PHOTOS: ‘America’s Army museum’ begins taking shape at Fort Belvoir

The National Museum of the U.S. Army will include 185,000 feet of artifacts, documents and exhibit space. (WTOP/Kristi King)
The National Museum of the U.S. Army will include 185,000 feet of artifacts, documents and exhibit space. (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
All those black panels, lined up like a platoon, will hold the stories of individual soldiers. The museum will have a soldier's perspective. (WTOP/Kristi King)
All those black panels, lined up like a platoon, will hold the stories of individual soldiers. The museum will have a soldier’s perspective. (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
Three women lead the lift mission to install the UH-1B Iroquois "Huey" helicopter in the museum's historic gallery section. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Three women lead the lift mission to install the UH-1B Iroquois “Huey” helicopter in the museum’s historic gallery section. From left to right: Museum specialist Sara Bowen coordinates, manages and plans museum exhibits and artifacts; senior project manager Christine DeMorro is with Design and Production Inc.; and Tammy E. Call is the museum’s director. (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
The missiles shown in the upper portion of this photo are replicas and have no actual fire power. (WTOP/Kristi King)
The missiles shown in the upper portion of this photo are replicas and have no actual fire power. (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
What looks like a white tent on the left is "Grant's Theater." On the right is the World War I immersive experience. The historic gallery section of the museum will cover more than 240 years of Army/U.S. history, beginning with the pre-Revolutionary War militia era and continuing through to the Army of current day. (WTOP/Kristi King)
What looks like a white tent on the left is “Grant’s Theater.” On the right is the World War I immersive experience. The historic gallery section of the museum will cover more than 240 years of Army/U.S. history, beginning with the pre-Revolutionary War militia era and continuing through to the Army of current day. (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
Under this shroud is a Sherman tank. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Under this covering is a Sherman tank. (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
"When the doors open in 2020, this is America's Army museum," said Tammy Call, director of the National Museum of the U.S. Army. "We show the relationship between American society and our army as we formed, as we have fought, as we protect this nation." (WTOP/Kristi King)
“When the doors open in 2020, this is America’s Army museum,” said Tammy Call, director of the National Museum of the U.S. Army. “We show the relationship between American society and our army as we formed, as we have fought, as we protect this nation.” (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
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The National Museum of the U.S. Army will include 185,000 feet of artifacts, documents and exhibit space. (WTOP/Kristi King)
All those black panels, lined up like a platoon, will hold the stories of individual soldiers. The museum will have a soldier's perspective. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Three women lead the lift mission to install the UH-1B Iroquois "Huey" helicopter in the museum's historic gallery section. (WTOP/Kristi King)
The missiles shown in the upper portion of this photo are replicas and have no actual fire power. (WTOP/Kristi King)
What looks like a white tent on the left is "Grant's Theater." On the right is the World War I immersive experience. The historic gallery section of the museum will cover more than 240 years of Army/U.S. history, beginning with the pre-Revolutionary War militia era and continuing through to the Army of current day. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Under this shroud is a Sherman tank. (WTOP/Kristi King)
"When the doors open in 2020, this is America's Army museum," said Tammy Call, director of the National Museum of the U.S. Army. "We show the relationship between American society and our army as we formed, as we have fought, as we protect this nation." (WTOP/Kristi King)

FORT BELVOIR, Va. — The nation’s first military service that began as militia dating back to the 1600s is about to be the last military service branch to tell its story with a national museum.

“When the doors open in 2020, this is America’s Army museum,” said Tammy Call, director of the National Museum of the U.S. Army. “We show the relationship between American society and our army as we formed, as we have fought, as we protect this nation.”

High on a hill on the grounds of Fort Belvoir, Virginia, the museum will be accessible to the public from the Fairfax County Parkway and have free admission.

Space covering more than three football fields will feature immersive, interactive experiences and actual artifacts such as Civil War cannons and World War I tanks.

“The landing craft you see here was actually in D-Day,” said Patrick Jennings, chief of programs and education at the museum. “The Sherman tank you can see in our WW II gallery is the first Sherman tank that assisted the 101st (Airborne) at Bastogne.”

Exhibits and theaters will help visitors feel as if they’re part of the action. Walking directly over foxholes in the immersive World War I experience, artillery explosions will sound with flashes of light. In the Army theater, seats will rumble as tanks are shown passing over desert sands and wind will blow your hair as helicopters fly overhead.

The museum is a work-in-progress with exhibits being built around larger artifacts, some not visible through protective wrapping.

On Thursday, a UH-1B Iroquois “Huey” helicopter was lifted to the ceiling of the museum’s historic gallery section using an elaborate system of chains and pulleys. The chopper suffered combat damage during its 1965 to 1973 tour in South Vietnam before being brought back to the States.

The only tank manned by U.S. troops in World War I in Germany will also be on display. “When we were restoring this tank, they found over a thousand bullet holes in this tank,” Susan Smullen of the museum said. “They actually found one bullet still lodged in the tread.”

A learning space designed for youngsters will help students develop G-STEM skills as they work in teams to complete Army missions.

The museum hopes to also entertain the very young. “We have a little playground we call Fort Discover,” Jennings said, emphasizing that the museum should prove interesting to all ages.

“Everyone can come here, have fun and learn something,” Jennings added.

There’s no set date yet for the museum’s opening in 2020.

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