MCALESTER — Having built the “Mother Of All Bombs,” the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant opened its facility Saturday to host a community yard sale and the fifth annual Patriot Run.
A mix of cold temperatures, wind and a smattering of rain cut down attendance, but didn't seem to dampen the mood of those working and taking part in the event.
While yard sales and runs have been held at the sprawling 45,000-acre military installation before, Saturday's event combined a run/walk event with a yard sale that involved a mix of public and private sector vendors.
Organized by the “MWR” group at the base, which stands for “Morale, Welfare and Recreation,” the event drew high praise from the plant's military commander, Col. Timothy D. Beckner.
“They do a phenomenal job,” Beckner said of the group.
Beckner was wearing a Kansas City Chiefs toboggan cap, running clothes and a race bib that carried the single digit number “1.” He had just finished running in the 5k part of the Patriot Run.
Starting just inside the plant's main security entrance, runners from a variety of backgrounds, ages and abilities took off for a 5k or 10k run, or a walk along the course.
Zella Kincaid, of McAlester, had the fastest woman's time in the 5k and won that segment for a third time in a row, clocking in at 22:47. That was 1:14 behind the fastest men's 5k time of 21:33 by Albert Cervantes, of Hartshorne.
About 30 yards from the start of the run, and on the other side of a massive replica of a Massive Ordinance Air Blast bomb — often unofficially called the “Mother Of All Bombs” — a group of tents sheltered yard sale items.
Under the large tent was a mix of electronic items and office furniture. Nearby, a sizable collection of woodwork projects were for sale.
A mobile stage also was set up, from which a local radio station broadcast live during part of the event.
“It's a great event,” said Flo Barlow, who is with the Morale, Welfare and Recreation group.
The weather, particularly the wind, led to the decision not to set up inflatables for the children.
While discussing the event, Beckner also addressed the size of the military facility he commands. He said there are 410 miles of roadway, more than 220 miles of railroad track, and 2,800 permanent buildings on the 45,000-acre site south of McAlester.
One-third of the Defense Department's munitions storage capability is at the McAlester facility, which has thrived while many other military installations in the nation have been downsized or closed.
Approaching 70 years as a military munitions facility, the plant originally opened during World War II as the Naval Ammunition Depot.
Oct. 1, 1977, it was transferred to the U.S. Army. The plant is owned and operated by the U.S. government.
Beckner said the plant itself employs about 1,500 people, and tenant groups on the grounds employ another 400 people.
Noting the plant is the largest employer in southeast Oklahoma, the colonel also said a local publication named it the best place to work, as well.
“That's pretty good, when you're the largest and the best,” Beckner said.