"Those on the field before you make up the best our nation has to offer," said
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, at a Basic Combat Training graduation ceremony on Fort Jackson, June 8.

For the Centennial Battalion, otherwise known as 3rd Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment, the day was a big deal because their training cycle graduated Basic Combat Training during Fort Jackson's 100th Birthday celebration.

Maj. Gen. Pete Johnson, Fort Jackson and Army Training Center commander, said the graduation was special "because it symbolizes the enduring contribution of Fort Jackson as we celebrate our centennial -- 100 years of dedicated service to the nation."

Not only did their cycle graduate, but the Soldiers represented the five million Soldiers trained at the installation named after President Andrew Jackson. The cycle was also the first to receive Soldier's Certificates given to all Initial Entry Soldiers both officer and enlisted.

The post "has been here for a hundred years and today we saw the five millionth Soldier graduate basic training from Fort Jackson," Milley said afterwards. "We have pumped literally millions of Soldiers through here. On an annual basis trained about 60,000 Soldiers in the Army. To put that in context, on an annual basis Fort Jackson trains about twice as many Soldiers as the Australian army."

Milley said to the Soldiers' Families during the ceremony that he "fully appreciates the size and scope of what happens here on an annual basis at Fort Jackson … Fort Jackson produces tremendous Soldiers week in, week out, day in, day out and at the end of the year 60,000 of them march into the ranks of our operational forces.

"Fort Jackson was first put here to train Soldiers during the First World War -- which I can say I am the proud grandson of a person who served in that war," Milley said.

He added the Army expanded from 120,000 to 2.7 million in only 24 months during World War I. "129,000 of those Soldiers trained here, at what was then known as Camp Jackson, (from) September 1917 to December 1918."

In the century since the post was founded the demographics of Soldiers trained there has changed radically.

"If you look at the graduating class 100 years ago … 75 percent of those men (and they were all men) were draftees. Most of these men were in their early 20s. Almost half at Jackson came from the South … 18 percent of them were born in other countries.

"Today, a hundred years later you look at the 712 Soldiers on the field before you. You look at these 32,000 basic trainees that come through here and today you will find that almost 30 percent of them are female."

While most of the men 100 years ago came from the South, the demographics have radically changed.

The 39th Army Chief of Staff, said on the field graduating "we see representatives from all states and territories."

For the Centennial Battalion, finishing basic training is only the beginning of their Army experience.

The graduation "formalized their transmission, one that they've earned, from civilian to Soldier," said Johnson during the graduation. They will "always be a Soldier; a Soldier for life."