Soldier steps up to the plate to re-enlist in Army

Oriole Park is chosen as venue for ceremony

May 01, 2004|By Rona Kobell | Rona Kobell,SUN STAFF

Staff Sgt. Sloan Moran stood near home plate at Oriole Park on a flawless day at Camden Yards, watching his name light up the scoreboard.

There were no balls, baseball players, or hot dog-eating spectators in sight. The only fans around: a small group of family and friends who turned out yesterday to watch as Moran recited the 70-word oath committing him to the Army for the remainder of his career.

"This is absolutely amazing," said Moran, a Fort Meade-based soldier who is among the thousands who sign up each year for what the military calls "indefinite re-enlistment" - and who was allowed to do so at Oriole Park. "I couldn't have imagined anything else like this."

At a time when Americans are coping with grim images of war in Iraq, soldiers such as Moran, who lives in Severn, are guaranteeing the Army at least 20 years of service.

Since the Revolutionary War, the military has been conducting indefinite re-enlistment ceremonies for soldiers. In the Army, where the ceremony takes place after 10 years of service, officials estimate about 80 percent of eligible soldiers opt to re-enlist indefinitely. With few exceptions, Army officials say, those soldiers fulfill a 20-year commitment, and many stay even longer.

Because the ceremony marks a member of the military's last re-enlistment, many services let the individual choose the venue, within reason. Most ceremonies are in an office, at a flagpole or at a site of historical military significance. For Fort Meade soldiers, a ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial or Arlington Cemetery is about as outlandish as it gets.

But others have pushed the envelope. Lt. Col. Merideth Bucher, who directs the public affairs operation at the U.S. Army War College, said she knew of a soldier who had his re-enlistment ceremony 5,000 feet in the air during a flight training exercise in Korea. Other ceremonies have taken place atop cliffs or on beaches.

In 2001, two sailors re-enlisted during the Air Expo at Patuxent River Naval Air Station and then sped down a runway at 300 mph in a 36,000 horsepower jet truck. Their intent: to demonstrate the Navy's slogan, "accelerate your life."

Moran's wife, Debbi, had her own ideas. She knew her husband was a huge Orioles fan - recently, they'd spent his 31st birthday at the ballpark, and he'd caught a fly ball. Debbi Moran, a budget analyst with Fort Meade's 1st Recruiting Brigade, worked through the brigade's public affairs staff to arrange the event on a day when the team was out of town.

Moran is not the first to connect his love for the military with his passion for sports. In San Diego, nine servicemen have taken their re-enlistment oath on the field before a Padres baseball game. In New Orleans, the Saints offer the football field for pre-game ceremonies.

But Army officials said they could not recall a re-enlistment ceremony at Camden Yards, and an official with the Orioles said such ceremonies are extremely unusual. So it was only after the Orioles offered free use of the park that Debbi Moran told her husband of the plans.

"I just thought that we're in such a significant area of the country, with Washington and Baltimore so close, that there would be a great way to do this. And then I thought - baseball! What other way?" she said.

Moran, in the Army for 13 years, enlisted as a high school senior in Worcester, Mass. He served four years as an infantryman and then shifted to administrative duties. In 2000 and 2001, he served for six months in Kosovo as a security chief.

Moran is attached to Fort Meade's Defense Courier Service, where he flies around the world delivering sensitive materials to support various missions. He will remain at Fort Meade in his new assignment as a recruiter with the 1st Recruiting Brigade.

Before the Camden Yards event, Moran's most exotic re-enlistment ceremony took place at NATO headquarters in Turkey. His other two were at the bases where he was stationed.

At the U.S. Army War College, Bucher said she was impressed with Camden Yards' generosity.

"These people are picking and connecting this re-enlistment ceremony with something that means something to them. This soldier values the Army, takes it seriously, and wants to connect it to something in his life that he loves," she said.

Moran seemed awe-struck yesterday as the Jumbotron rotated an Army logo with the Orioles' bird, and the scoreboard screamed: "Congratulations and Good Luck SSG Moran." He said he's looking forward to a long career of bringing other soldiers into the service.

"This is it, my last one," he said with a smile. "I'm indefinite, from here on out."

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