Fort Benning

National Infantry Museum Maneuver Center of Excellence Armor School Infantry School
Part of Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC)
and
Forces Command (FORSCOM)
Georgia (United States)

The Flags of the Infantry Center and the Infantry School
Type Army post
Built October 1918
In use 1918 - Present
Controlled by United States Army
Garrison Units and tenant units

Fort Benning is a United States Army post located southeast of the city of Columbus in Muscogee and Chattahoochee counties in Georgia and Russell County, Alabama. It is part of the Columbus, Georgia, Metropolitan Statistical Area.

Fort Benning is a self-sustaining military community, which supports more than 120,000 active-duty military, family members, reserve component soldiers, retirees, and civilian employees on a daily basis. It is a power projection platform, and possesses the capability to deploy combat-ready forces by air, rail, and highway. Fort Benning is the home of the United States Army Maneuver Center, Armor School, Infantry Training Center, the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, elements of the 75th Ranger Regiment, the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized), the 14th Combat Support Hospital and many other additional tenant units.

History

Fort Benning is named for Brigadier General Henry L. Benning, a Confederate army general and a native of Columbus. It was established in October 1918 as Camp Benning, and was assigned permanent status in 1918. The base covers 182,000 acres (737 km²). During World War II, Fort Benning included 197,159 acres (797.87 km²) and had billeting space for 3,970 officers and 94,873 enlisted persons. The Chattahoochee River runs through Fort Benning, which straddles the Georgia/Alabama state line; 93 percent of Fort Benning is located in Georgia and 7 percent in Alabama.

Fort Benning's first mission was to provide basic training for units participating in World War I. With the end of that war, Benning was closed until the Army could find another use. The first tenant unit was the Infantry School, which General George Marshall commanded beginning in 1934.[1]:41 The Infantry School is still located at Fort Benning, the wooden permanent buildings completed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.

In 1940, the 2nd Armored Division was formed at Fort Benning; it first saw action in North Africa (Operation Torch) and the Pacific Theater of Operations.

During World War II Fort Benning became home to the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, known as the Triple Nickel. Their training began in December 1943 and was an important milestone for black Americans, as was explored in the first narrative history of the installation, Home of the Infantry.[2][3] The battalion, later expanded to become the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, was trained at Fort Benning but did not deploy overseas. During this period, the specialized duties of the Triple Nickel were primarily in a firefighting role, with over one thousand parachute jumps as smoke jumpers. The 555th was secretly deployed to the Pacific Northwest of the United States in response to the concern that forest fires were being set by the Japanese military using long-range incendiary balloons.

The Airborne School on Main Post has three 249-foot (76 m) drop towers called "Free Towers." They are used to train paratroopers. The towers were modeled after the parachute towers at the 1939 World's Fair in New York. Only three towers stand today; the fourth tower was toppled by a tornado on March 14, 1954.

The 4th Infantry Division, first of four divisions committed by the United States to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, reorganized and completed its basic training at Fort Benning (Sand Hill and Harmony Church areas) from October 1950 to May 1951, when it deployed to Germany for five years.

Between 1963 and 1964, in Fort Benning, Luis Posada Carriles received CIA training in explosives and sabotage.[4][5]

Fort Benning was the site of the Scout dog school of the United States during the Vietnam War, where the dogs trained to detect ambushes in enemy terrain got their initial training, before being transferred to Vietnam for further advanced courses.[6]

In 1984, following the signing of the Panama Canal Treaty, the School of the Americas relocated from Fort Gulick (Panama) to Fort Benning. After criticism concerning human rights violations committed by a number of graduates in Latin America, the school was renamed Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.

In 1988 Timothy McVeigh, Terry Nichols and Michael Fortier (the Oklahoma City bombing conspirators) met while in training at Ft Benning.[7]

Mission

The post is home to the United States Army Infantry School as well as the Army's airborne (parachuting) school. Fort Benning is the primary training installation for all U.S. Army infantry enlistees (11X). Enlisted infantry soldiers undergo their Basic Combat Training and Advanced Individual Training in a combined fourteen-week course called One Station Unit Training.

The 198th Infantry Brigade has the mission of transforming civilians into disciplined infantrymen (11B) and indirect-fire infantrymen (11C). The 192nd Infantry Brigade conducts Army Basic Combat Training for non-combat arms enlisted soldiers, who go on to their occupational schools following graduation from basic training.

School of the Americas/Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation

One of the tenant units on Fort Benning is the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), the successor to the Army's School of the Americas.

The School of the Americas moved to Fort Benning in 1984 and trained more than 61,000 Latin American soldiers and policemen.[8] A number of them have been accused, or sentenced for human rights violations, such as Manuel Noriega (U.S.-supported dictator in Panama between 1983 to 1989),[9] Gonzalo Guevara Cerritos (responsible for the University of Central America massacre in 1989),[9][10] Hugo Banzer Suárez,[11] Leopoldo Galtieri, Efraín Ríos Montt, Vladimiro Montesinos, Guillermo Rodríguez, Omar Torrijos,[11] Roberto Viola,[11] Roberto D'Aubuisson (responsible for the killing of Salvadorean Archbishop Óscar Romero),[9][11] Victor Escobar, Juan Velasco Alvarado,[11][12][13] some of Augusto Pinochet's officers,[14][15] two-third of the militaries responsible for El Mozote massacre[16] and Héctor Jaime Fandiño Rincón (commander of one of the brigades responsible for the San José de Apartadó massacre).[17][18][19] In 1999, the United States House of Representatives voted to cut off funding for the school,[9] and in 2001, it changed its name: "So widely documented is the participation of the School's graduates in torture, murder, and political repression throughout Latin America that in 2001 the School officially changed its name to the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation."[11]

Renamed in 2001, WHINSEC is a Department of Defense institute that instructs rising civilian, military and law enforcement leaders from throughout the Western Hemisphere. Its goals explicitly include strengthening democracy, instilling a respect for the rule of law and honoring human rights by educating an array of military and civilian students to solve regional problems, including peacefully resolving border conflicts, fighting terrorism, the illegal drug trade and organized crime, responding to natural disasters and supporting peacekeeping efforts.