FORT BENNING, GA (WTVM) – Fort Benning hits the century mark next year and we are taking a look back at how the base got started.
Fort Benning was created near the end of World War I. Two-million American troops were fighting in Europe and more were needed.
So, in October 1918, Camp Benning was established along what is now Macon Road in Columbus. Its mission, to train the next contingent of U.S. infantry soldiers.
The post quickly outgrew the Macon Road location and moved to its current site south of Columbus.
A number of high-profile commanders have passed through the gates of Benning, but none bigger than the Commander-in-Chief. Camp Benning would become Fort Benning, and more big names would arrive. Or should we say future big names.
Dwight Eisenhower was an executive officer with the 24th Infantry Regiment. He also coached the football and baseball teams. George Marshall led the Infantry School in the late 20s and early 30s. One of the officers under his command was Omar Bradley. All three would become five-star generals.
Fort Benning played a major role in World War II. In addition to training thousands of soldiers in the basics of combat, the post began teaching troops how to jump out of airplanes.
The paratroopers, as they were called, would jump behind enemy lines on D-Day, offering vital intelligence and engaging the enemy at every turn.
Another unit that distinguished itself was the Army Rangers. Their mission was to scale the cliffs above Normandy and knock out the big guns aimed at the landing beaches. They did it, becoming the first group to accomplish its mission on D-Day.
As it did during the Second World War, Fort Benning specialized in training troops for the Korean War, and later Vietnam. But a new type of training was introduced in that conflict.
The 11th Air Assault Division was formed at Fort Benning in 1965. Its mission, flying troops in and out of combat zones via helicopters. It proved successful but came at a heavy price. The military as a whole lost nearly 5,000 choppers during the war, and would have lost more troops if not for the Medevac helicopters were used to take wounded soldiers from combat zones to field hospitals, a strategy which saved lives.
Fast forward to 2005 when big changes were underway. Tanks from the Armor School at Fort Knox, Kentucky arrived, as the Army made the decision to combine infantry and armor together on one post. It prompted a name change, as Fort Benning became known as the Maneuver Center of Excellence.
In 2015, it got an excellent rating from women's groups, when two female soldiers completed Ranger training on post. The first ever.
Since then, other women have also graduated from Basic Infantry Training,
Fort Benning has come a long way in 100 years, and as it begins the second century, we say congratulations.
Fort Benning leaders have been busy planning events and activities as part of the celebration.