For the first time in its 40-year history, the Modern Day Marine Military Expo has been totally canceled.

Due to increasing COVID-19 cases in the Washington, D.C., region, Washington Headquarters Services signaled an intent to place the area on Health Protection Condition B+ around Labor Day, Marine spokesman Maj. Jay Hernandez told Marine Corps Times in a Friday email. This would require all in-person gatherings to be limited to fewer than 25 people.

If cases keep rising at the current rate, the Marine Corps anticipates the protection level will be at HPCON Charlie by the time of the event, Hernandez said, which requires cancellation of all in-person events.

“After careful consideration and evaluation of local conditions, and adherence to CDC guidance, the Marine Corps made the difficult decision to cancel the in-person 2021 Modern Day Marine Exposition as it is in the best interest of keeping the safety of service members and participants a priority,” Hernandez wrote.

The announcement appeared on the organization’s website Friday in a brief message signed by Commandant Gen. David Berger.

“The ongoing health and safety of service members and their families, our exhibitors and staff, and the entire Marine Corps Community of Interest is of the utmost importance to us. After continuous assessment of the ongoing public safety risk associated with the heightened transmissibility and rising infection rates associated with the Delta variant of COVID-19, the Modern Day Marine Expo, scheduled for September 21–23, 2021 at MCB Quantico, VA, has officially been canceled on the authority of the Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. David H. Berger, USMC.”

Also Friday, the Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, announced via a Facebook post that the base, along with Army National Guard’s Fort Pickett, Virginia, and Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, were approved to receive Afghan evacuees. Through the weekend and Monday, Quantico, Virginia, officials posted photos on social media showing Marines cleaning facilities and preparing for the evacuees’ arrival.

Headquarters Marine Corps officials responded to questions about whether the evacuees’ arrival at the base also influenced the decision to cancel the event with the following statement:

“The decision to cancel Modern Day Marine was based on taking preventive measures to stop the spread of COVID and to keep participants safe,” officials wrote.

In an email response to questions from Marine Corps Times on Friday, Quantico, Virginia, spokesman Capt. Michael Curtis spokesman wrote that 700 Marines from II Marine Expeditionary Force and the base would work to provide “food, housing, logistical support and physical security on Marine Corps Base Quantico for Afghan evacuees.”

Due to security concerns, Curtis did not share information regarding the evacuees’ arrival, number or for how long the base anticipated they would stay on site. The evacuees will be staying in a mix of housing, including barracks-type buildings and other lodging options, he wrote.

Marine Corps Times reached out for further comment specific to the Modern Day Marine expo and cancellation from the event director, Alexander Hetherington.

Hetherington responded via email that the organization has “absolute respect” for the decision made by the top Marine.

There will not be a virtual session or sessions of the expo as some other defense expositions and conferences have done over the past year during the pandemic.

In 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the in-person portion of the event was canceled, but the organizers still held a variety of portions virtually.

Instead, Hetherington said, staff will “immediately shift focus to planning the largest and most comprehensive Modern Day Marine in the four plus decades long history of the enterprise next Spring.”

The expo has been held at Quantico, Virginia, often in a large tent structure, known as the “expeditionary convention center,” amid industry booths and separate facilities for high-level Marine Corps leaders to give presentations.

Many other services traditionally have held their events in or closer to the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, or Washington, D.C. ― such as the Association of the U.S. Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition, or the Navy League’s Sea Air Space Global Maritime Exposition held in National Harbor, Maryland.

The Marines are taking a cue from the other services and have planned to hold the 2022 Modern Day Marine event in Washington, D.C., May 10–12, 2022.

Hetherington shared the following excerpt from a forthcoming article about the expo slated for publication in the Marine Corps Gazette’s September issue:

“Lt. Gen. Mark Faulkner, USMC(Ret), President and CEO of the Marine Corps Association, puts the necessity of the move this way, ‘while Quantico is the crossroads of the Corps, Modern Day Marine is at the crossroads of the whole of government process to plan, program, develop, and deploy the layered and integrated capabilities which underpin our national security strategy and the Marine Corps’ role within it as the nation’s premier expeditionary force.’”

Hetherington shared that in the history of the event the only other time there were considerations for canceling or postponing were in 2001, when it was scheduled within days of the 9/11 attacks. Though some participants could not travel for the event, it was still held.

“The first show in 1981, billed as the Modern Day Marine ‘Force In Readiness Exhibit,’ took place at an auxiliary airstrip near Yuma, Arizona, with two dozen companies congregated in the open air to ‘discuss their products, programs and proposals with prominent decision makers who plan and carry out amphibious operations in our nation’s defense.’”

The following year, the expo moved to the East Coast and was staged in “various commercial facilities in and around Washington, D.C., before finding a long-term home aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico in 1991,” he wrote.

The Marine Military Expos website that houses information for Modern Day Marine included the following message for the industry participants in the show.

“We understand the financial implications that this situation is causing for our exhibitors, sponsors, and the host organizations – the Marine Corps League and the Marine Corps Association. You can expect a full FAQ in the next several days on our website, which will help address questions moving forward, to include a General Services Contractor action plan as soon as it’s in place.”

Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.

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