General: Move Fort Jackson’s main gate to Percival Road

Brig. Gen. John "Pete" Johnson received his second star representing the insignia of his new rank of major general in August. He is Fort Jackson’s 49th commanding general.
Brig. Gen. John "Pete" Johnson received his second star representing the insignia of his new rank of major general in August. He is Fort Jackson’s 49th commanding general. gmelendez@thestate.com

Fort Jackson’s newest commanding general renewed the call Monday to move the fort’s main gate from Forest Drive to Percival Road to reduce traffic congestion near Interstate 77.

Maj. Gen. John P. “Pete” Johnson acknowledged that traffic frequently backs up at Gate 2, especially on most Wednesdays and Thursdays, when several thousand out-of-towners descend on the fort for family days and basic training graduations.

“We want to figure out a way to lessen the impact on our neighbors while also improving the quality of the experience for the families that are coming in,” Johnson said.

The fort’s 49th commanding general met with the media to discuss his first 100 days at the Army’s largest basic training facility. Overall, he said, the fort and its role in the Army are in “great shape.”

“Our team’s vision is to be the premier training post in the Army while also being a community of excellence where every soldier, civilian and family member can thrive,” Johnson said.

Fort officials have considered moving the base’s main entrance to Percival Road for at least a year. In January, a temporary visitor’s control center opened at Percival, and family members of basic training graduates are directed to use that entrance for Thursday morning graduation ceremonies.

Johnson said Monday that moving the main entrance to Percival Road will require the support of Army and state officials. He said the project is in the planning stages, adding it could be five to 10 years before the main entrance is moved.

He said state officials so far have been “positive” about the effort. “They fully are on board with helping figure out how to best do this.”

A state Department of Transportation official could not be reached for comment Monday.

About 27,000 vehicles use Forest Drive daily. The road is expected to reach its capacity of about 30,000 vehicles in the next seven to 14 years, a traffic data analysis found.

On other topics, Johnson said:

▪ The fort is on track to add an additional basic training battalion next year. The State reported in April that the fort would add its 11th battalion in 2017, bringing in an additional 2,000 recruits annually as well as creating 210 jobs.

Johnson said, with the additional battalion, the fort is expected to train 48,000 recruits in 2017.

▪ The fort wants to modernize its in-processing center. The building, constructed in the early 1970s, is the first contact at the fort for incoming recruits. Fort Jackson officials want to make it a “first-class facility.”

▪ Saluted the Midlands for welcoming him and his family.

“Before we got here, we were told that it is the most military friendly community in America,” Johnson said. “It has lived up to that. The welcome has been incredible.”

Maj. Gen. John P. “Pete” Johnson

Family: Wife, Sheila; three children: Justin, 18; Sarah, 16; Daniel, 13

Education: Graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1985. Received master’s degrees in Operational Analysis from the Naval Post Graduate School and in Strategic Studies from the Army War College.

Past combat tours: Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq, Operation Provide Comfort in Iraq, and Operation Just Cause in Panama.

Past command assignments: Deputy Commanding General for Operations for the 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii; commander of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Ky.; and commander of Combined Joint Task Force Currahee, in support of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, Afghanistan.