Cannon Fire Training to Begin This Week at Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington residents can expect a special morning wake-up this week as a U.S. Army regiment begins its annual cannon fire training.

Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall announced that the Presidential Salute Battery Guns Platoon of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, a.k.a. the “Old Guard,” will begin firing off blank rounds in the Arlington National Cemetery between 7-8 a.m. on Thursday.

Joint Base community relations officer Leah Rubalcaba told ARLnow that the training will continue on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7-8 a.m. “going forward” but that there isn’t a scheduled end date because it depends on how long it takes to train the platoon.

Residents in Radnor-Fort Myer Heights, Foxcroft Heights, Columbia Heights, Aurora Heights and Pentagon City have previously reported being able to hearing the sounds, which they described as “pounding,” “banging,” “booming,” or “explosion.” The booming sound has been reported in neighborhoods even farther away, depending on weather conditions.

During the training, teams work together to fire howitzers and 21-gun volleys. The goal is to time the shots with a ceremony or song, but the guns were not always ceremonial, according to the platoon’s website.

The platoon is equipped with ten M5, 75mm antitank cannons mounted on the M6 howitzer carriage. Each gun weighs 5,775 pounds. The M5 cannon saw service in North Africa, Italy, and Northwest Europe from 1943 until the end of World War II. Today, the Presidential Salute Battery fires the 75mm blank ceremonial shell with 1.5 pounds of powder….

Ceremonies require a five-man staff and a two-man team for each gun. The staff consists of the Battery Commander, who initiates fire commands and ensures the proper number of rounds is fired; the Sergeant of the Watch, who marches the battery into position, controls the firing of the backup gun, and monitors the watchman and his assistant; the Watchman controls the timing between rounds and gives the command to fire; the more experienced Assistant Watchman ensures the Watchman stays in time; and the Counter, counts the rounds and signals the last round to the battery.

Rubalcaba wrote in email Monday that the Presidential Salute Battery Guns Platoon conducts the training in preparation for firing the cannons “at ceremonies in honor of the President of the United States, for visiting foreign dignitaries, during official government ceremonies, regional celebrations… and while rendering honors during the funeral services of our nation’s fallen service members and veterans.”

Rubalcaba said the training sessions will each end prior to the cemetery’s visiting hours.

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Ft. Myer Works to Renovate Bowling Center, Prompting Scattered Closures

The bowling center at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall is getting a few upgrades, but that means construction will restrict access to its lanes this week.

The Army base announced Monday (Jan. 7) that it would be kicking off work to “add new counters at the Strike Zone and Front Desk locations” within the bowling center.

The downside, however, is that the bowling alley will “experience limited operations and/or closures” through Friday (Jan. 11).

Anyone looking for more information can call 703-528-4766 for details.

The bowling center last garnered headlines back in 2016, when officials moved to restrict access to its lanes only to people escorted by someone with a Department of Defense ID.

However, anyone hoping to bowl or otherwise gain access to the base on a regular basis can apply for a special pass to do so.

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Army Plans New Security Fence Separating Arlington National Cemetery, Ft. Myer

The Army is now set to build a two-mile-long, eight-foot-high security fence along the border of the Arlington National Cemetery and Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall.

The National Capital Planning Commission, a regional planning body focused on projects on federally owned land, unanimously signed off on designs for the new fence at a meeting last month. The project, commissioned to replace a four-foot-high fence currently separating the base from the cemetery, will also include a five-foot-wide walking trail along the perimeter of the burial ground and a new parking lot to replace some spaces to be eliminated by the construction.

The Army proposed the new fence in the first place over concerns that the existing wall is “no longer adequate to protect the employees on the installation,” according to a report prepared by the commission’s staff. The fence will include four gates to allow access between the base and the cemetery — the fence itself will be “anti-climb and the gates will be both anti-climb and anti-ram,” according to staff.

The gates were a particular point of concern for some members of the commission, who pressed the Army to to reconsider designs at the Selfridge and Memorial Chapel gates, in particular. However, the fence’s designers said they couldn’t quite manage to find a design that would simultaneously meet the Army’s design concerns and the aesthetic issues the commission identified.

“[At] Selfridge, I think we’ve proven that beauty and elegance is gone from our minds,” Commission Vice Chairman Thomas Gallas said during the Oct. 4 meeting. “And I guess I’m disappointed, because I know everybody, everybody, all the stakeholders appreciate what that gate feels like as you approach it. It really is something powerful, as we went there to see it, it moves you. And it won’t move you anymore. Nothing’s going to move there. It’s constipated, I guess you could say.”

The Army does plan to add more shrubs and landscaping at the gates to help address some of those concerns, according to the staff report.

The project will also include a trail, which “follows the path of countless runners and walkers” and “will be made from permeable pavement.” The Army also hopes to add “small seating areas with benches and detailed planting along the trail,” the report says.

The cemetery is set to see a bevy of other changes in the coming years, with plans for a massive expansion of the burial ground and a realignment of many nearby roads.

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Expect to Hear Lots of Cannon Fire Tonight

If it sounds like World War II in Arlington tonight, there’s a good explanation for why.

The U.S. Army Band “Pershing’s Own” will be firing off massive World War II-era anti-tank guns on Fort Myer between 6-8 p.m., according to the base’s public affairs office. Up to 84 rounds will be fired in order to “obtain audio recordings of the cannon fire.”

Arlington residents can expect to hear the barrage, though the exact neighborhoods where such artillery fire is most audible varies depending on weather conditions.

More from Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall:

Esteemed Arlington County Neighbors,

Please be advised that there will be blank cannon fire on the Fort Myer side of Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall between the hours of 6 and 8 p.m. tonight, Nov. 14.  The cannon fire will be shot from four 5,775-pound WWII-era anti-tank guns used during ceremonial events on base and in the region.  Members from the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) Presidential Salute Battery will be firing up to 84 rounds at random intervals during this two-hour window.  The reason for tonight’s cannon fire is so that the U.S. Army Band “Pershing’s Own” can obtain audio recordings of the cannon fire for use at upcoming performances when it isn’t feasible to have the actual guns present.

For additional information, please call the Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Public Affairs Office at 703-696-2976.

Thank you.

Update at 2:35 p.m. — The cannon fire is now scheduled between 5 and 6:15 p.m.

We just received word that the hours for the blank cannon fire scheduled for this evening at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall were moved back – now to take place from 5 to 6:15 p.m.  While we hope that this last minute change does not cause any confusion, the good news is that the cannon fire will not occur so late in the evening.  There will still be 84 rounds of cannon fire that will take place between 5 and 6:15 p.m.

Photo via Facebook

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Morning Notes

When Is Trick Or Treating in Arlington? — Wondering about tomorrow’s Halloween candy gathering? There are no official trick-or-treating hours in Arlington, but as in previous years you can expect to see the first little ghouls and goblins around 6 — sometimes a bit earlier — and the last door knocks should happen by 8 or 9 p.m.

Engagement Ring Found in Courthouse — “I found an engagement ring today on Wilson and N. Troy… Happy to reunite if owner can provide accurate description!” [Twitter]

ACPD Lieutenants to Split Settlement — “Lieutenants in the Arlington County Police Department will split a pot totaling $1.24 million and the county government would avoid the possibility of legal action under an agreement inked – without public notice – on Oct. 23. The agreement, tacked on without forewarning to the community at the end of a County Board meeting, brings the county government in line with changes in federal law regarding overtime payments through the Fair Labor Standards Act.” [InsideNova]

AWLA Fundraiser a Success — Via an email from the Animal Welfare League of Arlington: “We are thrilled to announce that $45,000 was raised for animals in need at our 3rd annual Pints4Paws Pet Fest! We are so grateful to the more than 800 guests that attended, and to all of the volunteers and sponsors that made this event possible.  Thanks to you, we are going to be able to continue saving thousands of lives every year!”

Emergency Exercise at Fort Myer — Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hill “will conduct a Full Scale Exercise today, Oct. 30. Community notifications will be delivered until 4 p.m. by text, email, and loudspeaker.” [Twitter]

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Morning Notes

I-66 Toll Tweaks Coming — The Virginia Department of Transportation will tweak the algorithm it uses to calculate tolls in the I-66 express lanes, which possibly could lead to lower tolls, although VDOT doesn’t guarantee lower tolls in the long run. The high tolls caused outrage among drivers when they were first instated in December and drew national attention, although transportation officials contend they work as intended with deterring single-passenger vehicle trips. [WTOP]

Three Questions with Del. Lopez — Del. Alfonso Lopez offers some short responses to questions about his accomplishments and challenges facing Arlington. [Arlington Magazine]

Substance Use Town Hall — Arlington County will hold a town hall on substance use tonight at Kenmore Middle School (200 S. Carlin Springs Road) from 7-9 p.m. Panelists including police, school and human services officials, and the discussion will be moderated by Kimberly Suiters from ABC 7. A resource fair will immediately precede and follow the town hall. [Arlington County]

New Monument for the Old Guard — “A special ceremony [took] place in Arlington, Virginia Tuesday to honor more than 230 years of service by the Third U.S. Infantry Regiment, also known as The Old Guard. Soldiers, veterans and leaders from across the Army will gather for the unveiling of The Old Guard Monument at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall.” [Fox 5]

Streetlight Demonstration Tonight — County staff will hold an LED streetlight field demonstration bus tour tonight for residents to see and learn more about the products under consideration in the Streetlight Management Plan. The bus leaves at 8 p.m. from the Arlington Career Center (816 S. Walter Reed Drive). Registration is required. [Arlington County]

Traffic Enforcement Time Adjusted — According to an updated press release sent this morning, the all modal traffic enforcement scheduled for tomorrow at the intersection of Columbia Pike and S. Oakland Street will now be from 1-2:30 p.m.

Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick

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BREAKING: Hazmat Situation at Marine Corps Headquarters

Update at 2:45 p.m. — The base’s public affairs office released the following statement Wednesday.

The Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Feb. 27 incident where 11 personnel began feeling ill after a letter was opened on the Marine Corps side of the base remains under investigation.

NCIS and the FBI are conducting the joint investigation.

The three Marines who were transported for additional medical evaluations were released from the hospital at approximately 10 p.m. last night.

This office will continue to provide updates as they become available.

Earlier: Firefighters, paramedics and law enforcement responded to Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Tuesday afternoon for a hazmat situation involving an unknown substance that was mailed to the base.

Firefighters were first called to Henderson Hall, the headquarters of the U.S. Marine Corps, just after 4:30 p.m. for a hazmat incident. Ft. Myer, Arlington County and Alexandria firefighters and hazmat units were dispatched to the scene, as was an “EMS task force” that is usually dispatched to mass casualty incidents.

Initial reports suggest that a certified letter was opened in one of the buildings and that it contained some sort of potentially hazardous substance, prompting an evacuation of the building and the deployment of an emergency decontamination station.

Eleven people were treated for symptoms and three were transported to the hospital in stable condition, according to the Arlington County Fire Department. Symptoms included a nose bleed and a burning sensation, according to initial reports.

A Marine Corps official released a statement saying that the victims were Marines.

“An envelope containing an unknown substance was received, today, aboard Joint Base Ft. Myer-Henderson Hall,” the statement said. “Personnel in the affected building took immediate preventative measures by evacuating the building. Base officials are coordinating with local hazmat teams and the FBI. Several Marines are receiving medical care as a result of this incident.”

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) said via Twitter that he is “closely following the situation.”

With the help of the local hazmat teams “the building was screened and cleared, and the letter was removed,” the Marine Corps said late Tuesday. The FBI and Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) are now conducting a joint investigation.

National news media, including major television networks, gathered outside of the base in Arlington’s Foxcroft Heights neighborhood to report on the story. A press conference to be held outside the base was later cancelled. No reason was given for the cancellation.

During the incident police closed off the road near the entrance to Henderson Hall, at the intersection of S. Orme Street and Southgate Road.

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Report Shows Disparities in Income, Health Care Across Arlington

A report has shown that areas of wealth and disadvantage exist very close together in Arlington, sometimes just blocks away from each other.

The report by the Northern Virginia Health Foundation, entitled “Getting Ahead: The Uneven Opportunity Landscape in Northern Virginia,” identifies what it calls 15 “islands of disadvantage,” where people face multiple serious challenges.

Those challenges include the levels of pre-school enrollment, teens out of high school, whether people have a Bachelor’s degree or higher, the level of English spoken in a household, unemployment rate, child poverty rate, health insurance rate and more.

Of those “islands,” three are either wholly or partly in Arlington: one near the county’s border with Bailey’s Crossroads and Seven Corners; another along Columbia Pike in the Douglas Park neighborhood; and another in the area of Buckingham and Fort Myer.

The report also found that neighborhoods separated by one thoroughfare can have very different demographics, housing and poverty levels.

“A striking example was near Ballston Common [Mall, rebranded as Ballston Quarter], where residents in two census tracts on either side of North Glebe Road — tracts 1019 and 1020.01 — faced very different living conditions,” the report reads. “In census tract 1019, east of N. Glebe Road, 85 percent of adults had a Bachelor’s degree or higher education and the median household income exceeded $160,000 per year.

“Just west of N. Glebe Road, in tract 1020.01, 30 percent of teens ages 15-17 years were not enrolled in school, only 38 percent of adults had a Bachelor’s degree and 48 percent of the population was uninsured.”

It also found that life expectancy can vary by as much as 10 years across the county, “from 78 years in the Buckingham area to 88 years in parts of Rosslyn and Aurora Highlands.”

To help improve conditions, the report recommended better access to health care, education and affordable housing.

“In today’s knowledge economy, advancement requires better access to education — from preschool through college — and economic development to bring jobs with livable wages to disadvantaged areas,” it reads. “And it requires an investment in the infrastructure of neglected neighborhoods, to make the living environment healthier and safer, to provide transportation, and to improve public safety. What is good for our health is also good for the economy and will make Arlington County a stronger community for all of its residents.”

Courtesy image

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Morning Notes

ACPD Urges Caution on Roads As Days Get Shorter — “The days are getting shorter and there’s increased pedestrian and bicyclist traffic after dark,” the Arlington County Police Department said in a public service tweet last night. “Slow down, remain alert and proceed with care and caution.” [Twitter, Twitter]

History: Fort Myer During World War I — A Library of Congress collection includes 100-year-old photographs showing what life was like on Fort Myer during World War I. The photos show a visit from President Woodrow Wilson and the famous “Three Sisters” radio towers. [Pentagram]

Redskins Visit Fort Myer, Play Video Games — Former Washington Redskins players Santana Moss and Fred Smoot visited Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall and engaged in a Madden 18 video game tournament with some of the men and women in uniform. [WUSA 9]

Notable Tree Nomination Deadline Approaching — November 15 is the application deadline for submitting a tree for consideration as a 2018 Arlington County “notable tree.” [Arlington County]

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Morning Notes

Making the Case for Amazon in Crystal City — Amazon’s planned second headquarters would find a good home in Crystal City, according to Washingtonian magazine writer Dan Reed. He said the combination of a major airport close by, good transit links from Metro and the fact that it remains “underutilized” after Base Realignment and Closure makes it an attractive option. Reed also suggested Poplar Point on the Anacostia waterfront in D.C. or the Discovery District in College Park, Md. as other places that fit the bill. [Washingtonian]

More Than 40 Drone Flights Detected at Fort Myer — A study to detect unmanned aircraft found that 43 drone flights were picked up over Fort Myer over a 30-day period beginning in August. It is in the middle of a no-drone zone, with flights requiring specific permission from the Federal Aviation Administration. The report suggests the flights could have been from “well-intentioned” tourists at the nearby Arlington National Cemetery and other National Parks. [WTOP]

Leaf Collection Begins Next Week — “The Arlington County government’s vacuum-leaf-collection program is slated to begin November 13 and run through December 22. Each civic-association area is slated to get two passes during the cycle, with signs posted three to seven days before each pass, government officials said. Schedules also will be posted online. Residents wishing leaves to be vacuumed away should place them at the curb by the posted date, but avoid putting them under low-hanging wires or near parked cars.” [Inside NOVA]

APS to Slow Down Planning for Instructional Focus of New High School Seats — Arlington Public Schools and the Arlington School Board agreed to slow down the process of determining an instructional focus for the 500-600 new high school seats at the Education Center until a task force looking at the school’s strategic plan has finished its work. The plan had been for Superintendent Patrick Murphy to bring initial ideas for the site to the Board in December, but staff said slowing down would allow a “big-picture view of all high-school needs in the county.” [Inside NOVA]

Virginia Man Tried to Board Plane With Loaded Gun at Reagan National Airport — A Manassas man tried to board a plane at Reagan National Airport last Thursday with a loaded gun. The Transportation Security Administration detected the 9mm semi-automatic handgun during security checks, confiscated the firearm and cited the man on a weapons charge. It was loaded with seven bullets. [WJLA, WRC]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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Morning Notes

Arlington Nonprofit Gets State Grant — “Governor Terry McAuliffe today announced a $175,000 grant to La Cocina VA, a nonprofit workforce development organization in Arlington County, to enhance its culinary skills training facility, create a business plan training course, and develop a small business competition.” [Gov. Terry McAuliffe]

Actual Driverless Car in Arlington — Moving beyond vans with people dressed as car seats, an actual driverless car has now taken to the streets within Arlington County. An autonomous vehicle developed by Carnegie Mellon University drove itself around Ft. Myer yesterday as part of the military base’s Industry Day event. [Facebook]

Nestle Buys Blue Bottle — Nestle, which is still moving into its new U.S. headquarters in Rosslyn, has bought Oakland, Ca.-based hipster coffee brand Blue Bottle. Could that mean that a Blue Bottle location in Arlington is around the corner? Possibly, but the company already has a location across the river in Georgetown. [Washington Business Journal, Nestle]

Arlington Gets Gigabit Internet — Comcast announced earlier this week that “it has launched a new Internet service in Arlington that will deliver speeds up to 1 Gigabit-per-second (Gbps) to residential and business customers.” According to a press release, “these speeds will be among the fastest and most widely available,” utilizing DOCSIS 3.1 technology. The cost of the service is $79.99 a month with a one-year contract or $104.95 a month without.

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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President Trump to Visit Fort Myer Tonight

President Donald Trump will give a speech regarding the U.S. military strategy in Afghanistan tonight at Fort Myer.

“President Donald J. Trump will address our Nation’s troops and the American people tomorrow night at 9:00 p.m. (EDT) from Fort Myer in Arlington, VA, to provide an update on the path forward for America’s engagement in Afghanistan and South Asia,” the White House said in a press release Sunday afternoon.

As a result, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall will be closed to non-essential activities starting at 3 p.m. this afternoon.

“This will impact parking and traffic throughout the day. The base will close at 3 p.m. except for essential business,” JBMHH said via Twitter. “The Child Development Center will remain open for normal hours. Recommend using the Henderson Hall gate to enter and depart the joint base. Event is invite only.”

The president’s motorcade may result in some rolling road closures and other traffic impacts in the county.

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Army Band’s 1812 Overture Concert Set For Next Weekend on Fort Myer

Those near Joint Base Fort Myer-Henderson Hall next weekend can expect to hear live cannon fire during the U.S. Army Band’s annual 1812 Overture summer concert.

The free concert is scheduled for 8 p.m. on Saturday, August 19 at Summerall Field (247 Sheridan Ave) on the base. If it rains, it will be moved to across the street to Conmy Hall (239 Sheridan Ave).

The U.S. Army Concert Band, the U.S. Army Herald Trumpets, the U.S. Army Chorus and the U.S. Army Voices ensembles will all perform. The program will include selections of classical, popular, and patriotic music.

The climax of the evening will be live cannon fire provided by the Presidential Salute Battery of the 3rd Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) during a playing of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.

Advance tickets are not required, and bleacher seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Food is allowed but alcohol, glass containers and coolers are not. All bags will be searched.

Cars and pedestrians can enter the base through the Hatfield Gate (off Washington Blvd and 2nd Street S.). The Henry Gate (off Arlington Blvd) will be open for pedestrians only from 6-10:30 p.m., while cyclists can enter at either gate. Valid photo ID is required for attendees aged 18 or over.

Photo via Facebook

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Expect To Hear Cannon Fire Near Fort Myer Tomorrow Morning

Arlington residents may hear volleys of cannon fire tomorrow morning as a U.S. Army regiment goes through a routine training exercise at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall.

From 9 a.m. to noon, the Presidential Salute Battery Guns Platoon of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment — known as The Old Guard — will fire off 168 rounds from a dozen 75mm howitzers.

Each of the 12 teams operating a howitzer will fire seven rounds, spaced out at five-second intervals, then fire four separate 21-gun volleys spaced at three-second intervals for each round.

Those in the area should expect to hear loud noise during the exercise.

The battery will be set up in The Old Guard’s Regimental parking lot, close to the intersection of Arlington Blvd and N. Pershing Drive. They will be firing blank training rounds in the direction of Summerall Field, the base’s ceremonial field.

The platoon fires cannons at ceremonies to honor the President of the United States, for visiting foreign dignitaries, during official government ceremonies, regional celebrations and during military funerals.

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President Obama Is Coming to Arlington This Afternoon

President Obama addresses students and parents at Washington-Lee High School

President Obama is expected to make at least one more official trip into Arlington County this afternoon.

The president and Vice President Biden will be participating in an Armed Forces Full Honor Review Farewell Ceremony at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, according to a White House press schedule.

The event is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Drivers should expect temporary road closures near the base — Route 50, Washington Blvd, etc. — as a result of the visit.

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