News: Marines storm New York parks in aviation, infantry demonstration
Story by Cpl. Alex Guerra
NEW YORK, N.Y. — CH-46 Sea Knights and an AH-1 Cobra helicopter thundered across New York City's skyline, May 21 through May 24, delivering infantrymen from 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force —New York to several New York City venues to display helicopter-borne insertions and combat maneuvers for the people of the city and surrounding areas.
"The purpose the demonstrations is to display the air-ground capabilities of the Marine Corps," said Capt. Benjamin Workman, assistant air officer, SPMAGTF-NY, 24th MEU. "We wanted to show the public what it looks like having Marines 'storming the beach' coming off a helicopter-borne assault and show the people of New York what we do best."
For the first time, Marines showcased their aviation, personnel and equipment at Coney Island, Brooklyn; Flushing Meadows/Corona Park, Queens; and Playland Park, Rye, New York. Marines also showcased personnel and equipment at Central Park; Eisenhower Park, Long Island; and Clove Lake Park, Staten Island.
The Marine Air Ground Task Force demonstrations allowed Marines to reach communities who could not visit USS Iwo Jima during Fleet Week.
"I think it's important to do events like this because it allows us to show our appreciation to New Yorker's who have been so nice to us, taking us into their city, and showing us a good time," said 1st Lt. Shawn Blair, platoon commander, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, SPMAGTF-NY, 24th MEU. "It was awesome to come see people who really appreciate what we do."
Once the MAGTF demonstrations ended, Marines stayed in the area to interact with those who came out for the show. Aided by the New York Police and Fire Departments, Marines set-up weapon displays, offered tours through aircraft and allowed New Yorkers to try on camouflage face-paint.
"I enjoyed watching the expression on my son's and his friend's faces as the helicopter approached and afterwards going up to the Marines, shaking their hands and getting their faces painted — it was all worth it," said Joshua Rosadi, a Long Island, N.Y. native.
The events provided Marines opportunities to reveal a different side of the Corps that most people don't see in the news and movies. Marines surprised locals by smiling and shaking hand with their left hand, all while holding automatic weapons with the right.
"The Marines were so approachable, and they let my kids try on and play with anything they wanted," said Brian Stewart, a Hillsdale, N.J. native. "They were the nicest guys and it makes hard to believe that these are the same shipped overseas to the front lines."
After impressing crowds with successful demonstrations, locals were eager to know more and more about Marines and express their gratitude.
"There have been so many thank you's," said Staff Sgt. Johnny Bateman, platoon sergeant, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, SPMAGTF-NY, 24th MEU. "It's outrageous that they are so interested in us and learning about what we do."
Marines found the events rewarding, exhibiting equipment and sharing deployment stories; however, Marines were also trying to show more than simply servicemen in uniform.
"I hope they see that we are just normal people doing a job," said Blair. "I just hope they see we are good citizens and normal people just like them."