'Heart of Armor School' named for Army legend
May 9, 2012
By VINCE LITTLE
FORT BENNING, Ga. (MAY 9,2012) -- The 316th Cavalry Brigade's General Instruction Building has been named after one of the U.S. military's most famous figures.
Soldiers have used it since the Armor School's arrival last year from Fort Knox, Ky., but Building 5145 on Harmony Church was formally dedicated as Patton Hall during a ceremony Wednesday in honor of Gen. George S. Patton Jr. Bronze plaques also were unveiled for seven other buildings at the unit complex in tribute to influential Armor and Cavalry Soldiers who fought in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
The $15 million Patton Hall is a training venue for officers in the Armor Basic Officer Leader Course and Army Reconnaissance Course, as well as captains and senior noncommissioned officers in the Cavalry Leader Course. The 68,000-square-foot facility features 48 classrooms, 10 cadre offices and a 230-seat auditorium.
"This building is really the heart of the Armor School," said Col. Marshall Dougherty, the 316th Cavalry Brigade commander. "It's where brand-new lieutenants, battle-tested captains and seasoned noncommissioned officers are trained in the art of mounted maneuver and warfare.
"This last year has been a time of great physical transformation at Fort Benning for the Armor branch. Many of the buildings dedicated today are named for the same heroes of Armor and Cavalry that we grew to love at Fort Knox. None of those buildings at Knox, though, was named after the man who perhaps made the greatest impact on the modern Armor branch. Today, we'll rectify that."
Patton was commissioned as a Cavalry second lieutenant upon graduating from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1909. He became an innovator early on, promoting the cause of mechanized and armored warfare -- from the basic level of Tank School during World War I to the 3rd Army's vast armored formations in the Second World War. As a colonel, Patton led the 2nd Armored Division at Fort Benning after its activation in July 1940 and trained the unit here prior to World War II.
His legacy was captured in the 1970 Academy Award-winning biographical war film, Patton, in which George C. Scott portrayed him.
Benjamin Patton, the general's youngest grandson, was Wednesday's guest speaker. A documentary filmmaker who lives in New York, he recently released a book titled, Growing Up Patton: Reflections on Heroes, History and Family Wisdom. He's the son of Maj. Gen. George S. Patton IV, a highly decorated officer himself who led troops in Korea and Vietnam.
"The movie Patton came out when I was 5," he said. "Really, my first impression of my grandfather was through George C. Scott. My father actually had much more of the towering voice that George C. Scott had than my grandfather did, so it felt like I had George C. Scott wandering around in my house as a kid.
"It's just a pleasure to be here, and I'm honored because, as a civilian, I'm associated with some fascinatingly colorful and significant history. … This is reflected glory, and I'm here as a conduit to these important people. It's a wonderful thing to be associated with such a great name and be among the Soldiers here."
During World War II, Patton commanded the Western Task Force during the landings in North Africa, II Corps across Tunisia, the 7th Army in the Allied invasion of Sicily, and the 3rd Army as it broke out of the Normandy hedgerows and during the Battle of the Bulge. Patton's turn to the north to relieve Bastogne is widely regarded by military historians as a classic field maneuver.
"My grandfather was famous for his audacious, mobile style of warfare. But it comes from a deep understanding of history," Benjamin Patton said. "He was fortunate to have the capability and training, much of which happened at Fort Benning, and then being in the right place at the right time in Europe."
The Maneuver Center of Excellence broke ground on Patton Hall in September 2009. Fourteen months later, construction was completed.
Dougherty said the brigade brought numerous paintings and memorabilia down from Fort Knox, and they're placed throughout the building. The facility has a Hall of Heroes display, a tribute to fallen Armor and Cavalry leaders from the war on terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Patton is well known for his exploits on the battlefield, but he also wrote "revolutionary doctrine," the colonel said.
"Less remembered or celebrated, perhaps, but especially important to us, is his enormous impact on the development of the tank corps in mounted tactics, doctrine, education and training," Dougherty said.
Benjamin Patton said his grandfather would be honored by the building dedication.
"He would be very pleased that an academic building was named after him because he was not such an academic," he said. "But he was a scholar, and I think he'd be pleased to be associated with a scholarly institution like this. To be successful as a Soldier like he was and other members of my family were, you have to understand history. You have to be able to look back and know where you came from before you know what to do next."