Military


Camp Blanding / Fort Blanding
Starke, Florida

The Florida Army National Guard's primary training area is Camp Blanding located in north-central Florida. Camp Blanding is a military installation near Jacksonville, Florida that measures approximately 73,000 square acres. The training schedule continues almost year-round to meet the training needs of tens of thousands of National Guardsmen, Active Army and Reserves from all over the United States. On December 15, 1992 the 159th Weather Readiness Training Center and Weather Flight were added to the Florida Air National Guard. Located at Camp Blanding, the school billets and trains Air National Guard members as well as active duty airmen in their career field of weather predictions. In 1985 the FANG added a non-flying unit with the formation of the 202nd Red Horse Civil Engineering Squadron (RHS). The 202 nd was formed to provide a rapidly deployable, highly trained force to accomplish heavy damage repairs to runways, facilities, and utilities of the Air Force worldwide. That unit is located at Camp Blanding, near Starke, Florida. The 202nd RHS is actively involved in Hurricane Relief, Construction Projects for United States Air Force and Army National Guard Units, training for other Air National Guard and Air Force units, and Community Service.

Weapons ranges include: 50 live fire ranges capable of handling all weapons systems organic to a Light Infantry Brigade to include Mortars and Artillery; 5 Automated Ranges for small arms and handgun qualification; a Crew Combat Range; and 4 Platoon/Squad Movement to Contact ranges (400 by 800 meters). Training Areas include three Major Maneuver Areas with a total of 55,000 plus acres of varied topography -- planted pine plantations, swamps, oak hammocks, desert like terrain -- with minimal environmental restrictions, with the aapability to support a Light Infantry Brigade plus one Battalion of aggressors. The MOUT Collective Training Facility consists of 16 Buildings, Bridge & Tunnel Trainer.

Billets accommodate 3000 persons, with one Brigade consisting of four Battalion Areas. Each Battalion area has company dining facilities, orderly rooms, Officer/Enlisted barracks, supply building, and Battalion HQ building.

Camp Blanding owes its location on the shore of Kingsley Lake to the US Navy's desire to establish a Naval Air Station (NAS) on the banks of the St. Johns River, south of Jacksonville. The site was already the location of the Florida National Guard's Camp Foster and negotiations were started for a land-swap. In mid 1939, the transaction was accomplished and the state armory board chose as compensation a tract of 30,000 acres in Clay County as a National Guard camp and training site. The National Guard Officers Association of Florida recommended the new camp be named in honor of Lt General Albert H. Blanding. The War Department agreed and Camp Blanding's history began.

General Blanding (9 Nov 1876 - 26 Dec 1970) was one of Florida's most distinguished soldiers. He graduated from the East Florida Seminary (now the University of Florida) in 1894 and began his military service to the state and nation. He was promoted to colonel in 1909 and commanded the 2nd Florida Infantry during the Mexican Border Service in 1916 and 1917. Dur ing World War I, he commanded the 53rd Brigade, 27th Division. He was promoted to major general in 1924 and commanded the 31st Infantry Division until 1940. He also served as chief of the National Guard Bureau until his retirement and promotion to lieutenant general in 1940.

In 1940, Camp Blanding was leased to the U.S. Army as an active duty training center. The post was originally used by New England and Southern troops preparing for deployment overseas. However, during the course of the war, Camp Blanding served as an infantry replacement training center, as induction center, prisoner of war compound, and a separation center. At the height of the war, thanks to leases with local landowners, Camp Blanding sprawled over more than 170,000 acres. From 1940 to 1945, more than 800,000 soldiers received all or part of their training here.

After the war, the state's 30,000 acres were returned to the armory board and by 1948 most of the buildings were sold or moved off post. In the early 1950s, the Federal Government deeded additional land to the state for use as a National Guard training facility, but until 1970, the post saw only limited use by the military.

In the 1970s an expansion program began upgrading post facilities and in 1981, the federal government redesignated Camp Blanding as a Class A military installation. The designation qualified the post for use by greater numbers of troops with more diversified training.

In 1983, the first 105mm artillery firing points were used since WWII. Tank ranges have been upgraded and Tank Tables I through VI can be fired. In addition to improved facilities and ranges, a parachute drop zone and an airfield have expanded Camp Blanding's training capacity and the Navy utilizes a bombing and strafing target in the southern portion of the post. Upgrading of facilities and training areas continues to this day.

The E. I. Du Pont de Nemours and Co. mines a restricted area on the western edge of the post where ilmenite and other heavy minerals are removed from the soil. The armory board uses the income from the sale of mineral rights and timber products for general post maintenance, operations and improve- ments. To help preserve the environment, DuPont has instituted a procedure whereby the topsoil is stripped and stockpiled before the mining operation is started. After mining, the topsoil is redistributed.

Parts of the movies "Tigerland" and "G.I. Jane" were filmed at this north Florida base. Filmed in 2000, "Tigerland" was set in 1971 during the Vietnam War, and focused on six young draftees in their final weeks of basic training at a Louisiana boot camp. Filemed in 1995, "G.I. Jane" stars Demi Moore as the first female member of the SEALS, the Navy's elite special operations force. Reality TV joined the Army with "Boot Camp" which premiered in March 2001 on the Fox network. Contestants competed for a $500,000 grand prize during the eight-episode series filmed at a real military base, the Florida National Guard's Camp Blanding. Real military drill instructors put 16 real civilians through a basic training program. It included an obstacle course, rappelling out of buildings and a hostage rescue mission.

The Black Soldiers Memorial Park was dedicated on 27 February 1998 at Fort Blanding.

Typical of many military reservations, as well as other public lands, since World War II, because of the encroachment of development, agriculture, and silviculture, it has become an island in a sea of suburbanization. This isolated island of viable natural resources habitat supports a diverse population of flora and fauna. CBTS is within the historical range of approximately 100 critically-listed plant and animal species, all requiring various management techniques and procedures. Today, approximately 75% of these species have been identified as occurring on the installation. Among these species, this presentation will examine resource management for the high-profile red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service USFWS list the RCW as endangered). The RCW habitat requirements, status, and affects in the Southeast United States are comparable to the Northern spotted owl situation in the Pacific Northwest. This is a common scenario to "key-stone" or indicator species nation-wide, as well as globally.

 



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