Hilton Field renovation completed
April 18, 2013
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- This is a special week for Fort Jackson and the Army because of Hilton Field's historical significance and the impression it gives brand-new Soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Army family members who visit every year.
The area where Hilton Field sits was created in 1918 and served as a ceremony field during World War I and World War II as troops left for Europe or the Far East theater of operations. Later, during WWII, the area was also used as a small airfield for practice bombing runs over the northeast area of Columbia and Lake Murray.
In 1953, this field was named after Sgt. Richmond Hobson Hilton. Sgt. Hilton, a native of Westville in Kershaw County, earned this honor on Oct. 11, 1918, while serving with M Company, 118th Infantry -- Palmetto Regiment, A South Carolina National Guard unit fighting with the Army Expeditionary Forces in Europe.
Hilton earns Medal of Honor
With America's entrance into WWI, Sgt. Hilton's Guard unit was mobilized and assigned to the 30th Infantry Division -- Old Hickory, which trained at Fort Jackson. On July 4, 1917, the unit deployed to Ypres, France. Sgt. Hilton's heroic act happened more than a year later, on Oct. 11, 1918, when the battle-weary troops of M Company were approaching Brancourt, France. They entered the town and proceeded to pass thorough when they were stopped by head-on fire from enemy automatic weapons. A quick survey of the immediate area disclosed that this fire came from a machine-gun nest in the shell holes on the edge of the village.
Sgt. Hilton pressed toward the gun position with a few men. They assaulted the machine-gun nest with their rifles until their ammunition was exhausted. Sgt. Hilton did not stop there. He continued forward -- alone -- blasting away with his pistol. Within minutes he had killed six enemy defenders and captured 10 others. A bursting shell shattered his right arm, which was later amputated.
For his part in that October battle, Sgt. Hilton received the Medal of Honor and the Purple Heart.
Pride Inspired Hilton Field Renovation
In the last year, I have become aware that Hilton Field is truly a national treasure. The number of Soldiers who have marched this field with their shoulders pulled back and heads held high is immeasurable. Their pride is immeasurable as well.
That pride inspired the efforts that caused the idea of a new and improved facility to come to fruition.
For the past 60 years, Hilton Field has served as the venue for everything from the weekly basic training graduations, to the occasional rock concerts, to the annual Fourth of July fireworks celebrations.
Those of you who were here about a year ago can recall how Hilton Field looked.
It used to be outdated with unpaved roads, had an insufficient public address system, and was in dire need of major functional and cosmetic upgrades.
Although we regularly selected it as the primary location for most of our large outdoor events, Hilton Field's appearance was not representative of its value to us.
The significant renovations that have been made to Hilton Field have enabled it to reflect the pride we have in it and the pride we have in Soldiers just like Sgt. Hilton, who set out to serve their nation in order to preserve the freedoms we all hold dear.
Let me highlight some of the upgrades to this facility. When you arrive at the field, you will first notice our new main entrance welcoming visitors through its archway. Upon your approach, you will notice several improvements, such as the resurfaced access roads, paved parking area, paved bus turnaround point, improved sound system and restroom facilities for our Soldiers and Families.
Next, you will be captivated with the state and territorial flag displays, the pedestrian promenade with stone, brickwork, landscaping, benches and digital signs.
Lastly, our centerpiece is the statue of our seventh president of the United States, Andrew Jackson. The statue, commonly known as "Standing Andy," was relocated here from Gate 1 and highlighted as the center piece of the promenade. The workmanship is top-notch and we have a lot to be proud about.
A lot of people played major roles in this renovation project, but I want to thank the staffs of the U.S. Army Training Center and Garrison led by Col. Ken Royalty and Col. Mike Graese. It is impossible to accomplish tasks like this without everyone being on the team and dedicated to the task at hand.
Team Jackson, Hilton Field is one more example of how our vision is coming to fruition and how we are one step closer to fully achieving it.
Fort Jackson is often the first impression that the citizens of this nation have of the Army. This week, I believe we have improved upon that impression forever.
Army Strong and Victory Starts Here!