In 1870s and 1880s, the nascent and somewhat tumultuous Chicago was plagued by labor unrest which often erupted into violent rioting. After local authorities and regional troops failed to adequately quell the increasingly violent demonstrations, prominent political and business leaders petitioned the U.S. Army to create Fort Sheridan solely for the purposes of domestic peacekeeping.
The War Department accepted these proposals and a donation of 632 acres from the Commercial Club of Chicago, and began construction at the location known as the Highwood Tract. The first regiment arrived in 1887.
Fort Sheridan was located on the Green Bay Trail - a major trading route. Among Fort Sheridan's early duties was to facilitate safe passage along the ravines for the traders.
Fort Sheridan experienced its first military engagement shortly after the Battle of Wounded Knee, South Dakota, when captured Lakota tribe members were incarcerated in the fort for approximately two years.
Shortly after, in June 1894, disagreements between union workers and management of a giant railroad car firm erupted into violence and Fort Sheridan turned its attention back to domestic issues. President Grover Cleveland ordered the 15th Infantry and the 7th Cavalry from Fort Sheridan to deter further confrontation at the Union Stock Yards. This marked the last time Fort Sheridan would be activated for its original purpose of domestic peacekeeping.
The Fort played a minor role in the Spanish-American War by serving as a temporary transit center in 1894.
Domestic disturbance in Mexico, coupled with a growing population, caused Congress to address the issue of military preparedness. Congress believed that the military would be unable to cope with future warfare and protecting American citizens. Major General Leonard Wood, Commander of the Department of the East between 1910 and 1914, commissioned Fort Sheridan as the site of the nation's first Reserved Officer Training Camp (ROTC) in order to meet needs of an uncertain future. Along with the swelling of citizen-soldiers, Fort Sheridan expanded and additional barracks and military facilities were constructed to sustain the operations of approximately 5,800 ROTC members.
At the time, Fort Sheridan was modeled after the situation in Europe as World War I broke out. Trenches were dug which emulated the European battlefield, and the young men of ROTC were trained in field artillery, infantry, drill, horse care, communications, coastal artillery (anti-aircraft), and cavalry.
Following the Declaration of War on April 6, 1917, Fort Sheridan became an induction and Midwest training center for men entering the Army from Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
On the domestic front, the Lovell General Hospital at Fort Sheridan treated an estimated 60,000 patients and prevented the destruction of the base by the great influenza epidemic of 1918.
After the war, Fort Sheridan was forced to adapt to the new battlefield developments such as mechanized infantry and armor. It also had to phase out of the cavalry units which were made obsolete during World War I.
Fort Sheridan still hosted a reserve training facility while holding its status as a regular army training facility. The War Department used Fort Sheridan to test the feasibility of "joint war fighting" among Army Air Force and Ground units, and the Coast Artillery established a major training center there. The soldiers of the Coast Artillery units bivouacked south of Bartlett Ravine under harsh conditions until Fort Sheridan could be expanded to house the influx of new soldiers.
When the peacetime draft was initiated in 1940, Fort Sheridan became one of four Recruit Reception Centers in the country and was expanded to receive high numbers of new recruits from across the Midwest.
During World War II, Fort Sheridan hosted some 15,000 prisoners of war. While at the Fort, the POWs conducted manual labor and other various tasks.
Through Korea and Vietnam, Fort Sheridan played a small but significant role as a primary reception center, as well as a supporting role of the homeland defense systems in the Midwest.
Fort Sheridan deployed active duty units to battle in Vietnam, Desert Shield, and Desert Storm. It also served as a recruitment center responsible for eleven states in the region and helped Army recruitment nationwide. It also served as headquarters to the 112th Military Intelligence Command, the Army Criminal Investigation Command, and a detachment of explosives experts, but lost many of its active duty units as its budget was cut and the Fort was being closed.
The post, which had served for 106 years, was closed in 1993, although the Army retained two parcels of 114 acres each, which continue to serve Army Reserve missions.
Secretary of Defense Recommendations: Realign Fort Sheridan, IL, by relocating the 244th Aviation Brigade to Fort Dix, NJ.
Secretary of Defense Justification: This recommendation transforms Reserve Component facilities and command and control structure throughout the Northeast Region of the United States. The implementation of this recommendation will enhance military value, improve homeland defense capability, greatly improve training and deployment capability, create significant efficiencies and cost savings, and is consistent with the Army’s force structure plans and Army transformational objectives.
This recommendation is the result of a nation-wide analysis of Reserve Component installations and facilities conducted by a team of functional experts from Headquarters, Department of the Army, the Office of the State Adjutant General, and the Army Reserve Regional Readiness Command.
This recommendation transforms Army Reserve command and control by consolidating four major headquarters onto Fort Dix, NJ; this recommendation supports the Army Reserve’s nationwide Command and Control restructuring initiative to reduce Regional Readiness Commands from ten to four. The realignment of Pitt USARC, Coraopolis, PA, by the disestablishment of the 99th Regional Readiness Command allows for the establishment of the Northeast Regional Readiness Command Headquarters at Fort Dix, NJ, which will further support the re-engineering and streamlining of the Command and Control structure of the Army Reserves throughout the United States. This restructuring will allow for the closure of Camp Kilmer, NJ, and the relocation of the HQ 78th Division to Fort Dix and establishment of one of the new Army Reserve Sustainment Units of Action, which establishes a new capability for the Army Reserve while increasing the support capabilities of the Army Reserve to the Active Army. To further support restructuring; the realignment of Fort Totten and the disestablishment of the HQ 77th RRC will enable the establishment of a Maneuver Enhancement Brigade at Fort Dix, resulting in a new operational capability for the Army Reserve. The realignment of Fort Sheridan, IL, by relocating the 244th Aviation Brigade to Fort Dix coupled with the Department of the Navy recommendation to close NAS Willow Grove, PA, and relocate Co A/228th Aviation to Fort Dix consolidates Army aviation assets in one location. Other actions supporting restructuring include realigning maintenance functions on Fort Dix, the closure of Charles Kelly Support Center, PA, and relocation of multiple subordinate units to Pitt USARC, PA; and the closure of five US Army Reserve Centers in the greater New York City area with relocation of those units to Fort Totten. These actions will significantly enhance training, mobilization, equipment readiness and deployment.
This recommendation reduces military manpower and associated costs for maintaining existing facilities by closing one Camp, five Army Reserve Centers, realigning five facilities and relocating forces to multiple installations throughout the Northeast Region of the United States. These actions will also improve business processes. The implementation of this recommendation and creation of these new command structures will enhance military value, improve homeland defense capability, greatly improve training and deployment capability, create significant efficiencies and cost savings, and is consistent with the Army’s force structure plans and Army transformational objectives. The Department understands that the State of New York will close NYARNG Armories: 47th Regiment Marcy Armory, Brooklyn and Brooklyn Bedford Armory/OMS 12. The Armed Forces Reserve Centers will have the capability to accommodate these units if the state decides to relocate the units from these closed facilities into a new AFRC on Fort Hamilton, NY.
This recommendation provides the opportunity for other Local, State, or Federal organizations to partner with the Reserve Components to enhance homeland security and homeland defense at a reduced cost to those agencies.
This recommendation considered feasible locations within the demographic and geographic areas of the closing facilities and affected units. The sites selected were determined as the best locations because they optimize the Reserve Components’ ability to recruit and retain Reserve Component soldiers and to train and mobilize units affected by this recommendation.
Although not captured in the COBRA analysis, this recommendation avoids an estimated $168.3M in mission facility renovation costs and procurement avoidance associated with meeting Anti Terror / Force Protection construction standards and altering existing facilities to meet unit training and communication requirements. Consideration of these avoided costs would reduce costs and increase the net savings to the Department of Defense in the 6-year BRAC implementation period, and in the 20-year period used to calculate NPV.
Community Concerns: There were no formal concerns expressed by the community
Commission Findings: The Commission found DoD's recommendation consistent with the final selection criteria and the Force Structure Plan.
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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