A TRADITION OF EXCELLENCE
On June 2, 1917, a new Army Training Center was established to answer America’s call for trained fighting men the early ominous days of World War I. This installation would become the largest and most active of its kind in the world.
First known as the Sixth National Cantonment, and later as Camp Jackson, Fort Jackson has always served as the Army’s pioneer in the training environment. Named the Army’s Community of Excellence in 1988, Fort Jackson has continued to earn awards for excellence year after year.
The initial site of the cantonment area consisted of almost 1,200 acres. The citizens of Columbia donated the land to the federal government, thereby initiating the long tradition of respect, cooperation and friendship between the city and the installation. In fact, Fort Jackson was incorporated into the city in October 1968.
Named in honor of Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson, a native son of the Palmetto State and the seventh president of the U.S. Camp Jackson was designated as one of 16 national cantonments constructed to support the war effort.
YEARS OF GROWTH
The pressure of World War I brought swift changes. Within 11 days of the signing of a contract to construct the camp, the 110-man camp guard arrived. By the end of the first month, the labor force had grown to more than 1,200 and the first two barracks were completed.
Two months later, the force had grown to almost 10,000 men. Virtually overnight, Camp Jackson had grown from a sandy soil, pine and scrub oak forest to a thriving Army training center, complete with a trolley line and hundreds of buildings.
Three months after construction began, some 8,000 draftees arrived for training. The first military unit to be organized here was the 81st “Wildcat” Division, under the camp’s first official commander, Maj. Gen. Charles H. Barth. Members of the original guard, who had been the first to occupy the camp, were moved to Camp Sevier in Greenville, South Carolina, and incorporated into the 30th “Old Hickory” Division, named in honor of Jackson.
More than 45,000 troops from these famed divisions went to France as part of the American Expeditionary Forces, including Freddie Stowers, the only African-American recipient of the Medal of Honor from that war. He was a member of the 1st Provisional Infantry Regiment, which trained at Fort Jackson.
THE WORLD WAR YEARS
In less than eight months, construction of the vast camp was complete. But almost as suddenly as it began, the clamor subsided. With the signing of the armistice in 1918, the famed 30th Division was inactivated. The 5th Infantry Division trained here until it was inactivated in 1921. Control of the camp reverted to the Cantonment Lands Commission, and from 1925 to 1939, the sleepy silence was broken only by the occasional reports of weapons fired by state National Guardsmen.
In 1939, the demands of war brought the area again under federal control, and Fort Jackson was organized as an infantry training center. Four firing ranges were constructed, and more than 100 miles of roads were hard surfaced and named for legendary Revolutionary War figures and heroes of the Civil War.
During World War II, the “Old Hickory” Division was one of the first units to reappear on the scene, just as it had in 1917. More than 500,000 men and women received some phase of their training here. Other famed units to train here during this period were the 4th, 6th, 8th, 26th, 77th, 87th, 100th and 106th divisions. Other units at Fort Jackson trained thousands of troops during the Korean and Vietnam conflicts.
In May 1946, Fort Jackson became a replacement-training center. The 5th Infantry Division was reactivated here in 1947 as a training division. It was replaced in August 1950 by a reactivated 8th Infantry Division following the outbreak of the Korean War. In January 1951, the 31st Infantry Division joined them.
By May 1954, the 31st and 8th divisions had been transferred and were replaced by the famed 101st Airborne Division, defenders of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge. On March 16, 1956, Fort Jackson was formally designated the United States Army Training Center, Infantry, as 10,000 troops paraded on Hilton Field and colors were changed in the ceremony. The 101st was transferred to Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
Throughout the ’60s and ’70s, Fort Jackson continued its mission of conducting basic training. In June 1973, Fort Jackson was designated as the United States Army Training Center, where young recruits were taught to think, look and act as Soldiers always.
Thousands of Soldiers were trained here as the Army experienced a “training revolution.” Part of those changes included trainfire, a system of rifle training that was tested and instituted at Fort Jackson. Another addition to the training environment included Victory Tower in 1976. This structure is used to reinforce the skills and confidence of the individual Soldier.
In 1987, more change took place, as 10 basic training battalions became part of regiments. The purpose of the U.S. Army Regimental System is to provide the opportunity for affiliation, develop loyalty and commitment, and improve esprit de corps.
100 YEARS OF EXCELLENCE
Fort Jackson had grown over the years, but most of the buildings were temporary. Finally in 1964, construction began on permanent steel and concrete buildings to replace wooden barracks, which had housed the fort’s troops since the early 1940s. In recognition of the fort’s 50th anniversary in 1967, the citizens of Columbia gave Fort Jackson the statue of Andrew Jackson that stands at Hilton Field.
With the establishment of the modern volunteer Army in 1970 and the need to promote the attractiveness of service life, construction peaked in an effort to modernize facilities and improve services.
Through the years, changes have been made to enhance training. Victory Tower, an apparatus designed to complement BCT, is used to reinforce the skills and confidence of the individual Soldier. Field training exercises were incorporated into advanced individual training so Soldiers would have an opportunity to practice MOS and common skills in a field environment.
By 1988, the Initial Entry Training strategy was implemented. The standard unit of training was the platoon. Training focused on hands-on skill development rather than platform instruction.
Fort Jackson continues to win awards as it moves toward its vision of the future. The goal is to make Fort Jackson the best living, working and training environment it can be. “Victory starts here,” as it has since 1917.
THE U.S. ARMY BASIC COMBAT TRAINING MUSEUM
Located at 4442 Jackson Blvd., the U.S. Army Basic Combat Training Museum (formerly the Fort Jackson Museum) was established in 1972 with an initial collection of only 20 artifacts. Since opening to the public in July 1974, the collection has grown to more than 4,500 pieces of historical objects. The museum exhibits an assortment of military weapons, uniforms and other equipment to illustrate how the American Soldiers trained to perform their duties in peacetime and war. Several typical military vehicles from World War II to the present are displayed outside the museum building, which is adjacent to a small picnic area. Additional vehicles and artillery pieces are located throughout the installation. Museum hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, with extended hours on Family Day. It is closed Saturday, Sunday and federal holidays. For information, call 803-751-7419.
FINANCE CORPS MUSEUM
The Finance Corps Museum transferred from the Army Finance Center, Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana, to Fort Jackson in 1995 with the U.S. Army Finance School. It is the historical repository for artifacts documenting the history of the Finance Corps from its birth in 1775 to present. The museum preserves branch-related historical memorabilia and provides interpretive displays representative of the history of the Finance Corps. The museum supports the training and professional development needs for Soldiers affiliated with the Finance Corps to encourage a better understanding of their branch values and contributions to the history of the Army.
The museum is dedicated to furthering the educational needs and interests of the Fort Jackson community and the public. It is colocated with the U.S. Army Adjutant General’s Corps Museum. The exhibit gallery is open to the public 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, except federal holidays. The museum is on the corner of Strom Thurmond Boulevard and Magruder Avenue in Building 4392. Admission to the museum is free and it is handicapped-accessible. Group tours are available by appointment. For more information, call 803-751-3771.
U.S. ARMY ADJUTANT GENERAL’S CORPS MUSEUM
Tracing its origins back to the Revolutionary War with the appointment of the Army’s first Adjutant General in 1775, the Corps has served the needs of America’s fighting forces for more than 240 years. Throughout the years the mission of the Adjutant General’s Corps, or “AG Corps” as most Soldiers call it, has remained constant — to assist the commander in war and peace and to provide superior personnel support to the Soldiers, civilians and families that make up our Army. Today’s AG Corps serve as human resource manager for the Army and continues to build and sustain combat readiness for the Soldiers. Charged with the mission of providing personnel and administrative service support for the Army of the 21st century, the Soldiers of the AG Corps manage all military personnel activities, including tracking awards and promotions, maintaining all personnel files and records, and regulating the Army’s Band and Postal Operations throughout the world.
The U.S. Army Adjutant General’s Corps Museum is dedicated to the history of the Corps from 1775 to present. On display are historical documents, photos, uniforms and equipment that tell the story of our diverse history. The museum is on the corner of Strom Thurmond Boulevard and Magruder Avenue in Building 4392. The exhibit gallery is open to the general public from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. It is closed Saturday, Sunday and federal holidays. Admission to the museum is free and it is handicapped-accessible. Group tours are available by appointment. For more information, call 803-751-1747.
CHAPLAIN CORPS MUSEUM
Ever since armies have gone into battle, accompanying them were persons who would provide spiritual comfort to the Soldiers. The U.S. Army Chaplain Corps Museum displays the history and evolution of the military chaplaincy since its inception July 29, 1775, through present day. It chronicles the men and women who have aided and served the Army both spiritually and militarily.
The exhibits offer visitors the opportunity to learn about the dedicated service of the chaplaincy to our Army in response to the challenges of war and peacetime.
Featured displays include the development of equipment enabling chaplains and chaplain assistants to comfort and minister to all faith groups and the ingenuity of Soldiers who used simple materials on hand to construct a chapel, the altar and its furnishings on a South Pacific island during World War II.
From the Korean War era, observe a field service and the poignant memoir of a chaplain assistant. The museum is at the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School (10100 Lee Road) on the corner of Lee and Benning roads. Museum hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. It is closed Saturday, Sunday and federal holidays.
Admission is free and the general public is welcome. Parking is available across the street from the building on Benning Road. Group tours are available by appointment. For more information, call 803-751-8827/8079.