Camp Beauregard / Camp Cook
Pineville, Rapides Parish LA
Camp Beauregard is 12,500 acres and is owned by the Louisiana National Guard. The primary use is as a troop training facility. Located in the Post cantonment are Louisiana National Guard support maintenance shops, United States Purchasing and Fiscal Office warehouse, the military units of the LaNG, two organizational maintenance shops, the Louisiana Military Academy, and the Work Release Center of the Louisiana Department of Corrections
The 199th Leadership Regiment is responsible for the Officer Candidate Schools and Non-Commissioned Officer education over the nine state Region F of the Total Army School System (TASS) which includes Louisiana, Texas, new Mexico, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Iowa. The Regimental Headquarters is located at Camp Beauregard and the First NCOA Battalion is located at Camp Cook, which was recently renamed in honor of CSM H.B. Cook, the unit's former State Command Sergeant Major.
Training lands at Camp Beauregard are used to train Louisiana Guard combat engineer units prior to a rotation at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, CA. LAARNG conducts year-round training and in the past had used maneuver areas at nearby Fort Polk. However, the growing competition for Polk's training areas prompted the Guard to develop maneuver areas on its own lands.
Camp Beauregard dates from World War I and was authorized by the War Department on July 15, 1917, along with more than thirty other such training camps over the country. Originally, Camp Beauregard included the property that is now Pinecrest State School and a large tract directly behind the Procter and Gamble property on U.S. Highway 165 as well as the present Post. Within these areas, respectively, were located an artillery and ammunition cantonment, a cavalry auxiliary remount depot and an infantry and services cantonment. Also included in this establishment was the Camp Beauregard Base Hospital which in 1919 became a U.S. Public Health Hospital and in 1920 a U.S. Veterans' Administration Hospital.
Considering the Veterans Hospital site which is one of the most historic spots in Louisiana, the history of Camp Beauregard goes back to 1852 when the Legislature authorized the purchase of the 438 acres of land on which were located successively The Louisiana State Seminary and Military Academy from 1858 til 1869, Camp Stafford from 1905 til 1917, Camp Beauregard Base Hospital from 1917 til 1919, the U.S. Public Health Service Hospital in 1919-1920, and the Veterans Administration Hospital since 1920.
Of these institutions the most direct fore-runner was Camp Stafford, established in 1905 by Major General D. T. Stafford, the Adjutant General of Louisiana. Camp Stafford was offered as a training camp in 1917 but was too small and Camp Beauregard was built. During World War I more than $5,000,000 was allocated to the construction of the camp. In 1919, the Army abandoned the camp and turned the property over to the State of Louisiana which returned it to the United States in 1940 for use as a World War II training area which included the now-abandoned Camps Claiborne and Livingston and what has become Esler Regional Airport.
As German military elements moved into Poland, signaling the eginning of World War II, Warsaw capitulated following a blitzkrieg campaign lasting only weeks, sending shockwaves through Washington. In an effort to avoid the crippling lack of readiness experienced in the First World War, Congress immediately activated the National Guard and reinstated the draft. Army chief of Staff George Marshall ordered a large-scale exercise to ascertain the condition of men and equipment for a war many saw looming on the American horizon.
Activated for what they believed would only be a year of service, the soldiers of the National Guard descended upon the southern U.S. to battle the heat, dust, mud and each other, in what was dubbed the "Louisiana Maneuvers". Organized into Blue and Red forces, National Guard and Regular Army divisions would integrate and engage in simulated combat over an area that extended from Shreveport to Lake Charles. The first series of exercises revealed the need for mechanization in the U.S. Army on a grand scale. At Camp Beauregard, Camp Livingston and Camp Claiborne, fully two thirds of the U.S. Army would perfect the tactics, strategies and skills that would bring them victory in Guadalcanal, Normandy, and the Ardennes.
Louisiana became the subject of military occupation. Nearly 500,000 soldiers arrived to defend her bridges, fortify her towns, and patrol her skies. From Lake Charles to Shreveport, Louisiana was a battlefield. For the first time since the Civil War, the bulk of the nation's armed forces mobilized. The largest military exercise in American history was about to begin. To the staff officer in Washington, it was called the General Headquarters Maneuvers of 1941 - to the infantryman knee deep in the swamps of Kisatchie it was the Louisiana Maneuvers.
The atmosphere among the civilians and troops in the spring and summer of that year was not unlike a holiday, though the mission was all too serious. The preceding exercises had revealed serious deficiencies in manpower, planning and supplies. G.I.s were fighting using the tactics and equipment left over from WWI, while France had fallen in weeks to the advanced "blitzkrieg" strategies of the Third Reich. In the dramatic months that followed, the US Army would replace horses with tanks and enter the modern age of warfare. Nearly two thirds of the victorious army of WWII trained in these woods.
After World War II, Camp Beauregard reverted to the State and was used as a summer training area for the Louisiana National Guard in 1947 and 1948. In 1949 and for twenty-five years thereafter, active training was held at Fort Polk, Louisiana; Fort Chaffee, Arkansas; or at various other military centers over the country.
Beginning in 1973, Camp Beauregard was reactivated as an annual Guard training facility. Since then, many new facilities have been constructed on Post to accommodate unites that train here. Though there was a quarter-century lapse in the use of Camp Beauregard as a troop training center, it has been an active and continuously growing maintenance and storage facility.
The Louisiana National Guard manages the timber for commercial production. The terrain is characterized by gently rolling hills in the upland areas. The upland overstory is dominated by pine plantations. There are scattered hardwoods in the hills. Water oak, post oak, hickory, red oak and sweetgum are the most common species in creek bottom areas. The Flagon Creek bottom is a frequently flooded hardwood area of about 800 acres. It is a typical bottomland forest with cypress, overcup oak and bitter pecan the dominant overstory species.
In 1996 the Louisiana Army National Guard signed a Management Agreement with the Nature Conservancy covering 2,672 acres at Camp Beauregard, part of the Lower West Gulf Coastal Plain ecoregion.
Camp Beauregard Wildlife Management Area is primarily located in northeast Rapides Parish with some acreage in southeast Grant Parish. The area lies approximately eight miles north of Alexandria. The area's first function is as a military reservation. Therefore, there are special regulations applying to use of camp Beauregard WMA. An annual permit is required as is checking in and out of self-clearing stations on a daily basis. Limited camping by reservation only is allowed on the area. Also, adjacent National Forest property is available for undeveloped camp sites.
Esler Field is part of Camp Beauregard. For many years the airfield was called the Artillery Range Airport Camp. Stationed at this primitive airfield was the 107th Observation Squadron, which was used for artillery spotting and observation of troop movements. The airfield was named in honor of Lieutenant Wilmer Esler, the pilot of an O-47 monoplane, who died in a crash on the airfield on April 11, 1941. On June 19, 1941, the War Department announced the air corps field at Camp Beauregard would be named Esler Field.
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