Camp Swift, established in 1942 as a major combat infantry training area for WWII, is now a Texas Army National Guard (TXARNG) training site. Training activities conducted at Camp Swift include basic infantry skills, tank maneuvers, combat engineering skills, helicopter operations, small arms and crew-served weapons firing, personnel/cargo air drops, and demolition. The Camp Swift training site provides a training environment for military and civilian organizations with training areas and facilities on a year round basis, to accommodate up to a battalion size. All NCOs in the Texas National Guard who take classes to be promoted have to go through training at Camp Swift near the small town of Bastrop. Along with classrooms for advanced courses, the camp includes a variety of training facilities: a "gas chamber" for gas-mask training, a drop zone for airborne units, helicopter landing sites, pistol and rifle ranges, and space for land navigation testing. Camp Swift provides training areas with ranges for guns as small as hand guns to fields for tanks and artillery. Camp Swift sits like hundreds of National Guard facilities around the country, hardly more than a parking lot for Army Reserve equipment and vehicles.
During World War II Bastrop was the home of Camp Swift. Camp Swift was officially activated with a flag-raising ceremony on May 4, 1942. Austin civic leaders campaigned for the Bastrop location of the army camp for the economic benefit Austin would derive from the influx of military personnel. The US Government acquired 52,191 acres (52,092 fee acres and 99 lease acres), on 23 March 1942. The site was used by the Army as an infantry replacement training camp. The camp was named for Eban Swift, a military figure in Texas and Mexico, a World War I commander, and author of many military books. The Army constructed numerous barracks, warehouses, support buildings, training facilities and areas, recreational facilities, artillery ranges, motor pool vehicle parking areas with gasoline pumps, storage tanks and security boundary fences. This army training facility housed, at its peak, over 90,000 US servicemen. It also served as a German prisoner-of-war camp with 4,000 prisoners captured in North Africa from Rommel's Afrika Corps and at Normandy during the invasion of Europe.
In 1945 when the war ended, the military started shipping soliders home immediately. The Army declared the property excess to the War Assets Administration (WAA), on 5 May 1947. Following the declaration of excess, 373.99 acres were deeded to the State of Texas, Department of Health. On 30 June 1946, the Federal Farmers Mortgage Corporation (FFMC) assumed accountability of 83.0 acres, and the General Services Administration (GSA) assumed accountability of 17,301 acres. On 1 March 1950, the GSA terminated the leases covering the 98.5 acres and returned the land to the original owners. Over the years, all of the former camp has been either sold to numerous individuals or accountability was assumed by the GSA, FFMC, State of Texas, and Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA). On October 29, 1996, Camp Swift was designated as a historically significant site by the Texas Historical Commission.
The camp, covering about one-fifth the acreage of World War II, is still used by the National Guard for training and storage purposes. The government retained 11,700 acres for the Texas National Guard, a medium-security federal prison, and a University of Texas cancer research center. Development plans for the mining of extensive lignite deposits under Camp Swift began in the 1970s, though opposition by environmentalists and former landowners resulted in decades of litigation.
Getting the regulators and public involved early on in the cleanup process is a major goal of the Formerly Used Defense Sites program, and at the former Camp Swift in Bastrop, Texas, it's paying dividends. Camp Swift is a former World War II infantry training center that is being cleaned up through the FUDS program. Although some work was completed at the site in 1995, the Fort Worth District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was slated to begin an ordnance removal project in fiscal year 2001 with an engineering evaluation/cost analysis (EE/CA) phase.
In preparation for the EE/CA, district officials conducted an initial site visit in January 2000 and began a serial photo analysis of the property. An initial public meeting was conducted in June 2000 at Bastrop High School during which time the public received the results of the photo analysis and an overview of both the FUDS program and the ordnance removal project.
In early November, a Technical Project Planning meeting in Austin was conducted to discuss data needs for the project. Participating in that meeting were representatives from the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission, the U.S. Environmental Protectin Agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife agency, the State Historical Preservation Office, the Boy Scouts of America (which owns a 5,000-acre track in the old impact area) and the Lower Colorado River Authority (a large land owner).
Camp Swift's 11,740 acres, located in north central Bastrop County on State Highway 95, are primarily in the Oak Woods (Post Oak/Blackjack Oak) and Prairies natural region and at the northern edge of and area known locally as "Lost Pines". Topography is rolling, with elevations ranging from roughly 400 to 600 feet. Surface water is limited, but includes 56 miles of perennial and intermittent streams, 39 small ponds and 31 small, mostly ephemeral, winter wetlands.
A comprehensive Integrated Natural Resource Management Plan for Camp Swift is being developed by TXARNG's Environmental Resources Management Branch (ERMB). The goal is to return lands to their original sustainable condition by use of prescribed-burns and restoration of native plant species. TXARNG has sponsored the "Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship" program at Camp Bowie, Camp Swift and Fort Hood. ERMB uses a geographic information system to review each proposed field training exercise for potential impacts on the environment. Recommendations are made on ways to accomplish training missions while minimizing damage to natural resources.
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