Friday all of the fourth grade classes at my wife’s school took a field trip to the Airborne & Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville. I went along as a chaperon. While I’m always up for a visit to a good museum, I was worried it would be difficult to keep the students interested and occupied for the two hours we were going to be there. In my experience, military history museums in general are targeted only at people who already have a strong interest in the subject, and displays are typically pretty lackluster. Boy was I wrong.
I would recommend the museum to anyone looking for something cool to do within 100 miles of Fayetteville. If you’re a military or technology buff, it’s definitely worth traveling even further. The main exhibition hall features exhibits arranged in chronological order, beginning with the army’s first attempt at deploying airborne troops and ending with an awesome display of Operation Iraqi Freedom. All of the displays are very interactive and constantly being updated. (While we were there, one exhibit hall was closed while a new feature on dessert guerrilla warfare and the war on terror was being finished.) A changeable-exhibit hall told the story of the United States’ operations in France during World War I — an area of history often overlooked in favor of the more dramatic conflict that occurred 20 years later. The museum also houses a full size movie theater with a variety of free shows and a separate theater set up as a flight simulator.
Still, the best asset the museum has is obviously its volunteer staff: Retired military personnel, all experts in their subject area and all passionate about sharing their very real experiences.
Most of my time was occupied with keeping my group of adolescents together and answering — or teaching them how to use a museum to answer — the endless barrage of questions their minds blasted out. I did manage to snap a few pictures though.
Click the image below to see more.