British officer visits Maryland National Guard

At Camp Fretterd, he sees emergency response setup

July 23, 2004|By Ellie Baublitz | Ellie Baublitz,SUN STAFF

The commanding officer of the British Territorial Army, Maj. Gen. Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor, the sixth Duke of Westminster, visited the Maryland National Guard yesterday to learn how the United States prepares for emergencies.

Grosvenor was accompanied by Lord Glenarthur, a member of the British Parliament's House of Lords, for the 2 1/2 -day tour of American reserve units in the Maryland, Virginia and Washington area.

During a visit to Camp Fretterd in Reisterstown, home of the Maryland National Guard and the Maryland Emergency Management Agency, Grosvenor listened to National Guard officials describe its history, organization and support of the war on terrorism.

"I came here specifically to see how your country does it and hopefully learn some lessons, and I have," Grosvenor said. "You know we're working alongside each other in several theaters, and the more we understand each other, the more we learn how to work together."

After the briefing, Grosvenor, the senior reservist in Great Britain, and Glenarthur were taken on a tour of the camp's main armory, which houses MEMA.

National Guard officers showed the British guests the emergency command room, which was most recently activated in September during Tropical Storm Isabel, and the mobile command unit.

MEMA Director John W. Droneburg described his facility's communications room, which is filled with computers and telephone hot lines for keeping in touch with major areas of the state during emergencies.

Officials described armory security and building safety features that protect communications in the event of an emergency.

Before the briefings began, Westminster Common Council President Damian L. Halstad presented Grosvenor with a proclamation, a pewter plate, and six mugs that contained a pen, stickers, a notepad and a miniature city flag.

"We have declared this your day in Westminster," Halstad told him.

"And all the children are going to have a holiday for this?" Grosvenor said, laughing. "That's my first decree."

Aware that Grosvenor is one of the wealthiest men in England, Halstad continued to jest.

"You're routinely referred to as the richest man in England, and you're known for your charitable causes. We were $200,000 over budget last year," Halstad hinted.

Still laughing, Grosvenor said, "They still don't pay me enough."

Then he added, "There's no such thing as a free cup, is there?" as he held up one of the Westminster gift mugs.

Grosvenor, attired in a camouflage battle dress uniform, ate an apple and sipped a cup of coffee during the briefing. He listened attentively to the American officials and asked questions.

At the end of the tour, Maj. Gen. Bruce Tuxill, the Maryland National Guard adjutant general, presented Grosvenor with a commemorative coin. The British reservist presented Tuxill with a signed book, The Fight for Iraq: January to June 2003.

"You might learn a few things from that," Grosvenor joked.

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