- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The piercing voice of a drill instructor and the jarring sound of bullets will give visitors to the National Museum of the Marine Corps a unique perspective on what it is like to be a Marine.

The 118,000-square-foot museum near Quantico, Va., a towering complex whose architectural design resembles the famous image of the flag-raising at Iwo Jima, will immerse visitors in the culture of the storied military branch.

The facility at 18000 Jefferson Davis Highway is on track to open to the public Nov. 13, officials said yesterday. The grand-opening ceremony is scheduled for Nov. 10, the 231st anniversary of the Marine Corps.

Visitors will experience a simulated boot camp and combat zones. Museum officials determined through research that visitors wanted experiential exhibits.

“Interactive technology seemed to be the overarching desire of visitors as opposed to the traditional experience of going into a building and looking at things through glass,” said retired Col. Raymond Hord, vice president for development and marketing of the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, which is providing financial support for the museum.

Retired Col. Joseph Long, the museum’s deputy director, said the facility will feature about 5,000 artifacts and several exhibits designed to give visitors a taste of life as a Marine. The museum, which has been under construction for more than two years, eventually might expand to 181,000 square feet.

One display will show the two flags raised at Iwo Jima. The flags will be rotated to prevent wear and tear.

Three galleries featuring World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War will be designed to help visitors understand the experience of a combat zone. In the Vietnam gallery, for example, visitors will walk off the back of a helicopter into a simulated “hot landing zone,” where they will get the sensation of bullets whizzing past and imminent danger.

“We’re just re-creating that experience as best as we possibly can,” Col. Long said.

One of the main features of the museum is its simulated boot camp. The exhibit will feature a live drill instructor, who will scream at visitors and demand obedience.

The museum aims to educate visitors about why the Marines use such intense training tactics. “It’s not because they’re mean,” Col. Long said.

The facility is designed as the centerpiece of the Marine Corps Heritage Center, which also is home to artifact restoration and storage facilities, a conference center and a hotel.

Prince William County donated 135 acres for the museum.

Most of the 60,000 artifacts in the collection were taken from the battlefield. The aircraft, weapons and equipment are authentic.

“All of the artifacts are the real things,” Col. Hord said. “None of them are reproductions.”

Admission will be free. The museum will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except Christmas.

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