Fort Huachuca is a product of the Indian Wars of the 1870s and 1880s. In February 1877, Col. August V. Kautz, commander of the Department of Arizona, ordered that a camp be established in the Huachuca Mountains. This camp would offer protection to settlers and travel routes in southeastern Arizona while simultaneously blocking the traditional Apache escape routes through the San Pedro and Santa Cruz valleys to sanctuary in Mexico.
A temporary camp was established at the post’s current location March 3, 1877, by Capt. Samuel Marmaduke Whitside with two companies of the 6th Cavalry. The site was selected because it had fresh running water, an abundance of trees, excellent observation in three directions and protective high ground essential for security against Apache tactical methods. Camp Huachuca was designated a fort in 1882.
In 1886, Gen. Nelson A. Miles designated Fort Huachuca as his advance headquarters and forward supply base for the Geronimo campaign. Geronimo’s surrender in August 1886 practically ended the Apache danger in southern Arizona. The Army closed more than 50 camps and forts in the territory, but Fort Huachuca was retained because of continuing border troubles involving renegade American Indians, Mexican bandits, and American outlaws and freebooters.
In 1913, the 10th Cavalry “Buffalo Soldiers” arrived and remained almost 20 years. The 10th Cavalry joined Gen. John J. Pershing in the 1916 expedition into Mexico, and, during World War I, it was assigned the mission of guarding the United States-Mexico border.
By 1933, the 25th Infantry Regiment had replaced the 10th Cavalry as the main combat unit for the fort. The 25th, in turn, was absorbed by the 93rd Infantry Division during World War II. When the 93rd departed for the Pacific in 1943, the 92nd Infantry Division arrived at the fort for training and subsequent assignment to the European Theater. During the war years, the troop strength reached 30,000 men at the fort, which in the 1930s had been described as suitable for a brigade-sized unit of about 10,000 men.
At war’s end, the fort was declared surplus and transferred to the state of Arizona. It was reactivated during the Korean War by the Army Engineers.
A new era began in 1954 when control passed to the chief signal officer, who found the area and climate ideal for testing electronic and communications equipment. The importance of the fort in the national defense picture grew steadily from that moment. In 1967, Fort Huachuca became the headquarters of the U.S. Army Strategic Communications Command.
Then, in 1971, the post became the home of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center and School, bringing with it the School Brigade.
The Strategic Communications Command became the U.S. Army Communications Command in 1973, subsequently changing to the U.S. Army Information Systems Command in 1984 and to the U.S. Army Signal Command in 1997. On Oct. 1, 2002, the U.S. Army Signal Command was renamed the U.S. Army’s Network Enterprise Technology Command.
In October 1990, the post changed hands when the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command became the new host command. Installation Management Command now operates the post.
Today, Fort Huachuca is the major military installation in Arizona and one of prominence throughout the Southwest.
The post sits at the base of the Huachuca Mountains. That name comes from an obscure local American Indian language which, when loosely translated, describes a “place of thunder.”
Thunder Mountain is the nickname of choice among locals, and it’s accurate as well, depending on the time of year. The sight of dark clouds cascading down the mountainside while lightning, thunder and rain fill the air can be as awesome to modern man as it must have been to ancient American Indians. The name must have referred to the visual spectacle rather than its frequency because, actually, Thunder Mountaineers enjoy some of the mildest and best weather found in Arizona.
The original Fort Huachuca cantonment was declared a National Historical Landmark in March 1977, during a four-day centennial celebration. A rustic wooden sign sits on the northeast corner of Brown Parade Field, the center of post life during the days of horse Soldiers. Surrounding buildings and homes are maintained with the appearance and flavor of the old days.
When Whitside led his column from the 6th Cavalry into southern Arizona and into the annals of history, he could scarcely be aware that the temporary post he was ordered to establish in the foothills of the Huachuca Mountains would survive to play a major role in the drama of the western United States.
This fascinating history of the U.S. Army in the Southwest, as well as the history of the Southwest itself, unfolds at the Fort Huachuca Historical Museum. Opened in 1960, the museum has grown rapidly and now houses one of the most representative collections in the state. The museum has been accredited by the American Association of Museums. The Fort Huachuca Historical Museum endeavors to bring to the military community and general public a heightened awareness of and an increased appreciation for the colorful history of the Southwest — especially the prominent part played by the U.S. Army.
The exhibits are instructive, entertaining and aesthetically satisfying. Some of the U.S. Army manuscripts and documents, dating back as far as 1861, can tell the viewer a great deal about the way of life on a rugged frontier.
The museum, in Building 41401, is open to the public without charge. Civilian visitors are welcome. Hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. A leisurely walk through the museum has proven to be an enriching and stimulating experience for the thousands of guests who visit each month.
A Museum Annex across the street from the Fort Huachuca Historical Museum was officially opened in 1982, adding much-needed space to display some of the artifacts belonging to the museum. The renovation and reconstruction of the building, formerly a theater, took approximately two years to complete.
The Military Intelligence Museum was recently renovated and relocated to Building 62723 on Hatfield Street near the MI Library. The newly named MI Soldier Heritage Learning Center opened June 26, 2015 and is intended to provide training and education for Soldiers in the military intelligence branch, but remains open to the public.
The new Learning Center features exhibits highlighting the contributions of Soldiers to the MI profession throughout our nation’s history, beginning with the Revolutionary War and continuing to the present and beyond. The exhibits are Soldier-focused, recounting the actions of Soldiers serving in intelligence fields and provides an overview of MI history.
History comes alive in exhibits dedicated to the Army’s major combat operations and feature iconic imagery, focused learning objectives, artifacts, interactive multi-media topics and individual Soldier stories. Themes of the individual exhibits explore how MI as a profession evolved through that era, showcasing the development of specific disciplines and capabilities.
The MI Soldier Heritage Learning Center utilizes technology and interactive features, expanding beyond the one-dimensional feel of a traditional museum.
For further information on the museums, donations of historical articles or contributions to the museum fund, call 520-533-3638.