On June 2, 1917, a new Army Training Center was established to answer America`s call for trained fighting men in 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 Major General Andrew Jackson, a native son of the Palmetto State and the seventh president of the United States, Camp Jackson was designated as one of 16 national cantonments constructed to support the war effort.
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, Major General Charles H. Barth. Members of the original guard, who had been the first to occupy the camp, were moved to Camp Sevier in Greenville, S.C., 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 America Expeditionary Forces.
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 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 received some phase of their training here. Other famed units to train at Fort Jackson during this period were the 4th, 6th, 8th, 26th, 77th, 87th, 100th and 106th. The 31st "Dixie" Division trained here during the Korean Conflict.
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 that had housed the Fort`s troops since the early 1940`s. 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 Gate #1. 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.
In June 1973, Fort Jackson was designated as a U.S. Army Training Center, where young men and women are taught to think, look and act as soldiers - always. Through the year, changes have been made to enhance training. Victory Tower, an apparatus designed to complement basic combat training, is used to reinforce the skills and confidence of the individual soldier. Field training exercises (FTX) were incorporated into advanced individual training (AIT) so soldiers would have an opportunity to practice MOS and common skills in a field environment.
By 1988, initial entry training (IET) strategy was implemented. The standard unit of training was the platoon. Training focused on hands-on skill development rather than platoon instruction.
Fort Jackson continues to win awards as we move toward our vision of the future. The goal is to make Fort Jackson the finest living, working and training environment it can be. "Victory Starts Here", as it has since 1917.