my job. In the Public Affairs Office I was doing something creative every day and the best part was I had the opportunity to meet so many different people. From escorting members of the media on post, to arranging a tour for veterans, to arranging for a soldier to visit a school, each day was different than the last and the one that came after it.
Perhaps it was the “small town” feel or the respect with which everyone treated each other, but I felt like I was a part of something truly special. And the fact that I was standing in the footsteps of brilliant scientists and researchers was something of which I was extremely proud.
When the Base Realignment and Closure Commission announced its decision in August 2005 to close Fort Monmouth, I don’t think I realized the full effect of what that meant. Also, a move that large and on so grand a scale seemed so far off into the future. But time marches on and when I finally received my separation notice the full effect finally hit me. Although I knew it was coming I think the hard truth of the letter in hand brings everything into sharp cold reality.
The leadership at the Fort Monmouth Garrison went to great lengths to prepare the workforce for life after Fort Monmouth. They held numerous training sessions and workshops on resume writing and job interview skills and they invited a series of speakers in to talk to the workforce on the subject of resiliency and staying positive in the face of adversity.
As I packed up my desk for my final day on July 15, I discovered hidden treasures including Commander’s Coins from Commanding Generals and Garrison Commanders long gone but not forgotten; pictures of Armed Forces Days and Community celebrations; pictures of ceremonies marking promotions and retirements; Commanding General’s Two-Star Notes; Fort Monmouth mugs; and sand from Omaha Beach given to me by a friend who traveled there with local D-Day veterans several years ago. I packed everything carefully because every single item means something to me. These past ten years have meant something to me.
Like the Camp Vail veteran, Fort Monmouth is in my blood. It always will be.