Fort Jackson celebrates 95th birthday

online@thestate.comJuly 13, 2012 

Fort Jackson rang in its 95th birthday today with cake, kids and a minimum of fanfare.

The post’s chief of staff, Col. Kenneth Royalty, kept his speech short for his young audience — about 100 students from Fort Jackson’s schools and day care centers — then used a ceremonial sword to cut two large birthday cakes along with Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Heilman, the base’s drill sergeant of the year.

The kids listened politely during an abbreviated speech, then gave a proper Army “hoo-ah” at the end before digging in.

“I’ve been in the civilian community and to see all these (military) kids line up and say ‘hoo-ah’ is fantastic,” said new garrison commander Col. Mike Graese.

In addition to cake, the kids were able to put together their own goody bags, play games and have fun in bounce houses – all set up in the Solomon Center.

“Great way to celebrate,” Royalty said.

Fort Jackson was established as Camp Jackson in 1917, to prepare soldiers for World War I. The fort was named after Andrew Jackson, who, by some accounts, was born in South Carolina and, by others, in North Carolina. After an illustrious military career, he became the nation's seventh president.

Shortly after work on the camp was started, hundreds of buildings were erected to house 10,000 troops. In World War II, more than 500,000 troops were trained there.

Today, Fort Jackson trains 50 percent of all soldiers who enter the Army and more than 60 percent of women who enlist – about 36,000 soldiers each year.

Graese said the even in the face of upcoming base closing and realignments, Fort Jackson will likely be a major part of the Army’s training system for many birthdays to come.

“I’m very confident that Fort Jackson is perceived as a vital installation for the future,” he said.

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