Arizona Guard community Expo highlights strong military-civilian bonds

Arizona Guard community Expo highlights strong military-civilian bonds

Arizona National Guard members and their families enjoy a community expo, Dec. 7, 2014 outside Arizona State University’s Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz. The event, which was open to all Arizona residents, was part of an Arizona National Guard open house which included a formation of more than 4,000 Soldiers and Airmen. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Brian A. Barbour)

TEMPE, Ariz. – Thousands of people attended the first community Exposition hosted by the Arizona National Guard at Sun Devil Stadium here Dec. 7.


The Expo was held after the historic Arizona National Guard Muster, where over 4,000 Soldiers and Airmen formed up on the stadium field in front of over 3,300 attendees for review by the Adjutant General, Maj. Gen Michael McGuire.


“Having an Expo that includes the Soldiers’ families helps them see what the military is like and why we serve,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Frank Ledesma, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Joint Force Headquarters.


The community Expo included over 200 vendors, businesses, military displays and live musical acts.

Service members joined families and community members to celebrate the Arizona National Guard, all veterans of foreign wars, and to remember Pearl Harbor Day.


A number of military vehicles and aircraft were on display for guests to explore. People of all ages and interests had the opportunity to get an up close look at the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter, sit in the pilot’s seat of a UH-60 Black Hawk transport helicopter, and try on a full bomb suit used by explosive ordinance disposal teams.


“I watch the helicopters fly over all the time,” said Airman 1st Class Chris Hayes, an aircraft mechanic with the 161st Air Refueling Wing. “It was really cool to be able to get inside them.”


A variety of military trucks were also on display along with a remote-controlled bomb disposal robot and replica weapons.


“It was great to show my family the vehicles that we use,” said Army Sgt. Angel Chavez with the 1404th Transportation Company, who brought her son, sister-in-law, and nieces and nephews. “My son really liked the big trucks.”


The military equipment wasn’t the only thing to see at the Expo, however. Area police and fire departments brought their vehicles and equipment. Companies from across the region were on site talking with service members and providing employment information.


“It was a great plan to bring so many diverse companies to the Expo for Soldiers who are looking for employment,” said Ledesma. “It was especially great to see retired veterans manning booths seeking to employ other veterans. It shows Soldiers that there is life after their military careers.”


Live music kept the crowds, both in and out of uniform, dancing at the main stage, while a line of gourmet food trucks provided delicious munchies. Kids had their own area of the Expo, with bounce houses, face painting, a petting zoo and clown acts to keep them entertained.


“This is a fun event for new Soldiers,” said Pvt. Austen Romero, a newly enlisted Soldier in the Recruit Sustainment Program. “It makes me excited to have joined up.”