HEIDELBERG, Germany — Hundreds of spectators and participants gathered Tuesday at the Patrick Henry Village pavilion for the opening of the U.S. Army Europe Land Combat Expo, a three-day event that offers troops a glimpse into the future of warfare.

The day’s events included outdoor displays, booths run by vendors promoting the latest in technology and talks by military officials.

Among those present for a look were 1st Infantry Division troops from bases in and around Würzburg. Pfc. Shawn Hassold, 24, of San Antonio, and Spc. Quentin Helland, 23, of Chippewa Falls, Wis., were among a company of 1st Battalion 77th Armor Regiment troops that bused in from Conn Barracks in Schweinfurt.

“We came to check out the new equipment,” Helland said. “You get to see the way the military is going with new technology.”

Hassold, a tank driver, was interested in climbing inside German tanks on display.

Inside, military units and defense contractors engaged passers-by in the endless maze of booths. Many visitors filled red-white-and-blue canvas bags with pens, cup holders and other trinkets.

Soldiers gathered to hear USAREUR commander Gen. B.B. Bell speak Tuesday morning. Other featured speakers include Maj. Gen. James Dubik, who heads military experimentation, on Wednesday; and Maj Gen. Frank Hagenbeck, who headed 10th Mountain Division operations last year in Afghanistan, on Thursday.

Retired Sgt. 1st Class Sammy Davis, a Medal of Honor recipient who discusses his experiences in Vietnam and the responsibilities of soldiers, is a featured speaker daily.

Retired Col. Tony Nadal and retired Command Sgt. Maj. Southern “Buddy” Hewitt spoke to troops about how soldiers react to combat. Both were involved in fighting at Landing Zone X-Ray, Ia Drang, Vietnam, the basis for the recent film “We Were Soldiers.”

“That briefing topped my day,” said Spc. Tarsha Moore, 33, of Hampton, Va.

Moore was among two dozen troops from the Kitzingen-based 121st Signal Battalion who volunteered to attend the expo. Both expect to be in Southwest Asia within the next six months.

Before entering the huge fest tents full of vendors’ booths, crowds gravitated toward three helicopters parked on the front lawn. One helicopter, a UH-60 Black Hawk from the 421st Medical Evacuation Battalion out of Wiesbaden, was open for visitors to sit in the pilot’s seat.

Spc. Robert Sage, 23, of Orange County, Calif., felt proud to show off his bird. He’s done eight static displays since his unit, the 236th Medical Company, returned in March after six months in Kosovo. Still, he finds people’s interest in helicopters personally motivating, he said.

“When you work on helicopters every day, it becomes just a normal thing,” Sage said. “It feels good to know that I can answer all their questions.”

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now