Fort Benning holds case study for Legacy Project
March 6, 2013
FORT BENNING, Ga. (March 6, 2013) -- When you think of historic structures on Fort Benning, more than one comes to mind: Doughboy Stadium, Ridgway Hall, the jump towers, Riverside, the cuartels. And there are many others.
Fort Benning includes approximately 600 historic properties, said Susanne Perry, architectural historian with Cultural Resource Management on post.
In fact, across DOD, there are more than 350,000 historic properties, she said.
But the buildings don't exist in a vacuum apart from the people who live and work in them. That's why the National Historic Preservation Act states that agencies must consult with "individuals and organizations likely to have knowledge of, or concerns with, historic properties in the area." And that's what brings the Legacy Project to Fort Benning.
"Most historic buildings and structures at military installations are evaluated by cultural resources professionals without the involvement and collective knowledge of the primary stakeholders associated with the property -- the Soldiers and their Families," said Jayne Aaron, architectural historian with AARCHER, Inc., the environmental firm awarded this project by DOD. "Through this project, we will seek to define how military personnel perceive their history, community and installation … and explore incorporating the views of Soldiers and their Families into an installation's historic context."
Aaron said she believes the project will give the historic sites added relevance to the Fort Benning community.
As part of a case study, Fort Benning was selected to be part of the research process. Soldiers, Families and civilians who work or live on post can participate by allowing a volunteer to interview them or by conducting the interviews themselves. Interviewers will be reimbursed for their time and provided training and sample questions.
"Understanding how Soldiers and their Families -- both officer and enlisted -- perceive their environment would greatly improve cultural resources management on U.S. military installations and the ability of commanders and other decision makers to correctly judge the most important attributes of life on an installation," Aaron said. "This is a very groundbreaking and important project. Fort Benning is the case study installation for the entire U.S."
Fort Benning's own Cultural Resource Management office is collaborating on the project and, at its close, will receive specific recommendations for how to improve resource management on post in light of the case study findings.
"It gives us an idea of where we need to go to further show public awareness and outreach, which is a part of our program," Perry said. "Most people don't realize they live or work in a historic structure."
When it comes to historic properties, service members are a unique stakeholder group, Perry said, since they are trained in Army doctrine, move frequently, deploy to war and bring part of other cultures home with them.
"Most people don't see it that way," she said. "As a Soldier, your story becomes a part of history. So because you're a part of history, you're technically a cultural resource.
"History is not dead. It's ongoing. It's a living, breathing entity. Past, present and future, we're a part of it."
"The military has a long and proud heritage," Aaron said. "For those of us who have not served our country in this vital capacity, we evaluate the built environment from the perspective of an outsider looking in. In my many years of evaluating historic properties at military installations, I have never had the opportunity to ask the Soldiers and their Families what is important to them or how we might do a better job interpreting and preserving the importance of these bases -- for the current military populations and for Soldiers who will follow. No matter what the outcome of this case study, we are very excited to have this opportunity."
Perry encouraged everyone to get involved in the Legacy Project.
"We want as many people as possible to participate," she said. "More information is better."
To sign up, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your contact information and whether you want to be an interviewer or participant. Aaron said she will be setting up appointments and training sessions in the weeks to come. Interviewees will be interested into a drawing for $50 gift certificates as a thank you for participating.