Army Bases

Fort Benning Army Base, Georgia

Fort Benning Facts:

  • The post is named after Henry Lewis Benning, a prominent Columbus citizen and Civil War General
  • More than 108,000 troop are trained at Fort Benning annually.
  • The post covers more than 182,000 acres and it is divided into four parts - Main Post, Sand Hill, Kelley Hill, and Harmony Church.
  • Fort Benning is the 6th largest military installation in the U.S. and the 3rd largest in troop strength.
  • 93 percent of Fort Benning lies in the state of Georgia, seven percent in Alabama.
  • More that 120,000 Soldiers, Family members, military retirees, Civilians and contractors live, work and use services on Fort Benning.
  • Fort Benning offers on site housing.

The United States Army Infantry School at Fort Benning traces its creation to the beginnings of the Continental Army during the War for Independence. George Washington appointed Captain "Baron" von Steuben, Drillmaster of the Continental Army in 1778. The Prussian veteran instituted a single manner of Infantry drill for the Continental Army by consolidating all junior officers into platoons and companies, and drilling them together to create a body of instructors for the entire Army. Later, von Steuben convinced Washington to create a model company of Infantry to demonstrate drill and maneuver to the rest of the army. These were the origins of an American School of Infantry. After the War for Independence, Congress undid most of the fine instrument create by Washington and von Steuben by reducing the Army to an 85-man company for a year and allowing commanders of the Active Army and the militia to use whatever drill suited them.

In 1813, the Army adopted a form of Duane's Tactics during the War of 1812 to reduce the Infantry drill to one standard drill. On March 4, 1826, Maj. Gen. Edmund P. Gaines established the first Infantry training post at Jefferson Barracks ner St. Louis, Mo. The Infantry School of Instruction began training enlisted men and small units and quickly expanded to training Infantry officers in their duties. By November 24, 1828, the post closed as all the troops and Infantry unites were needs across the nation. Though what became known as the Infantry School of Practice lasted only two years, the overall efficiency of the United States Infantry improved immensely and the idea of recreating a similar school was not lost on those in attendance.

In 1881, the Army created a military post-graduate program for officers at Fort Levenworth, Kansas, known as the School of Application for Infantry and Cavalry. This same program is now the Command and Staff School. In 1892, the School of Application deivided into a School for Cavalry at Fort Riley, Kansas, and a School for Artillery at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, leaving the Infantry without a formal school.

After the Spanish-American War, Lt. General Arthur MacArthur ordered that a school be established. The first commandant, Capt. Frank L. Winn, later commented, "From this idea the plan developed into a school of experiment and theory in the use of the rifle in battle and of improvement, by testing, in the rifle itself." As a result, the War Department approved the establishment of the School of Musketry, Pacific Division, at the Presidio of Monterey, CA. Though the orginal intent was the development of small arems use in the Infantry, the scope of development and instruction soon grew to include, "all subjects connected with small arms, ammunition and tactics." The latter directive allowed the instructors to pursue research and training methods to prepare Infantrymen for modern warfare.

Initially, the school staff consisted of Winn as the officer in charge, an assistant instructor, one company from each of the two divisions in the department and a machine-gun platoon. Each quarter, the rotating student body consisted of two officers from each of the Infantry, cavalry and artillery regiments in the division, one enlisted man from each company, troop and battery, additional officers and enlisted men as selected by the division commander. The school cadre arrived March 25, 1907 and replaced the 2nd Squadron, 14th Cavalry in garrison. The new school opened for business April 1, 1907.

Outgrowing the limited ranges at the Presidio in Monterey, CA, the School of Musketry co-located with the School of Fire at Fort Sill, Oklahoma in 1913. Both schools languished within a few years as both instructors and students were needed to secure the border with civil war-torn Mexico and for the Punitive Expedition of 1916. Upon the Declaration of War with the Central Powers April 6, 1917, it became apparent that the Infantry, Field Artillery and the 35th Division could not continue to train on the same ranges at Fort Sill. The War Department needed dozens of new facilities to muster and train the millions of Doughboys required in Europe as soon as possible. By the summer of 1918, the Infantry cast about for a new home.

In an attempt to lure an Army training camp to the Columbus area, the Encampment Committee of the Chamber of Commerce of Columbus, GA., presented a "Proposal for the Lease of Land to the U.S. Government for Establishment of School of Musketry" Jan 17, 1918, to representatives of the U.S. Army. Included in the original proposal are endorsements from the Muscogee County Commissioners to build access roads and the Columbus Power Company to build electrical transmission lines if the government accepted the property for a training camp. With options secured on 7,400 of the 9,000 acres proposed at $2.00 per acre, total estimated construction costs for the cantonment came to $706,000. A formal plan dated January 23 lists a total of 2008 students, instructors and permanent party to be housed and headquartered in 67 buildings. While the original proposal for the camp envisioned a lease on the land, the Army decided later to convert the cantonment to a permanent facility and continue training there after World War I.

On Aug. 17, 1918, a telegram arrived in Columbus, confirming the selection of the area for the new site of the Army's Infantry School of Arms. By October 6, troops transferring from Fort Sill, Oklahoma, stepped off the train and stood in formation on October 19 christening the new post "Camp Benning" in honor of a local Confederate General, Henry Lewis Benning. Unlink most temporary training facilities created in haste during the Great War, Camp Benning survived postwar budget cuts to become a permanent Infantry school in 1920. In 1921, the Army formally designated the post as the Infantry School and changed the name to Fort Benning in 1923.

During the 1920-21 school year, the new school graduated hundreds of lieutenants and captains from the Active, Reserve, and National Guard components. In addition to instructors, Camp Benning included demonstration units to support training and Army Air Corps detachment and the 32nd Balloon Observation Company at Lawson Field and the Infantry Tank School. While the Tank School moved to Camp Meade, MD., within a year, the Infantry Tanks moved back to Fort Benning in 1932. In addition to training leaders, Fort Benning became an important center for testing weapons and tactics, publishing professional journals and manuals and developing maneuver doctrine-roles it continues into the twenty-first century. As the home of the largest branch of the Army, Fort Benning continued to grow in facilities and troops assigned through the lean years of the Great Depression.

From 1927 to 1932, Lt. Col. George Marshall served as the Assistant Commandant of the Infantry School. In this role, Marshall instituted a rigorous training program known as the "Benning Revolution" preparing thousands of officers for higher command in World War II. The Infantry Tank units grew through the 1930s until Col. George S. Patton, Jr. and others formed and trained the 2nd Armored Division at Fort Benning before deploying overseas for combat in World War II. Numerous divisions and smaller units were either federalized or created at Fort Benning during peacetime draft buildup in 1940 and throughout World War II.

In 1940, the Airborne "test platoon" initiated the Airborne School that still graduates thousands of parachutists for the United State military each year. The Officers Candidate School began graduating Infantry lieutenants in 1941 and still operates as the only OCS program in the Army. More than 100,000 Soldiers entered the Army as privates or lieutenants at Fort Benning during World War II and the post earned the nickname: "The Benning School for Boys." At the end of the Second World War, Fort Benning remained a vibrant facility as Ranger training began, the Infantry developed a mechanized component and the Infantry prepared troops and leaders for the Korean War. Vietnam and other Cold War commitments. TO date, the U.S. Army Infantry School and Fort Benning have more troops assigned as cadre or in training than any other facility in the United States military.

From 1945 to 1965, Fort Benning transformed to its standard role as an education, testing and doctrine development center. While recruit and officer training increased during the Korean War, 1950-1953, the next major expansion took place during the Vietnam War. The concept of helicopter-borne air assault was tested at Fort Benning for two years before the 11th Airborne (Test) Division became the 1st (Air Assault) Cavalry Division prior to deployment to Vietnam in 1965. In addition to greatly expanded OCS, the Non-Commissioned Officer Candidate Course trained thousands of Infantry sergeants from 1967 to 1972, forming the basis for the current noncommissioned officer education system. On several occasions since 1965, brigades and smaller units were formed and trained at Fort Benning to deploy around the world to serve as part of NATO, Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and various other missions.

In 2005, the U.S. Congress approved a Base Re-Alignment and Closing Commission recommendation to move the Armor School from Fort Knox, Ky. to join the Infantry School at Fort Benning. The resulting Maneuver Center of Excellence will combine both mounted and dismounted combat training and doctrine development at one location for the entire U.S. Army by 2011. Together with the Airborne School, Ranger School, OCS, Sniper School, the Army Marksmanship Unit, the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation and many deployable units, the Armor and Infantry co-location will create one of the most important and certainly the busiest U.S. Army post.

During 2007, the School of Infantry celebrated its centennial - 100 years of continuos service to the United States. While Fort Benning transforms into the Maneuver Center of Excellence over the next few years, it will still serve as the "Home of the Infantry" while also functioning as the "Home of the Armor."