Indoor Exploration at the National Museum of the United States Army

Indoor Exploration at the National Museum of the United States Army

The “Growing Up Army” exhibit of the National Museum of the United States Army in Alexandria, Virginia is a great place for young visitors to start their exploration of Army history. The exhibit introduces visitors to the challenges and adventures of being part of an Army family. Children in these families, affectionally known as “Army Brats,” often have their childhood shaped by their parent’s deployments, or their moves between duty stations (their assigned locations).

More than 1.6 million children are part of military families today. On average, these families move every two to three years. Sometimes these moves can take them across the country, or around the world, asking Army kids to frequently start new schools and make new friends. In “Growing Up Army,” visitors hear Army kids share their personal experience being part of these unique families.   

G-STEM Learning

Another great place for curious young minds is the museum’s Experiential Learning Center (ELC). The ELC offers interactive activities that simulate work done by Army Soldiers in the fields of geography, science, technology, engineering and math. One of those activities is the medical support training area, where visitors act as Army medics working to diagnose sick patients during a humanitarian crisis.

Combat medics, formally titled 68-Whiskey Healthcare Specialists, are among the most popular roles in the Army, second only to Infantry Soldiers. Across the active-duty Army, Reserve and National Guard, approximately 39,000 Soldiers currently serve as medics. And the Army trains about 6,800 new Soldiers as medics every year at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston in Texas.

Soldiers in space

The museum’s youngest visitors will love stopping into Fort Discover, where visitors 8 and younger take part in age-appropriate interactive activities that inspire imaginative play. Kids can take turns climbing an Army tower, dropping cargo supplies, driving a jeep and launching a space rocket.

Many visitors are surprised to learn about the Army’s role in space exploration, which is represented in multiple galleries. It began during World War II when Germany developed a supersonic ballistic missile that the American Army knew it needed to match. NASA did not yet exist, so the Army Ordnance Corps began studying jet propulsion with the help of the California Institute of Technology (CalTech). After the war, the Army’s work in space continued. One of its famous early initiatives was the Redstone Project, which led to the design of the first rocket capable of launching a satellite into space and engineering the first solar cells, which extended a satellite’s lifespan.

Visitors can get an up-close look at the first solar cells launched into outer space on April 11, 1957, in the museum’s Army and Society Gallery. This gallery, which is unique for a military museum, examines the relationship between the Army and the American people. Among the highlights are the exhibits that explain the diverse collection of Americans who have served as Soldiers. One of the featured Soldiers is Nantaje, who was one of 10 Apache “Indian Scouts” who helped the Army during the winter of 1872-73. During a heated battle, Nantaje rescued a small boy who was accidentally caught in the crossfire. For his valor, he and nine other scouts received the Medal of Honor.

Scavenger hunt mission

The National Museum of the United States Army is open every day, 9 a.m.–5 p.m., and entry is free. Families looking for a fun way to experience the museum can pick up a Recon Mission scavenger hunt activity at the Welcome Desk. The Recon Mission will encourage young visitors to seek out the most age-appropriate exhibits while noting some of the lessons of history they teach us.