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Camp Shelby
Hagler Army Airfield
Shelby Range
Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center

Camp Shelby, Mississippi, the largest state owned training site in the nation, has a long history of serving the country and is considered by many as "a national treasure." During wartime, the camp's mission is to serve as a major, independent mobilization station of the U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM). Camp Shelby Training Site is the largest reserve component training site, covering 136,000 acres, allowing up to battalion level maneuver training, Gunnery Table 8-12, excellent FA Firing Points and a wide range of support facilities. This is the normal Annual Training location for National Guard and Reserve units located in Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennesse. However, units from accross the country use its excellent assets to support a varity of missions. The 2nd BN, 114th FA conducts its gunnery and has the bulk of its combat equipment stored in the Mobilization and Annual Training Equipment Site (MATES) located there.

Camp Shelby has been designated as a Power Support Platform (PSP) tasked to mobilize, receive, train, and support Reserve Component (RC) units required to expand the Active Army Component (AC) to meet emergency requirements.

Along with Camp Atterbury, IN, Camp Shelby was one of only two Guard facilities activated, as of late July 2004, as mobilization centers for overseas deployment.

Camp Shelby is a state owned/operated installation for the Army National Guard and serves as a Training Site for active and reserve component units. The installation is manned by Training Site personnel for post operations. Additionally, Camp Shelby is designated as a FORSCOM MS, operated by the ARNG Training Site in conjunction with Training Site personnel. Post tenants include: 154th Regimental Regional Training Institute, 3/87th Division Exercise (TS), Maneuver Area Training Equipment Site (MATES), Combined Support Maintenance Shop (CSMS), Readiness Sustainment Maintenance Site (RSMS), Surface Maintenance Readiness Branch (SMRB), Organizational Maintenance Shop (OMS6), DOL-MSARNG Warehouse, NGMS-DOL Consolidated Class IX Activity, United States Property and Fiscal Office (USPFO), 704th Ordnance Det (EOD), and the Youth Challenge Program (YCP).

Camp Shelby Training Site (CSTS), encompassing over 525 square kilometers, is located in portions of Perry and Forrest Counties, in south Mississippi. The training site was established during World War I and it has served almost continuously since then as a training site, not only for the Reserve Components of the Army, but also for the Active Components of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force. The training site consists of a mix of State, Department of Defense, and U.S. Forest Service lands in the DeSoto National Forest.

Encompassing more than 134,820 acres, Camp Shelby, Mississippi is the largest state-owned and operated field training site in the United States. It is a training ground for the Abrams M1 Tank, Paladin Howitzers and home to the 3rd Brigade 87th Division Training Support. Camp Shelby serves as a training site for National Guardsmen and Reservists from throughout the country hosting as many as 100,000 personnel annually. It is located 12 miles south of Hattiesburg, Miss., on US highway 49 South.

The camp population includes 350 active-duty; 525 family members; 800 guard; 20 reserve; 300 civilian The Camp will be losing maintenance shops which will cut both guard and civilian full-time employees strength.

The impact area at Camp Shelby is used for the firing of small and large caliber weapons and it consists of approximately 17 square kilometers of gently rolling grassland. A number of streams drain the impact area, and riparian wetlands are common along these streams. The Impact Area is utilized year-around and averages in excess of 190 firing days each year; there are approximately 170 troop-firings per day, and the range-firing list includes M1A1 tanks, Bradleys, self-propelled and towed artillery, mortars, laser-guided weapons, and small arms.


Camp Shelby was originally activated in 1917 as a training camp for World War I troops. During World War I, elements of the 37th Division, Ohio National Guard, were stationed at Camp Shelby, as well as the famed "Cyclone Division," the 38th, of Indiana, Kentucky, and West Virginia. The 38th Division got its nickname as a result of a tornado that occurred during their World War I training at the camp. With the Great War (later named World War I) on the horizon, local area businessmen and civic leaders in 1917 petitioned the U.S. Army to build a training site in the DeSoto National Forest, just south of Hattiesburg. Had it not been for the friendship of a local physician, Dr. W. W. Crawford, and his close friend and fellow doctor, Dr. George Austin McHenry, of adjacent Stone County, their mission may have failed.

McHenry had served during the Spanish American War as a captain and developed a close relationship with Leonard Wood, who in 1917 was a General and Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army. He was assigned to establish 16 training sites throughout the nation. McHenry was a second cousin to then Vice President Thomas Marshall's wife.

Old records indicate Dr. McHenry and Dr. Crawford met with General Leonard Wood in Atlanta and first proposed the idea of a training site in the woods south of Hattiesburg and north of the village in Stone County now known as the McHenry Community. Later a delegation from Hattiesburg sponsored by the Commerce Club (a forerunner of the Chamber of Commerce) made a trip to Washington, D.C. They were T.C. Hanna, E.L. Robbins and Judge N.C. Hill. They presented a thorough proposal citing spacious area, good climate, railhead facilities, ideal geography and other economic factors (and close friendships) and were successful in securing the site.

General Leonard Wood, although a non-combatant surgeon was awarded our country's highest military honor, the Medal of Honor, for his service in the Indian Campaigns that endured from 1861 until 1898. During the uprising of the Apache Indians in 1886, the young surgeon volunteered to carry vital dispatches through a heavily infested hostile area. He made a journey of 70 miles in just one night on a horse only to have to walk an additional 30 miles the next day. Later in his career, while pursuing Geronimo's band, he volunteered to command a detachment of infantry in hand-to-hand combat with the Apaches, as the unit was without an officer. It is only fitting that one of America's great hero's was the decision maker that gave birth to Camp Shelby.

After its approval by the Secretary of the Army, work started on the new camp in July 1917. More than 4,500 civilian contractors were hired; and they built 1206 buildings, including a hospital and warehouse. The soldiers lived in tents.

The first troops were 6,000 National Guardsmen from Indiana, Kentucky and West Virginia. They formed the 38th Division, which later saw action in France. These troops named the new camp in honor of Isaac Shelby, Indian fighter, Revolutionary War hero and first governor of Kentucky. Shelby was a militia-man and was known as a crack-shot with a muzzle loader rifle. He distinguished himself in battle against the Chickamouga Indians and was promoted from Lieutenant to Captain to Major and finally to Colonel. During the American Revolution he commanded an expedition that defeated a superior British force at the Battle of King's Mountain. He later moved to Kentucky, married, fathered 11 children, became an educator and politician. He was elected Kentucky's first governor in 1792.

During the War of 1812, Shelby was recalled from retirement, and at the age of 63 he organized and led in person 4,000 Kentucky volunteers in an attack against British regulars at the Battle of the Thames. The British were defeated and Congress awarded Shelby a gold medal for his heroic leadership. President Monroe offered Shelby the position of Secretary of War, but his offer was refused. Nine states have named counties in his honor and numerous cities bear his name, including one in Mississippi. He was a great American, brave soldier and effective leader; and Camp Shelby proudly bears his name.

When World War I ended in 1918, Camp Shelby was deactivated; and all but four of the 1,200 buildings were demolished. Today only one of them remains. Building 6981, an ammunition storage magazine, still stands just across from the MATES facility on Warehouse Road.

In 1934, the State of Mississippi acquired the site for use as a summer camp by the National Guard. In 1937, Camp McClellan in nearby Alabama was being dismantled; and some of the wooden materials were sent to Shelby. Buildings built during this stage are still in use. Camp Shelby proved ideal for U.S. Army maneuvers in 1938, and in 1940 the Mississippi congressional delegation was successful in reopening the Camp as a federal installation.

World War II saw an army of civilians numbering 17,000 construct more than 1,800 new buildings and 250 miles of roads at a cost of $24 million dollars. Soldiers still slept mostly in the 14,000 tents, and at one time the population exceeded 100,000 people. At its World War II peak, over 1,000 square miles were in use for training. The 38th Division returned; and the 37th Division from Ohio was joined by the 31st (Dixie) Division, the 43rd, 65th, 69th Division and the famed 442 Regimental Combat Team made up of loyal Japanese-Americans who became the most highly decorated unit in the European Theatre. Shelby was also host to units of the Women's Army Corp, (WAC), a large convalescent hospital and prisoner of war camp, which initially housed some of Rommel's German Africa Corps. At one time during those early years, the population exceeded 100,000 troops, making Camp Shelby the largest training center in the world.

The Camp Shelby of World War II contained 360,000 acres with an additional 400,000 acres leased for maneuver space. In all, over a thousand square miles were in use for training. Initially, troops using Camp Shelby were housed in tents (over 14,000), forming the largest tent city in the world. Construction workers (17,000), and Army engineer units constructed 1,800 buildings and 250 miles of improved roads at a cost of 24 million dollars.

After World War II, the post was again closed. The War Assets Administration sold the federally owned property. Even the water pipes were dug up and sold, most of them going to Oklahoma City, where some are still in use.

During the Korean Conflict, Camp Shelby was developed as an Emergency Railhead Facility, and $3 million was spent to restore rail, water, and electric services. In the summer of 1954, non-divisional National Guard units trained at the post and in 1956, the Continental Army Command designed Camp Shelby as a Permanent Training Site, under the direction of the Third Army Headquarters.

Initially troops performing annual training at Camp Shelby were housed in tents, but in 1958 Congress allocated money for the first of the permanent-type barracks. In 1959 the Department of the Army approved the overall Camp Shelby plan and adopted it as the model for future construction at all field training sites. In 1965, during the Vietnam War, the 199th Light Infantry Brigade performed combat training at Shelby prior to their deployment to Vietnam. The unit was honored with a community salute entitled "Shelby Sunday" prior to their departure, which featured a concert by Pete Fountain, Dizzy Dean, Gov. Paul Johnson, Jr. and local beauty queens. It was the first time the newly-finished Reed Green Coliseum, on the USM campus in Hattiesburg, was filled to capacity for the benefit performance that reflected our area's support for those 4,000 young men, whose average age was only 19. Today Camp Shelby continues to play a vital role in our nation's defense.

In 1996, more than 120,000 National Guard, Reserve and active duty soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines made use of Camp Shelby.

Through the years, Forrest County has developed an enviable reputation for supporting the military. A marble obelisk, akin to a miniature Washington Monument, stands at attention in downtown Hattiesburg's Veteran's Park. It salutes the 168 servicemen who gave their lives serving our nation since the Spanish-American War.

Over the years, Camp Shelby has become an integral part of the Hattiesburg Community. With over 1,000 full time positions and 30 seasonal positions, the camp's economic impact is substantial as well contributing more than $60 million annually through payroll and in state purchases.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:44:53 ZULU