'Pathway to graduation' takes shape
October 22, 2009
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Visitors entering Fort Jackson through Gate 4 are now welcomed by a new sign placed in front of a row of Palmetto trees. The sign was dedicated in a ceremony Oct. 15 and is part of the initiative "pathway to graduation," which aims to make graduation a more pleasant experience for visitors from across the country.
The initiative is a 10-year partnership among Richland County, Fort Jackson and several Midlands-area organizations. It started two years ago and is scheduled to culminate in the redesign of Hilton Field, said Jim Olsen, plans specialist with the Plans, Analysis and Integration Office.
"That timing was significant, because the 10th year is 2017, which is our 100th anniversary," Olsen said. "What we realized is, at the 50th anniversary, the city gave (Fort Jackson) the Andrew Jackson statue. And so we wanted to do something bigger and better for the 100th anniversary."
The new sign at Gate 4 is the latest in a series of projects.
The initiative started as a partnership between the Richland County Appearance Commission and Fort Jackson. The two partners created a task force to come up with a concept to make the "pathway to graduation" more appealing to visitors.
"The task force has accomplished several of its goals, including the restoration of the garden at Andrew Jackson's statue, the beautification of Gate 1, working with DOT (Department of Transportation) to replace some confusing highway directional signs on I-77 and the awarding of a grant to beautify Forest Drive interchange," said Ryan Nevius, Richland County Appearance Commission.
Richland County Councilwoman Valerie Hutchinson said she wanted members of the Fort Jackson community to know how much they are appreciated outside the installation's gates.
"We wanted to reassure these visitors and their loved ones serving in the armed forces that we, as a community, value and appreciate their service, their sacrifice and their patriotism," Hutchinson said.
Since the inception of the project, other partners have come on board, such as Columbia Green, an organization dedicated to the beautification of the Columbia area, which financed the landscaping surrounding the new welcome sign.
"I think this (project) allows us to put our best foot forward and to show visitors that Columbia residents take pride in their city and fully support the fort's presence here," said Columbia Green's Susan Hamilton.
Fort Jackson is host to approximately 300,000 visitors each year who attend graduation ceremonies. Col. Lillian Dixon, garrison commander, said for many of those visitors, coming to Fort Jackson is their first visit to a military installation.
"To have this symbol when they come into this gate - it really says it all with the last sentence, 'We honor your service,'" Dixon said. "That's not just the Soldiers who have made the ultimate decision to join our ranks, but also those family members who will be supporting them throughout their tour in the military.
"I can't tell you how much the support the community gives to us means to those family members and how much it means to those Soldiers and their families," she said.