By Andrew Revelos
The most wonderful time of the year is just getting underway as Naval Support Activity South Potomac (NSASP) approaches the holiday season, but a herculean effort at MWR brought frights and delights to Naval Support Facility (NSF) Dahlgren and NSF Indian Head throughout October.
While the fun started on Oct. 17 and 19 with the Harvest Fest at each installation, the real work began weeks earlier, with MWR employees and volunteers working to create events and decorate locations. The Chiefs Mess at NSF Dahlgren became a special point of action as volunteers turned the facility into a zombie-infested experimentation site and Haunted House. Other members of the community brought elaborately-decorated vehicles for the Trunk or Treat. The sum of all that effort was an outstanding experience for service members and their families.
“The reason we have things like Trunk or Treat, or Harvest Fest, is to give the community a center point, said Command Master Chief Joseph Medina. “The Chiefs, we worked on our building and the thing I told them this year and tell them every year, is that you are here to do a lot of things, but one of them is to build a community. The way we do that is we bring our forces together – civilian and military alike – to bridge those gaps. We also wanted the families, not just Sailors and civilian employees, to come together and make this a family-centric thing. And I think we successfully did that.”
More than 250 children and family members participated in Trunk or Treat along with the NSASP Police, N9, the command ombudsmen and members of the Sea Cadet Pentagon Division. Hundreds more participated in Harvest Fest at each installation, where the longtime favorite main event included free pumpkins for military children (guarded by MWR’s most trusted and serious-looking employees in the meantime). While each iteration of Harvest Fest over the years featured slightly different events and of course, different supporting casts, one constant is Alice Stanton, MWR recreation director. This year marked Stanton’s 24th Harvest Fest; Capt. Michael O’Leary, commanding officer of NSASP, kicked it off with a hearty thank you and round of applause for Stanton’s incredible efforts.
“Our first year, we had 20 pumpkins with 20 participants under a small tent,” Stanton said. “Over the years we have utilized the pavilion as well as the entire parade field. We have added crafts, outdoor games, mechanical rides, pony rides, and free food and beverages.”
As a creative professional, Stanton seemingly has no problems coming up with ideas and marshalling resources – doing so for multiple events in the same month and putting together a Haunted House, however, requires a special level of dedication.
“We have done five haunted houses form 1999 through this year,” said Stanton. “They are every labor intensive and it is difficult to make them the quality we want when there are other major events, such as Harvest Fest, within the same month. This year was the first Trunk or Treat we have done, but based upon the response we got this year, I’m sure we will do it again.”
If there were ever hiccups executing such a broad program, Stanton and the MWR team have never shown it. She is quick to credit fellow MWR employees and volunteers for its success. “Every event comes with its unique challenges,” she said. “Everyone's role is an important one, from the generosity of our wonderful sponsors, the many hours of labor from our amazing MWR staff, Medical, Fire and Police Department, the sacrifice of time from our terrific volunteers – our Sailors, Sea Cadets, co-workers, and student organizations. Each worker - no matter how large or small a part they played are important in making the event the quality our patrons deserve. The whole team makes this a success!”
Monumental effort aside, seeing the positive effect of the October programs – the sense of community, family enjoyment and above all, smiling military children – is its own reward. “All the hard work is totally worthwhile,” said Stanton. “Nothing means more than the smile of a young child getting a memory they will never forget.”
Medina appreciates the joy the Harvest Fests, Trunk or Treat, and Haunted House bring military children as well, but emphasizes how critically important family and community are for Sailors.
“As a military member, when we’re at sea for six or more months, we don’t have the luxury of spending this kind of time with our families,” said Medina. “When a Sailor goes to shore duty they need to have the ability to decompress and build those bonds with family… to learn how to come back together as a family and build relationships in their own homes.”
Bravo Zulu to all who made Harvest Fest, Trunk or Treat and the Haunted House a success!