Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst —
As the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst community takes its time to celebrate the Camp Dix centennial, a group of U.S. Army veterans from the 511th, 412th and 532nd Military Police Company, 759th MP Battalion, recently reunited here to remember their time at the installation 40 years ago.
The group of about 30 prior military police who worked and lived together at then Fort Dix planned their 40-year reunion to coincide with the Camp Dix centennial. For many of them, it was their first time back on the installation since the 1970s.
“I had not seen some of these guys in 40 years,” said Steve Schmich, U.S. Army veteran. “When I finally saw them again, it was like time stopped and we were still in the 1970s and nothing had changed.”
The veterans visited the barracks where they lived and spent most of their time together. The buildings had been upgraded over the years with individual living quarters, wallpaper, tiles and air conditioning. Some recalled the standard of living common to the enlisted force in the military during their time in service.
“Our barracks were 30-man bays with 60 of us crammed in, three men to a cubicle that was maybe 10 feet across,” said Jack Rindt, U.S. Army veteran. “The air conditioning only worked in the winter and the heater only worked in the summer - but we survived and formed lifelong friendships there.”
Stepping out of the barracks, the reunited MPs toured the Fort Dix Museum where they appreciated military history spanning the century of U.S. Army activity at Camp Dix. A uniform very similar to the one they were familiar with saw attention from many of the nostalgic veterans.
“Fort Dix has changed so much over the years; the mission has evolved,” Rindt said, looking out to a nearby field. “I think the only thing that hasn’t changed is the grass.”
Following the museum, the group toured the ranges the Soldiers used to train and witnessed the Air Force Expeditionary Center Airmen conducting pre-deployment training. Following an explosion which didn’t seem to frighten any of the U.S. Army veterans, the Airmen simulated the clearing of buildings in a mock town.
Throughout the tour, the MPs remembered what they missed most about their service, and also what they didn’t miss.
“It was a bad time to be in the military at that time; most people weren’t super supportive of us following the Vietnam War,” Rindt said. “We always had good times here together, but many of us didn’t stay in because of the way we were treated. We are all happy that the military is being treated very fairly and very well now.”
As the tour came to an end and the MPs stepped off the G.I. bus, they discussed the uniqueness of Joint Base MDL and considered how a joint force may be better able to meet the training and exercise needs of the ever-changing mission of the United States Armed Forces.
“In the 1970s Fort Dix was an installation independent from McGuire Air Force Base,” Schmich said. “It’s amazing now to see all of the different branches working alongside each other to accomplish the mission here. No matter the uniform, in the end, when it hits the fan, we’re all together.”