FORT JACKSON, SC -- Fort Jackson turned 93 years old Sunday, and to celebrate, the installation's community members gathered at Darby Field last Friday to start the party early.

"It's a great day to be at Fort Jackson," said Maj. Gen. James Milano, commanding general, as he welcomed hundreds of Soldiers, civilians and family members to take part in the festivities, which included live music by the 208th Army Band, rides, games, food, and of course, birthday cake.

Midway through the celebration, Milano joined the post's 2010 Drill Sergeant of the Year, Sgt. 1st Class Edwin Hernandez, the 2010 Soldier of the Year, Spc. Chentile Jackson, and the 193rd Infantry Brigade Command Sgt. Maj. Charlie Lakin, as they raised the saber to cut the cake.

But before doing so, Milano paid homage to the thousands of Soldiers and civilians who helped build up Camp Jackson, as it was known when it opened in 1917, to become the largest training post in the Army today.

"We pride ourselves here for 93 years of tradition, training and transformation," Milano said. "The great tradition of this installation is that we (facilitate) Basic Combat Training for about half of all the Army's new Soldiers in training and roughly two-thirds of all the female Soldiers we have coming in the Army.

"And the transformation from civilian to Soldier - we do that pretty darn well here," he said. "But more importantly, this installation has a tremendous history of supporting a nation at war."

Milano highlighted Fort Jackson's contributions in America's fight for freedoms, as it has trained Soldiers to engage in combat during every major conflict since the Great War.

"We were born right before we started deploying Soldiers to World War I, inactivated in 1932, reactivated in 1939 to support the build-up for World War II, and we've stayed active ever since, through Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, and of course, through (Operation Enduring Freedom) and (Operation Iraqi Freedom) for the last nine years," he said.

"You ought to be real proud," he said to the Soldiers and civilians gathered at Darby Field. "You're a part of a great legacy of excellence here at Fort Jackson and this is a small way to celebrate that legacy because for 93 years, Fort Jackson has been setting pretty high standards and will continue to do so for as long as I've got a say in it and for as long as the other great people on this installation who make things happen have a say in it."

Scott Nahrwold, deputy garrison commander, said the celebration was a fantastic occasion for Fort Jackson to showcase its historical contributions to the military as well as to the local community.

"I think it's been a wonderful opportunity for us to gather together as an extended family here and celebrate the birthday of this wonderful installation," Nahrwold said. "I'm glad to be a part of it."

For party-goers Vicky Correa Betancourt and her children, Carlos Matos, 8, and Genesis Matos, 7, the celebration not only commemorated the post's beginnings, but it also served as a welcome ceremony for the family members, who are relatively new to the installation. With rides, crafts, funnel cake and snow cones, Betancourt said she couldn't have asked for a better reception.

"The kids are having so much fun," Betancourt said. "I love it."

Pfc. Jeff Wai, who is in his seventh week of Basic Combat Training with Company B, 3rd Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment, said the celebration served as a great induction into the Army, that it was a "nice break" from the rigorous training and a great way for him to spend time with his battle buddies, as well as drill sergeants, in a more relaxed environment.

But to enjoy a slice of birthday cake, he said, was by far the sweetest gift.

And his birthday wish for Fort Jackson'

"How about another 93 years," he said.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16