Protestors demonstrate outside Blair

Army’s Cinema Van parked at school during lunch periods

Thursday, Feb. 2, 2006

A handful of protestors held signs and shouted antiwar slogans on the sidewalk outside Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring today in opposition to the Army’s Cinema Van, a multimedia traveling theater that was parked in the school’s parking lot during the school’s lunch periods.

Protestors, some from the D.C. Antiwar Network, a group that has held frequent antiwar protests outside the Army recruiting station on Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring and has opposed military recruiting on high school campuses, objected to what they see as the Army recruiters’ latest tactic to target high school students. This time they arrived with a high-tech gimmick that Silver Spring resident Annie Campbell, 17, said glorifies war and the military.

‘‘I think these tactics are really wrong, the way they make it appealing to kids,” said Campbell, a student at Thornton Friends School in Silver Spring. ‘‘A lot of kids think this is the only option.”

But some of the half-dozen or so Army personnel on hand said the 18-wheeler, complete with a 40-person capacity movie theater, Army posters and simulators, is intended to show the Army in a different light through informational videos on subjects ranging from the 22-minute ‘‘Roller Coaster Physics” to the 9-minute, action packed ‘‘Combat Arms — The Tough Choice.” They also hope to make contact with students of military age who might be interested in joining the Army.

Staff Sgt. William E. Dye, a recruiter based in the Georgia Avenue recruiting office in Silver Spring, said about 80 Blair students entered the van today. They watched a movie, were allowed to ask questions and, if they were interested, they could fill out a form to get information about the Army, the reserves or both. Some showed interest in joining the military, but Dye said he’s talked to most of them already.

‘‘A lot of the job in recruiting is to be in the community,” Dye said. ‘‘All we’re here to do is give them information to make a decision. Once they make the decision, I can talk to them further down the road.”

The van, which is actually a truck, bears Army logos, slogans and pictures of military vehicles. Inside, the walls are adorned with posters of soldiers, the soldier’s creed, a small movie screen and 10 upholstered benches. Although the van has the capability to offer combat simulation similar to a video game (an M-16 rifle can be aimed at dots or bulls-eyes, not people or silhouettes, according to Army personnel on hand), Kelly Rowe, a spokesman who works in the Army recruiting battalion in Baltimore, said the simulation wasn’t used today and isn’t used with kids younger than age 16.