One Odenton commercial strip has been known as "Boomtown" ever since Camp Meade was established as a temporary Army training post in 1917. With forthcoming changes in the organization of the First U.S. Army, the nature of that headquarters base will change as well.
As U.S. defense installations are being scaled down after the Cold War, the First Army's mission at Fort George G. Meade will end next month. The unit will be deactivated and consolidated with the Second Army, headquartered at Fort Gillem, Ga., which NTC will be reflagged and assume the name of the First Army. That unit will have a post at Fort Meade to communicate with the National Guard and Reserves, but it will be a token presence. Other defense-related operations may continue at Fort Meade, but a significant part of its historic role will come to an end. To many employees there, this is a time of painful adjustments:
* Item: The First U.S. Army band was inactivated recently. "Never thought it would happen," said Staff Sgt. James A. Scheddel, as the 133-year-old band went silent. "We were always on top of things, but budget cuts got the best of us."
* Item: After overseeing the disposition of 9,000 acres of Fort Meade land for other uses, Richard H. Howell was told he will no longer be needed after June 24. "I've accepted now that's how the cookie crumbles," the retired Army colonel said stoically of the phasing-out of his job.
While the nature of the base area will be altered as soldiers leave, the decommissionings continue to build the inventory of the Fort Meade museum. A repository of everything from a full-scale replica of a World War I trench to Nike missiles, the museum will add the deactivated band's bass drum to its collection of First Army memorabilia.
Prior to U.S. involvement in World War I, Anne Arundel County was a quiet and slow-growing rural enclave. All that changed after the return of soldiers from World War II. In recent decades, largely driven by the county's relationship to the nation's military operation at Fort Meade, the National Security Agency, the U.S. Naval Academy and numerous private defense contractors, Arundel has thrived. The new housing developments around Odenton make it clear the once-thriving base area is turning into a bedroom community for the Baltimore-Washington corridor.
It is boomtown again, but this time for young families. Instead of hand grenades, they're lobbing baseballs in the local Little League.