The Basic Combat Training Museum allows visitors to relive the experience of basic combat training at Fort Jackson from 1917 to present. While the layout of the museum follows the schedule of basic combat training today, exhibits highlight the similarities and differences of the training program through WWI, WWII, the Cold War, and the War on Terror.
The museum is divided into three major galleries: Red Phase, White Phase, and Blue Phase. These divisions are based on Basic Combat Training instructional periods that were instituted in 1983. In addition, the museum has galleries dedicated to Recruitment, Reception, Barracks Life, the History of Fort Jackson, Heroes Among Us, Graduation, and Advanced Individual Training.
Major changes in training for the Army occur because of shifts in the environments and enemies that the United States faces. Because of this, the Basic Combat Training Museum examines training in four major time periods: WWI, WWII, the Cold War, and the Modern War on Terror. The museum opens up with reasons why America has gone to war during these major time periods. A special display in this area addresses the attacks of September 11, 2001 and America's entrance into its current era of warfare.
While Soldiers in WWI slept in tents, Soldiers in WWII slept in hutments or temporary wooden barracks, and soldiers during the Cold War slept in WWII wooden barracks or brick "rolling pin" barracks, Soldiers today sleep in "star ship" and "star base" barracks at Fort Jackson. These current barracks complexes have sleeping quarters, dining facilities, classrooms, and physical fitness fields for an entire company of Soldiers.
The juxtaposition of land navigation and communications training in the museum highlights two completely opposite paths of development in Army training. While land navigation training has remained virtually unchanged since WWI, communications training has evolved dramatically following the broad developments in available technology. While Soldiers in WWI famaliarized themselves with semaphore flag signalling systems, Soldiers in today's Army become familiar with the SINCGARS family of radios.
The mission of combatives training is to develop the warrior spirit within Soldiers. Iconic images of Soldiers stabbing straw dummies with bayonets attached to the end of their rifles used to represent this phase of training. Pugil sticks have replaced the bayonet as the focus of instruction during combatives training, however. Soldiers learn to defend and attack in close quarters using hand-to-hand combat techniques.
One of the first physical training challenges that Soldiers face during training is Victory Tower. Victory Tower is an obstacle that Soldiers face in the first week of training. Designed to instill confidence in the new Soldiers, the Tower has a 40-foot rope cargo net for Soldiers to climb up and a 40-foot rappelling wall for Soldiers to descend down.
During Basic Rifle Marksmanship (BRM), Soldiers become masters of their rifles, and they learn to assemble, disassemble, and clean their weapon; to maneuver themselves into basic firing positions, and to perform basic firing techniques. During WWI, this meant mastering the M1903 Springfield rifle. During WWII and the Korean War, Soldiers conquered the M1 Garand rifle, and during the Vietnam War and the Modern War on Terror, soldiers familiarized themselves with the M16 select fire rifle.
The Confidence Course of basic combat training is another element of training that has remained virtually unchanged since World War I. The Confidence Course at Fort Jackson is a course of 24 individual and team obstacles such as the Slide to Victory, the Skyscaper, the Belly Buster, and the Wall Hanger. Fueled by encouragement from their teammates, Soldiers must persevere to conquer these obstacles designed to test their strength, endurance, and problem solving abilities.
Bivouac: (ˈbi-və-ˌwak, ˈbiv-ˌwak)
noun: a usually temporary encampment under little or no shelter
verb: to take shelter often temporarily
While in the field, Soldiers must set up shelter, stay warm, and keep clean. During basic combat training, Soldiers leave the comforts of their barracks and set up in the field for up to five nights. At the bivouac, Soldiers learn sanitation and basic survival skills.
After ten weeks of training, Soldiers complete basic combat training and they are allowed to participate in graduation ceremonies. After basic combat training, Soldiers move forward to Advanced Individual Training (AIT) where they learn the specific skills required for their individual job positions in the Army.
All Soldiers start their Army careers at the Reception Station, where they are initially processed into the Army. The Reception Station opened at Fort Jackson in 1941, and Soldiers reported there to complete records, take the Army general classification tests, fill out insurance forms, and receive bedding, clothing, and personal equipment.
Construction of Camp Jackson began in June 1917, and by September 1917, the first trainees were arriving to the camp. From this original construction period, only two buildings at Fort Jackson remain. Since 1917, the footprint of Fort Jackson has changed more than once, and WWII veterans who visit the base hardly recognize it because the extent of construction and demolition is so great. Nevertheless, Jackson Boulevard remains the main thoroughfare of Fort Jackson's cantonment area and Gate 1 continues to guard the original entrance to the base.
The purpose of drill and ceremony is to enable a commander or noncommissioned officer to move his unit from one place to another in an orderly manner; to aid in disciplinary training by instilling habits of precision and response to the leader’s orders; and to provide for the development of all Soldiers in the practice of commanding troops.
In 1778, General George Washington recognized that a large portion of the hardships and losses suffered by the American revolutionary forces resulted mostly from the lack of any real military atmosphere and discipline. General Washington enlisted the help of a Prussian officer, Baron Friedrich Von Steuben, to correct the conditions that existed. Von Steuben immediately wrote drill movements and regulations at night and taught them the next day to a model company of 120 men. From these origins, today's drill and ceremony training evolved.
During WWII (1940), first aid instruction included how to: control bleeding; apply a tourniquet; treat fractures; deal with fainting, burns, sunstroke, heat exhaustion, and freezing; and prepare a litter. The first aid exhibit at the museum is a scene recreated from a photograph of first aid training during WWII.
During CBRNe (pronounced se-ber-nee), soldiers learn to respond to Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and high explosive attacks. A key component of this area of training is learning to trust your gear, and Soldiers must put their protective masks to the test in the gas chamber. After seeing the spectrum of protective masks that have been available to the Army since World War 1, visitors of the museum are able to watch a video of this training in action.
Many people know that the highest award that a Soldier can be granted in the Army is the Medal of Honor, but less people know of the Distinguished Service Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Silver Star, or the Soldier's Medal. The Heroes Among Us gallery at the BCT Museum highlights the accomplishments of Soldiers associated with Fort Jackson and features these medals that were established by the United States Congress to honor America's servicemen and women.
Grenades are not only used to kill enemy soldiers and to destroy enemy equipment. Smoke, incendiary, and flash-bang stun grenades are used to signal between troops, to screen unit movements, to control riots or crowds, and to start fires. During basic combat training, Soldiers become familiar with all of these grenades, and by the end of training, every Soldier throws a live fragmentation hand grenade.
This phase of training during World War II was known as crew-served weapons training because the automatic weapons of that time were so large and heavy, a crew of at least three Soldiers was needed to carry them. One Soldier would be responsible for the weapon, one Soldier would carry the tripod to mount the weapon on, and one Soldier would carry the ammunition for the weapon. In 2011, this phase of training is known as U.S. Weapons training.
An army marches on its stomach, and the United States strives to keep its troops well fed. Luckily, the Army has come a long way since the hard tack biscuits of the Revolutionary and Civil War. The C-rations of World War II have evolved into Meals-Ready-to-Eat (MREs) which are pre-packaged, well-balanced, high-calorie meals that Soldiers enjoy in the field. Over 24 meal varieties are available for Soldiers to choose from.
During World War II, the Army saw that Soldiers were arriving overseas unprepared to go on missions and survive in the field. In 1941, the Carolina Maneuvers was the Army's first major attempt at field training exercises. During this exercise, Soldiers from all over the southern United States were placed into either the Red or Blue team, and the two forces battled from Fort Bragg in North Carolina to Fort Jackson in South Carolina to Fort Benning in Georgia. This first attempt at a field training exercise evolved into more contained and controlled exercises at Fort Jackson during the Korean, Vietnam, and Iraq Wars.