FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Fort Jackson celebrated its 95th birthday Friday with a gathering of friends and family at the Solomon Center.

It wasn't a particularly large event. Many children were in attendance. Fort Jackson Garrison Commander Col. Michael Graese said it was important to stress the importance of family at the event.

"It really emphasizes what the Army has long understood, especially once we moved to an all volunteer force," Graese said. "Families are very critical to Soldiers. We first saw that emphasis in the mid-1970s, and it's grown through the years. Having the families as part of this is a very positive thing."

What would later become Fort Jackson began in 1916, when Columbia Chamber of Commerce leaders proposed the estate of Confederate Calvary leader Wade Hampton be used as an Army training camp. The following year, Maj. Douglas MacArthur announced the site would become one of 16 National cantonments to be built.

"The initial 1,200 acres that (became) Camp Jackson were donated by the patriotic citizens of Columbia in 1917, thus beginning a long tradition of respect, cooperation and friendship between the city and our post that continues to this day," said Fort Jackson Chief of Staff, Col. Ken Royalty.

Columbia residents donated 1,200 acres for the future Army post, and the federal government acquired by purchase and lease more than 20,000 additional acres to create "Camp Jackson."

"More than 45,000 troops trained on Fort Jackson, and would later fight in France as part of the very American Expeditionary Forces in World War I."

Today, Fort Jackson is the largest Initial Entry Training Center in the Army, training 50 percent of all Soldiers and 60 percent of the women entering the Army each year.

"It is a proud history that will continue for years to come," Royalty said.

Page last updated Thu July 19th, 2012 at 08:59