Fort Riley is known as "Home of America's Army" and is located at the confluence of the Smoky Hill and Republican rivers. The Fort's establishment was one of the first steps toward the development of this territory and it has played a key role in American history since 1853, when it was established as a base for Westward expansion, in the Kansas territory.
Fort Riley was originally built to protect settlers coming down the Kansas River heading west and was spared the fate of other frontier forts. It became the cavalry headquarters of the Army, and even today, hosts the US Army Cavalry Museum. In the 148 years since its establishment, soldiers from Fort Riley have gone forth many times to help develop our country and to preserve the principles upon which the United States was founded. From the pioneer days of our nation's westward expansion, to the beaches of Normandy, to the jungles of Vietnam, and to the deserts of Iraq, soldiers from Fort Riley have always stood ready to answer the call.
Fort Riley is a historical old cavalry post, located in the heart of America, with many well-preserved buildings and monuments open to sightseers. An active historical society provides regular tours in the spring, summer and fall. The post is located near the Flint Hills, with rolling prairies carved out of the landscape by glaciers eons ago. The national symbol, the bald eagle, winters around the Kansas River, which cuts through Fort Riley.
The early history of Fort Riley is closely tied to the movement of people and trade along the Oregon and Santa Fe Trails. These routes, a result of the United States perceived "manifest destiny" in the middle of the 19th century, extended American domination and interests into far reaches of a largely unsettled territory. During the 1850s, a number of military posts were established at strategic points to provide protection along these arteries of emigration and commerce.
In the fall of 1852, a surveying party under the command of Capt. Robert Chilton, lst U.S. Dragoons, selected the junction of the Republican and Smoky Hill Rivers as a site for one of these forts. This location, approved by the War Department in January 1853, offered an advantageous location from which to organize, train and equip troops in protecting the overland trails. Surveyors believed the location near the center of the United States and named the site, Camp Center. During the late spring, three companies of the 6th Infantry occupied the camp and began construction of temporary quarters.
On June 27, 1853, Camp Center became Fort Riley -- named in honor of Maj. Gen. Bennett C. Riley who had led the first military escort along the Santa Fe Trail in 1829. The "fort" took shape around a broad plain that overlooked the Kansas River valley.
The conclusion of the Civil War in 1865 witnessed Fort Riley again assuming an importance in providing protection to railroad lines being built across Kansas. Evidence of this occurred in the summer and fall of 1866 when the 7th Cavalry Regiment was mustered-in at Riley and the Union Pacific Railroad reached the fort. Brevet Major General George A. Custer arrived in December to take charge of the new regiment. The following spring, Custer and the 7th left Fort Riley to participate in a campaign on the high plains of western Kansas and eastern Colorado. The campaign proved inconclusive but resulted in Custer's court martial and suspension from the Army for one year -- in part -- for returning to Fort Riley to see his wife without permission. As the line of settlement extended westward each spring, the fort lost some of its importance.
The 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments -- the famed "Buffalo Soldiers" -- have been stationed at Fort Riley several times during their history. Shortly after their formation in 1866, the 9th Cavalry passed through here enroute to permanent stations in the southwest. They returned during the early 1880s.
The lessening of hostilities with the Indian tribes of the Great Plains resulted in the closing of many frontier forts. Riley escaped this fate when Lt. Gen. Philip Sheridan recommended in his 1884 annual report to Congress to make the fort "Cavalry Headquarters of the Army."
Fort Riley was also used by state militia units for encampments and training exercises. The first such maneuver occurred in the fall of 1902 with subsequent ones held in 1903, 1904, 1906-1908 and 1911. These exercises gave added importance to the fort as a training facility and provided reserve units a valuable opportunity for sharpening their tactical skills.
America's entry into World War I resulted in many changes at Fort Riley. Facilities were greatly expanded, and a cantonment named Camp Funston was built five miles east of the permanent post during the summer and fall of 1917. This training site was one of 16 across the country and could accommodate from 30,00 to 50,000 men.
Gathering war clouds in Europe and Asia brought rapid growth to Fort Riley. Approximately 32,000 acres were acquired - the first enlargement of the fort since its establishment. Coinciding with this, Camp Funston was rebuilt and the 2nd Cavalry Division took up station there in December 1940. The Cavalry Replacement Training Center was built on Republican Flats and named Camp Forsyth.
During the Korean Conflict, the 37th Infantry Division, made-up of units from the Ohio National Guard, was stationed here. While they were not sent overseas, their presence was indicative of the fort's continuing role as a training facility.
Throughout its history, Fort Riley suffered periodic damage from flooding along the Kansas River. In the spring of 1951, major flood damage occurred to the Funston and Forsyth areas. Previously, major floods had occurred in 1903 and 1936. This contributed to the building of Milford Dam on the Republican River in the mid-1960s.
The fort's utilization changed in 1955 from a training and educational center to being the home base for a major infantry division. In that year, the 10th Division rotated to Germany and was replaced by the lst Infantry Division which had been on occupation duty there since 1945. Elements of the lst Division began arriving in July 1955 and over the next five months the remaining units arrived. The influx of troops and dependents required support facilities. Work began on Custer Hill to construct quarters, barracks and work areas. An additional 50,000 acres was acquired in 1966 to permit adequate training area for the division's two brigades.
Fort Riley is home to one of the Army's two Active Guard/Reserve Component (AC/RC) Divisions. Fort Riley, Kansas and Fort Carson, Colorado were selected for the two headquarter sites, which assists in training six of the Army National Guard's Enhanced Readiness Brigades. On June 5, 1999, Fort Riley once again became a Division Headquarters with the reactivation of the 24th Infantry Division (Mech). Under the integrated AC/RC concept, the 24th Infantry Division (Mech) consists of an active component headquarters at Fort Riley and three enhanced separate brigades: 30th Heavy Separate Brigade at Clinton, North Carolina, 218th Heavy Separate Brigade at Columbia, South Carolina, and the 48th Separate Infantry Brigade in Macon, Georgia. In addition to the headquarters at Fort Riley, the division has a forward headquarters at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
Fort Riley has 100,671 acres, of which 70,926 are contiguous and can handle Battalion Task Force level maneuvers and live fire training. This quantity of space allows the Fort's soldiers to fire every weapon system in a heavy division's inventory. Two state-of-the-art Multi-purpose Range Complexes are on Fort Riley, as is the largest most capable railhead facility in the Army that can load a division-sized unit in approximately 5 days.
Fort Riley has the "Top of the Line" Battle Simulation Center (BSC) in the Exercise Simulation Division (ESD). The BSC contains "State of the Art" equipment used to conduct Brigade/Battalion Battle Simulation exercises. A Corps Battle Simulation System (CBS) exercise can be conducted when connected to a CBS site with mainframe support. This ESD does testing of simulation software for the National Simulation Center (NSC). Fort Riley has a long history of working with the NSC on testing new versions of this software, while working with Force XXI on new products for training with simulations.
In 1995, Fort Riley was picked for the first American based "Peacekeeper" operation. Peacekeeper '95 was conducted with Russian troops training with American soldiers for the first time in history on United States soil. With the deployment of the 1st Infantry Division to Europe complete, Fort Riley remains the Army's premier force projection platform.
The railroad arrived at Ft Riley in 1866 and has undergone steady expansion ever since. During the period 1994 through 1996, Fort Riley completed a two phase $17 million state-of-the-art rail system. Loading and shipping equipment to the ports on the Gulf of Mexico took 28 days during Operation Desert Storm. Between 138 to 200 rail cars were loaded and shipped per day. Improvements to the system will allow Fort Riley to deploy in 7 to 10 days at an estimated 400 rail cars a day. The Rail head consists of:
- Six new spurs from the main track.
- Four light towers, two on the side and one at each end of the rail yard.
- Double-wide end-loading ramps and three side-loading ramps.
- Reinforced docks with shock absorbers.
- Movement Control Center.
- Control Tower.
- Weighing facilities.
- Three docks for loading equipment that will be shipped by truck. Two at Custer Hill and one at Camp Funston.
- The west side of the system has eight rail spurs and the east side has two rail spurs to use for loading multilevel cars.
- Electrically-powered bi-level loading ramp.
Throughout the year, Fort Riley provides assistance to the Army National Guard (ARNG) and United States Army Reserve. Fort Riley provides training assistance to more than 30,000 Reserve Component soldiers, including the Army National Guard, U.S. Army Reserves, Navy Reserves, Marine Reserves, Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), Air Guard, and individuals conducting individual training or attending schools. While at Fort Riley, they resided at this Complex, and use Tank Trails from Equipment Concentration Site #33 and Mobilization and Training Equipment Site (MATES).
Hunting and fishing are major forms of recreation for the soldier, their dependents and the general public. Fort Riley typically supports approximately 6,500 hunting trips annually. Soldiers and their dependents account for 45-50% of these trips. Fort Riley is a well known destination for quail and deer hunters. Annually, 500 deer tags are issued for firearm hunting. Fort Riley supports 200-250 free-ranging elk, the largest herd in the state and is the only place in the state where elk are hunted. Fort Riley supports one of the few trout fisheries in Kansas. Several times per year Fort Riley hosts special fishing trips such as Kid' s Fishing Day, a Senior Fishing Day and other special events.
Fort Riley is home to more than 10,000 soldiers. Population assigned-served 42,264; Active Duty Officer 1,117; Active Duty Enlisted 9,252; Family Members 12,020; Retirees 16,249 (Army 5,860 and Other Services 10,389); Civilian Work Force 3,626. There are nearly 3,000 sets of quarters that house Fort Riley's married soldiers and their family members. The O'Donnell Heights housing project is a great improvement to the Fort's "Quality of Life," with barrack renovation's and upgrades continuing. Fort Riley has medical and dental activities, and all the supporting and recreational services found in any modern community. Over $150 million in construction projects are underway on the installation. Some of the construction includes family housing units, soldier housing and dining facilities. Fort Riley has one Child Development Center serving children 6 weeks 5 year olds for full time and hourly care options, a Family Child Care program for 4 weeks 12 year olds for full/part time and hourly care options, School Age Services for before/ after school care and summer camp options and a Middle School/Teen program for 12 18 year olds all available through Child and Youth Services.
Secretary of Defense Recommendation: Realign Fort Riley, KS, by inactivating various units, activating a Brigade Combat Team (BCT) and relocating 1st Infantry Division units and various echelons above division units from Germany and Korea to Fort Riley, KS. Realign Fort Campbell, KY, by relocating an attack aviation battalion to Fort Riley, KS.
Additional Recommendations: DoD estimated that Fort Riley was capable of training modular formations, both mounted and dismounted, at home station with sufficient land and facilities to test, simulate, or fire all organic weapon systems. This recommendation would enhance home station training and readiness of the units at all installations. The City of El Paso, TX (Fort Bliss) and the City of Manhattan, KS (Fort Riley) would have to cooperate fully and quickly to assess requirements and implement them, especially in the areas of housing and schools. When moving activities from Fort Campbell to Fort Riley, DoD estimated that three attributes would improve (Housing, Employment, and Safety) and two (Child Care and Population Center) would not be as robust. As a result of these recommendations, tribal negotiations might be required at Fort Riley to expand use near listed areas. Added operations at Riley might impact threatened and endangered species and could result in further restrictions. . Further analysis would be required to determine the extent of new noise impacts at Riley.
Secretary of Defense Justification: Realigning Fort Riley by inactivating an Engineer Brigade Headquarters, two other engineer units, two maneuver battalions and other smaller units beginning in FY 06 directly supports the Army's modular force transformation. It also facilitates activating a BCT in FY 06, and relocating 1st Infantry Division Headquarters, the Division Support Command Headquarters, Aviation Brigade units and other units returning from overseas to Fort Riley. The relocation of an attack aviation battalion from Fort Campbell to Fort Riley supports the formation of a multifunctional aviation brigade at Fort Riley.
Community Concerns: There were no formal expressions from the community.
Commission Findings: The Commission found that realignments associated with this recommendation were consistent with the DoD justification.
Commission Recommendations: The Commission found the Secretary's recommendation consistent with the final selection criteria and force structure plan. Therefore, the Commission approved the recommendation of the Secretary.
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