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Experiencing the Base on a Bus by Gillian Both

Gillian Both, an intern at the museum and University of Mary Washington graduate, participated in a tour of Naval Support Facility Dahlgren earlier this month. Here’s the narrative of her tour. --


Experiencing the Base on a Bus by Gillian Both

One of the events the Dahlgren Heritage Museum offers the community is a guided bus tour of Naval Support Facility Dahlgren. As the museum’s summer intern, I was thrilled with the opportunity to tour the base. I have countless family members and friends who work there, and I looked forward to putting context to the history I had been studying during my time at the museum.


As we departed from the museum, Rob Gates explained how the base was founded and its purpose, and talked about John Adolphus Dahlgren, the pioneer in munitions testing the base was named after. We entered the main gate and immediately saw a bust of Dahlgren that had been donated to the base. This was our first stop. We had the opportunity to walk around and see displays on the first testing at Dahlgren. We took multiple stops on the tour and were able to stand next to some unbelievably large guns. Reading about the testing done on the base only scratches the surface. The tour and getting to stand under the barrels of such impressive weaponry put all of my research into perspective.


One treat was being able to visit the main testing range. We viewed some of the guns that are currently being tested (don’t worry, we visited on a Saturday so there was no testing occurring then). That trip to the test range made me realize just how impressive and intimidating these weapons can be! During the tour, I particularly enjoyed hearing Rob share some of his experiences and memories from when he arrived on base. The personal element that he added made the tour very engaging and earned quite a few laughs. We were able to drive all around the base and see testing laboratories, housing, historic structures, munitions storage, planes, hangars, and more.


The tour ended at the museum, and it was wonderful to share the exhibit “Pioneers of the 20th Century: The Story of the Wests” with my family, who joined me on the tour. Thank you, Rob, and everyone who facilitated this great opportunity!

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