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Military District of Washington

The U.S. Army Military District of Washington can trace its origin back to 1921 when the War Department created the District of Washington. Today MDW is one of the Army's major commands. Its installations include Fort McNair, the nation's second-oldest military post still in use, and Fort Myer, Gen. Philip Sheridan's cavalry showplace and site of the first military aircraft flight.

The District of Washington initially included Fort Washington, Md., Fort Hunt, Va., the District of Columbia and Fort Myer. With the dissolution of the District of Washington in 1927, the commanding general of the 16th Infantry Brigade at Fort Hunt became responsible for conducting military ceremonies and administering discipline to service members in the nation's capital.

About five months after the start of World War II in 1941, the War Department created the U.S. Army Military District of Washington to plan for a ground defense of the nation's capital. MDW was headquartered during those years in "temporary" buildings at Gravelly Point, Va., near Washington National Airport. It moved to Second Street, S.W., in Washington, D.C., in the early 1960s, and to its present headquarters at Fort Lesley J. McNair in 1966.

During the World War II era, MDW was gradually reorganized as a service-and-support command. One of MDW's main responsibilities was servicing the newly built Pentagon through the Army Headquarters commandant. The U.S. Army Band, "Pershing's Own," also became an integral part of the command's ceremonial mission during this period.

At the end of World War II, the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) was deactivated in Germany. This regiment, the oldest U.S. infantry unit, was reactivated in 1948 and assigned to MDW to meet the command's tactical commitments and for military ceremonies.

Although MDW's mission has remained the same, it has gained, lost and regained various installations and support responsibilities over the years. Vint Hill Farms and Arlington Hall Station, both in Virginia, and Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., were once part of MDW. Cameron Station and Davison Army Airfield, near Fort Belvoir, joined MDW in the 1950s.

In 1980 MDW gained responsibility for the administration and daily operation of Arlington National Cemetery, in addition to the ceremonial support the command has always provided. In 1987 MDW's support responsibilities for the Pentagon were transferred elsewhere. Fort Belvoir became a major subordinate command in 1988.

In 1992 Davison Aviation Command was reorganized as the Operational Support Airlift Command, with responsibilities for fixed-wing Army aircraft support throughout the United States. Additionally, they provide rotary-wing (helicopter) support to Army leadership and distinguished officials in the National Capital Region.

In April 1993, MDW reorganized its MACOM staff and the Fort Myer Military Community formed a garrison staff to support Forts Myer and McNair, and Cameron Station.

On Oct. 1, 1993 Forts Meade, Holabird and Ritchie in Maryland, and A.P. Hill in Virginia joined the MDW family of installations. The command more than doubled in size as MDW went from four posts totaling 9,802 acres to eight posts totaling 91,889 acres. The number of service members and civilians on MDW installations also increased from 16,166 to 61,531.

Cameron Station officially closed on Sept. 30, 1995. Most of the organizations were relocated to either Fort Belvoir or Fort Myer.

Fort Hamilton, N.Y., became the newest member of MDW's family of installations when it was transferred to MDW from U.S. Army Forces Command Oct. 6, 1997. The post is 172 years old.

The U.S. Army Military District of Washington is a unique Army command which has an important three-fold mission:

  1. Respond to crisis, disaster or security requirements in the National Capital Region through implementation of various contingency plans.
  2. Provide base operations support through our installations for Army and Department of Defense organizations throughout the National Capital Region. Additionally, a variety of specialized support is provided including personal-property shipping for the region, CONUS-wide rotary-wing airlift and operation of the Arlington National Cemetery.
  3. Conduct official ceremonies, locally and worldwide, in behalf on the nation's civilian and military leaders.

Helicopters from Military District of Washington's 12th Aviation Battalion at Davison Army Airfield airlift elements of the 3rd U.S. Infantry (The Old Guard) from Virginia to Fort McNair, in Washington, D.C., during a contingency training exercise.

The MDW commander has jurisdiction over forts McNair, Belvoir (which includes Fort A.P. Hill), Myer, Meade (which includes Fort Holabird), Ritchie and Hamilton. Authority is also exercised over the 12th Aviation Battalion (formerly known as Operational Support Airlift Command) at Davison Army Airfield and Arlington National Cemetery. Cameron Station, which closed in October 1995 as a result of the Base Realignment and Closure Act of 1988, used to be a part of MDW as well.

MDW is the home of the Army's official ceremonial unit, the 3rd U.S. Infantry (The Old Guard) and the U.S. Army Band, "Pershing's Own," two units that represent the Army and the nation thousands of times each year. Both of these units are familiar sights in the nation's capital. They participate in ceremonies, including simple wreath ceremonies at the Tomb of the Unknowns, state funerals and official arrival ceremonies for visiting chiefs of state and other dignitaries.

The Army Band and The Old Guard produce two shows each year; "America's Army in Review" on the Washington Monument Grounds in the spring and the "Twilight Tattoo" at the Ellipse during the summer. The Army Band also performs concerts at the U.S. Capitol and the Washington Monument during the summer as well as dozens of other special concerts throughout the year.

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