to know your VMMV staff & vehicles
In this section we introduce you to the people and armor of
the Virginia Museum of Military Vehicles. We will chat with
the VMMV staff, so that you can get to know the people who "keep
'em running" and work so hard behind the scenes. And also
provide a behind-the-scenes look into the history of individual
vehicles in the VMMV collection. In this, our 23rd newsletter,
we will give you a behind-the-scenes peak at what it takes to
put on our highly acclaimed Open House each year.
The day dawned
warm as the sun rose over Aden field, dotted with dozens of
armored vehicles. The staff and volunteers of VMMV gathered
together and began formulating plans and discussing strategy.
Is this the morning of the 2012 Open House? No, in fact it is
the day after our incredible 2011 Open House
for the Open House begins immediately following the preceding
Yes, it takes
364 days to bring our thousands of fans an incredible Open House.
We work very hard to bring you a smooth-running show, it just
doesn't happen overnight
A Hot Wash was
held the week following our 2011 Open House as all VMMV crew
discuss what went right and what we can improve upon for 2012.
The first order of business is always a weather check for the
what impact will it have on the return of our
vehicles to their storage areas.
Heads are bent
over pads of paper as notes are made on how the vehicles performed
and whether or not any maintenance issues cropped up. Those
vehicles in perfect health get batteries and are spun-up, turned
around and driven to the Hangar or Pole Barn. Parking our vehicles
is a very delicate process and may require 3-4 sets of eyes
to ensure safety and a tight fit--in some cases we park the
tanks with only one inch of space between them. Yes, our drivers
and crew are that good!!!
Over the next
week or so, Aden Field is slowly returned to its pastoral setting
as the number of vehicles diminishes. There are always a couple
of vehicles that have mechanical gremlins. Those are cataloged
and then prioritized by Marc and Alan--VMMV's mechanical wizards.
Our crew attacks the problems and finally the last vehicle is
tucked away safe and sound.
the next several months take place with NMAW officials, representatives
of living history groups and a general plan for 2012 begins
to take shape. In spring of this year, the logistics of taking
care of 6000+ visitors hit high gear. Phone calls were made
to local law enforcement, fire fighters, the food caterers,
Cub Scouts, and the appropriate permits and paperwork were filed
with government officials.
three months prior to Open House, a display and "runner"
plan is outlined. VMMV staff and volunteers descend upon the
sleeping armored monsters and perform basic preventive maintenance
and turn the engines over to determine what might have deteriorated
over the winter. A "fix-it" list is generated. This
is a critical step because we must have time to order parts
and repair vehicles for the Open House. Over the next month,
needed major repairs--such as replacing a balky fuel pump, changing
out an electrical harness, or fixing a bad starter--are accomplished.
Then with less
than a month to go, VMMV crew go from vehicle to vehicle, checking
the fluids levels--fuel, transmission, hydraulic, oil, brakes--and
topping off when necessary. At this point, almost all vehicles
purr like a kitten, but there are always a couple where a carb.
might need adjusting, or bad gasoline drained. The tired arms
of turning over the radial engines are a testament to the physical
nature of keeping tanks running.
Two weeks out
and a map begins to emerge. You didn't think we just parked
our vehicles willy-nilly did you? That would make a Beltway
traffic jam seem tame in comparison. No, we have to map out
where our vehicles will park, where each group of living historians
will be, and how much space to allocate for all the incredible
displays. Truly a multi-dimensional Rubik's cube--except with
40 ton tanks.
is what Aden Field looks like before the flurry of the 2012
Now we are one
week out and things are at maximum
..there is a continual
flow of vehicles from storage. Generally the VMMV staff and
volunteers are working in teams of two
driver and ground
guide, necessary to safely extract a large tank from a parking
spot barely larger than the vehicle itself.
The first stop
for the vehicle is the wash rack. VMMV is very proud of the
outstanding condition of our vehicles and we want them to sparkle
for all our fans. So one lucky person dons safety gear along
with a raincoat and takes the pressure washer to the dirt and
grime that has built up over the preceding months--what emerges
is a beautifully clean tank.
two weeks of frenzied activity, Aden Field fills with armored
vehicles and living historians."
If the vehicle
is going to be used for VIP or demonstration purposes during
the Open House, we will add fuel at this time. Another last
minute check of the oil and coolant and the vehicle is driven
off to its parking space.
Mid-week the air
is filled with not only the roar of the tank engines, but sound
checks, as VMMV's master of communications begins to test the
microphones and speaker systems. Special care is taken to ensure
the cables and cords are not damaged by a tank track.
Suddenly it is
Friday, the day before the 2012 Open House. Thanks to great
planning and the skill of VMMV's mechanics, we are ahead of
schedule and all the vehicles are in their assigned spots. But
that doesn't mean the work is over.
The most important
task on Friday is to supervise the delivery and placement of
the Porta-Pottys. Talk about a critical planning element!!!
Next, the wonderful Church group arrives with its reefer truck
to begin setting up the food area.
also trickle in on Friday. They touch base with VMMV and are
given their assigned history area. Folks with large displays
and exhibits arrive, getting their tables and wall boards in
place. Finally, about 5 pm, a calm peace descends
is done. For Friday.
Early on Saturday
morning, long before the dew is off the grass, VMMV staff and
volunteers arrive to carry out last-minute preparations. We
have antennas and machine guns to mount on the vehicles, along
with easels, displaying background information on each vehicle.
A driver's meeting
is then called before the public arrives to go over last-minute
schedule changes. Mechanics listen intently so they know where
and when to be, to ensure optimum safety for the Open House
and all our fans. Then,
the magic moment arrives
.the first visitor arrives and
VMMV's 2012 Open House is now on!!!! The rest is history, captured
by your memories, pictures and video. And in two days, VMMV
begins the planning process all over again.
House Thank You
VMMV can't possibly
thank all the living historians individually, there simply are
too many of these incredible men and women who take time from
their lives and family to enrich our Open House with their displays,
equipment and passion for the units they honor. The living historians
come from all walks of life and represent a multitude of units
and historical era's. They truly put a "face on history,"
so from all the staff and volunteers at VMMV, we Thank You!!!
Looking forward to renewing our partnership in 2013.
We want to thank
an unsung hero of the Open House. You may have seen him with
a line of VMMV crew and living historians lined up at his booth.
Or saw the incredible Chili Cheese Dogs he gives out to our
crew and re-enactors. We are talking about Chris M. and his
posse of chefs from the Manassas and Woodbridge Hard Times Cafés
and Cues. Since 2006, when Chris started donating his food and
time in support of VMMV's Open House, he estimates the following
has been consumed by hungry Open House workers:
2,700 hot dogs
90 pounds of cheddar cheese
240 gallons of lemonade
60 gallons of chili
24 quarts of onions
Wow, truly enough
food to feed a division of hungry tankers!!!
Manassas and Woodbridge Hard Times Cafés and Cues are
the official Chili places and Pool Halls of VMMV. So next time
you are hungry in Manassas or Woodbridge, stop by the Hard Times
Café and Cue and thank Chris for all he does to support