By Joseph Andrew Lee

The Air Force Academy may have been edged out by Toledo during the hard-fought football game, but the military as a whole ultimately emerged victorious at the Military Bowl, yesterday, due in part to a well-visited armed forces expo in front of the stadium before the game.

The Military Village, organized by the USO, was an event unlike any other, showcasing the military’s wide array of assets while also providing an opportunity for corporations and non-profit organizations alike to describe their products and causes to game day attendees and other passers-by. Its goal was to showcase the equipment, the mission and the personnel of the United States military.

It was a cold and windy day, and the ground was left muddy from rain the day prior. Fortunately, DHS Technologies was on site to lend an abundance of shelter and warmth inside its Deployable Rapid Assembly Shelters (DRASH). It was easy to see why these shelters replaced the old “GP Tents.”

Equipped with their own ventilation, climate control, and flexible yet durable Bike Track flooring, the 1,250 square-foot shelters are today’s standard for U.S. Army brigade command headquarters in the field. Without a doubt, DRASH made an instant difference between the turbulence outside and tranquility inside.

The longest line award goes to BAE Systems, for its on site HAWK Advanced Jet Training System. Once inside this large trailer, visitors were met with more than a dozen large digital screens displaying both heads-up flight information as well as a digital representation of jets being piloted by participants sitting either inside a simulated jet cockpit or at desktop stations.

Every teenage boy present (and their Dad) was willing to wait in line to jump into the cockpit of what seemed to be the largest, most realistic video game they’ve ever seen! What the younger audience likely didn’t grasp was the fact that, while fun to use, this technology may soon become the actual equipment used to train American pilots to fly today’s most technologically advanced jet fighters.

“We have one cockpit simulator and two desktop simulators here that can all train against one-another,” said Brandon Engle, T-X Deputy Campaign Lead for BAE Systems. “But we can also combine actual jets in the air with simulated jets on the ground for the most realistic training environment possible.”

According to Engle, the HAWK system is the current trainer used by the Royal Air Force, and next year it will be competing to become the primary trainer for pilots of the U.S. military’s F-22 and F-35 advanced tactical fighters.

In addition to the military support organizations and corporations, the U.S. Coast Guard, Navy Seabees, the U.S. Air Force and Navy SEALs were all on site as well to flex their military might – displaying their unique assets and capabilities, including several Navy helicopters and even a miniature replica of a C-17 Globemaster that guests could climb into and pretend to “pilot.”

“This is so much fun, and so informative at the same time,” said Julie Harrington, who traveled to RFK Stadium with her husband and son to watch the Toledo Rockets play in the Military Bowl. “I’ve always known how great the USO is and I’ve always supported them just because they’ve been supporting the troops since before I was born and while we donate from afar, we suspect that our money is well-spent.”

“It’s so great to actually get the opportunity to interact with the troops and step inside a Mobile USO to see first hand what you guys are doing for them,” she added. “It’s just fantastic the things you can do. My suspicions are confirmed, and I think my money is going to the right organization.”