COLUMBIA, S.C. -- While Fort Jackson formally began in 1917, the installation's roots date back to the previous century, when Soldiers fighting in the Spanish-American War were camped in and around Columbia, South Carolina.When the Civil War ended in 1865, Columbia's population was 6,000 people. By comparison, Atlanta's population at the time was just 10,000. A federal army remained in Columbia until 1877, a 12-year period referred to as the Reconstruction Era.In 1898, with the outbreak of the Spanish American War, Columbia's population had grown to 15,000, and the Army returned there to establish five tent camps: Camp Ellerbee at what is now Hyatt Park; Camp Dewey at what is now Earlwood Park; Camp Fornance at the junction of River Road and North Main Street (now a small public housing project); Camp Prospect at Lynch Park off of Elmwood; and Camp Fitzhugh Lee at what is now Martin Luther King Park in Five Points.The key to Columbia's location was its accessibility to water, because horses were the main means of transportation. Automobiles did not exist at the time.Two of these camps were located near to Columbia College with about 100 female students who dated the Army Soldiers. This was unusual since the reconstruction occupation had ended only 21 years before and many of their fathers, uncles or grandfathers had fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War and still resented the Army.However, there were no animosities or hard feelings among the co-eds and Federal troops. The Spanish American War was a very short war, but the event went so well that the Columbia Chamber of Commerce decided to try and obtain a permanent Army camp for the area.When World War I broke out in 1914, the War Department, concerned that the U.S. would eventually enter, began to look for locations to set up training camps. The Army's positive experiences in Columbia in 1898 had not been forgotten. Maj. Douglas MacArthur was sent to survey the area.MacArthur chose the area that is now Fort Jackson as a location and, when the U.S. entered World War I in 1917, Camp Jackson was established. More than 40,000 troops were posted here at a time when the population of Columbia was less than 30,000. Later, in 1918, worldwide flu epidemic killed 20 million people worldwide, and at one time more than 2,000 Soldiers were hospitalized at Fort Jackson.The war ended that year and by 1922 Camp Jackson's temporary buildings had benn torn down, except for the building that is today is called the Dozier House. It was occupied by WWI Medal of Honor recipient James Dozier, who served as caretaker of the area and later became the Adjutant General of South Carolina. The post was usually opened in summers for National Guard training.With the outbreak of World War II, Camp Jackson was rebuilt in a matter of months with 10,000 workmen here at one time. More than 40,000 troops were on post while Columbia had reached a population of 60,000 people.At the time, Fort Jackson contained all the land east of Decker Boulevard between Percival Road and Two Notch Road, all the way to Highway 601. The 52,000 acres that exist today as well as the area between Leesburg Road and Sumter Highway all the way to Highway 601 were also available for training. At one time a trio of full-strength 10,000 men infantry divisions were on the post, and a German POW camp was located in what today is the Rockbridge area.In 1942 Winston Churchill visited Fort Jackson to review the troops. Churchill was impressed, and it eased his doubts about the U.S. Army's ability to raise a large army considering that, from the end of World War I in 1918 until 1940, the U.S. Army had only consisted of 180,000 men scattered over many small installations.The war ended in 1945 and Fort Jackson became a basic training center. Basic training then was 16 weeks since a World War II law required no Soldier could be sent overseas unless they had first served at least four months in the U.S.By 1950, the Army had shrunk to less than 500,000 and plans were made to close the post. By May 1950 a small detachment of less than 140 troops remained mainly as caretakers. The outbreak of the Korean War on June 25, 1950, changed that, and Fort Jackson reopened as a major basic training center and prepared activated Army divisions mainly for overseas duty.At that time the Army was segregated and new draftees/enlistees were assigned to separate units to undergo basic training. The problem was that the post could not control what new inductees arrived by race, so the post commander decided independently that as new men arrived -- regardless of race -- they would be placed into 200-man units to start training. This practice was later adopted by all other basic training centers.The Korean War ended in July 1953 and the post continued training new arrivals as it does today. It is estimated that more than five million men and women have at one time trained at Fort Jackson. Today the installation trains 50 percent of new male recruits and 60 percent of new female recruits. These trainees are designated primarily for the Army's administrative and logistical branches such as the Adjutant General Corps (Administrative) Finance Corps, Quartermaster, Transportation, Chaplain and Legal Assistance, etc.Those enlisted for the combat arms, Infantry take their basic training and advanced training at Fort Benning, Georgia. Those for artillery at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.Those for engineer, military police, and chemical corps at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Armor (tanks) trainees also go to Fort Benning, As Fort Jackson begins to celebrate its 100th Anniversary, it is well to keep in mind that had the experience of 1898 not gone well, there would be no Fort Jackson today. Maybe we also need to cite and thank the co-eds of Columbia college who made those U.S. Army Soldiers of 1898 feel welcome and appreciated.---Retired Col. Angelo Perri is a 1951 Distinguished Military Graduate of the ROTC program at the University of Akron, Perri was commissioned into the regular Army and found hims lf in Korea the following year as part of the 27th Infantry Regiment. He served as platoon leader, company commander and battalion operations officer, returning to the United States after the end of the conflict. Perri served at Fort Jackson from 1966 to 1972, a tenure that included two tours of duty in Vietnam.