In 1995 the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission voted to permanently close Fort McClellan. The official closing ceremony ending Fort McClellan's illustrious past was held on 20 May, 1999. At the time of closure, Fort McClellan was home to the U.S. Army Chemical School, the U.S. Army Military Police School, the Training Brigade, and the Department of Defense Polygraph Institute. The Chemical School, Military Police School, and the Training Brigade relocated to Fort Leonardwood, Missouri, integrating with their Engineer School to form the U.S. Army Maneuver Support Center (MANSCEN). The DoD Polygraph Institute relocated to Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
Fort McClellan (FTMC) was a U.S. Army facility under the control of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC). FTMC occupies 45,679 acres adjacent to Anniston, AL. Fort McClellan consists of two nearly equal size areas on opposite sides of Anniston. Pelham Range is the western half covering 22,000 acres west of the Main Post, while the Main Post (19,000 acres) is the eastern half. There is a neck of land -- Choccolocco Corridor (4,500 acres located east of the Main Post) on the eastern end of the eastern half of the fort that connects the main post to Talladega National Forest. Fort McClellan has used the national forest for training under a series of special use permits. In addition to the areas used by the DOD in the national forest, fifteen parcels totaling approximately 388 acres have been excessed. These fifteen parcels are at scattered locations between the two halves of the fort.
Pelham Range and portions of the Main Post were transferred to the Alabama Army National Guard, with other portions of the Main Post being made available for property disposal under the provisions of the BRAC program.
The Main Post is situated between Anniston to the west, and the Choccolocco Mountains of the Talladega National Forest to the east. The majority of FTMC's development is located in the northwest area of the Main Post. Cane Creek and its tributaries are formed from the runoff from the Choccolocco Mountains and flows west through the valley and across the Main Post. The Main Post's management facilities, housing facilities, community service facilities, and schools expand along the northern and southern banks of Cane Creek. The Main Post's management facilities include administration, transportation, maintenance, and the U.S. Army Military Police School (USAMPS). Housing facilities include family housing, Commissioned Officer's and Non-Commissioned Officer's Quarters, and Enlisted Men's Barracks. Community service facilities include libraries; museums; a post office; banks; a Scout building; recreational, religious, and community facilities; an auto craft shop; and health care centers. FTMC had a hobby shop at one time, but currently there is not one onpost. Reilly heliport is located along the northern boundary of the Main Post. It is currently used as a defensive driving course. The firing ranges within the Main Post are located north, east, and south of the developed area and are generally oriented towards the Choccolocco Mountains.
Pelham Range is located approximately 2 miles northwest of Anniston. This area is used for training grounds for a wide range of activities, from small arms training to tank artillery training. Pelham Range has also been used for chemical decontamination training and radiological training.
All Range Operations previously conducted by Fort McClellan are now conducted by the Alabama National Guard Training Site. The Alabama National Guard Training Site (ALNGTS) enclave encompasses a large area of Fort McClellan and Pelham Range. The Guard has established a full time presence and has taken possession of many of the facilities such as firing ranges, classrooms and dining and billeting facilities. The Alabama National Guard Training Site is headquartered in building 1220.
The Department of Justice Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP) has taken possession of Sibert Hall (building 1081, formerly occupied by the U.S. Army Chemical School), the Chemical Decontamination Training facility (CDTF), and much of the on-post billeting. The CDP provides disaster and terrorist response training to military and civilian personnel.
The Joint Powers Authority (JPA) is comprised of personnel acting on behalf of Calhoun County, the local city governments and the State of Alabama. The JPA is tasked with facilitating the transfer of remaining acreage and buildings to commercial and private use. The JPA is located in building 61, which was formerly the Post Headquarters. The Sacred Heart Catholic School has relocated into the vacated Fort McClellan Elementary School.
The history of Fort McClellan extends beyond this military presence. Prior to the Army's arrival, farmers and tenants, shopkeepers and manufacturers shaped the landscape on this stretch of the north Alabama hillside. Their legacy is still present on the post and witnessed by historic cemeteries, old hose sites, the remains of iron furnaces, and other tangible pieces of the past. Fort McClellan had a proud and fascinating history which dates back to the Spanish-American War. The seeds of military life were fostered during the first World War and raised to maturity during World War II.
The Choccolocco foothills, part of the Appalachian Mountain chain, surrounds the post. A spur ridge of the Choccolocco foothills crosses the main post from north to south. The ridge first attracted military interest during the Spanish-American, when the mountains were discovered to form an excellent background for artillery firing.
The War Department formally established Camp McClellan on July 18, 1917. The camp was named in honor of Major General George B. McClellan, General-in-Chief of the U.S. Army from 1861 to 1862. McClellan was also the Governor of New Jersey from 1878-1881. Although it is unusual for a Southern fort to be named for a Northern general, there are strong indications that McClellan's name was a logical choice. Camp McClellan was a mobilization camp used to quickly train men for WWII. General McClellan is credited with the quick training and mobilization of the Army of the Potomac during the Civil War. Most of the first soldiers arriving at the camp were from the North. In fact, the first group to train at Camp McClellan were from McClellan's home state of New Jersey.
The newly activated 29th National Guard Division from the Mid-Atlantic states, commanded by Major General Charles G. Morton, arrived in August 1917. Two months later there were more than 27,000 men training at the camp. The 29th went to France in June 1918 and suffered almost 6,000 casualties in the Meuse-Argonne offensive. Morton Road, near Baker Gate, is named in honor of MG Morton.
Camp McClellan was redesignated Fort McClellan, a permanent post, on July 1, 1929. New construction began immediately and the post grew rapidly. The 27th Division arrived from New York during October 1940. One of the first units to depart for combat in WWII, the 27th had orders to report overseas 12 days after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The Division fought in the Marshall and Gilbert islands, Saipan, Guam and the Philippines, and was later on occupational duty in Japan. A reunion took place here in the summer of 1980, bringing many old soldiers back to where the first smelled gun powder and heard taps.
A 3,000 capacity Prison Internment Camp for prisoners of war was built during 1943 when Fort McClellan became the temporary home for many captured enemy soldiers. A memorial cemetery located near the western corner of the post is the final resting place for 26 German and 3 Italian prisoners of war who died during captivity.
Nearly 500,000 men were trained at Fort McClellan during WWII, including a company of Japanese-Americans who helped familiarize American troops with methods used by Japanese soldiers. Many individuals and units trained here received the highest military honors and decorations during the war.
During 1943, the Branch Immaterial Replacement Training Center at Fort McClellan was replaced by the Infantry Replacement Training Center, which trained recruits in basic soldiering skills. When the war ended, the center trained soldiers for occupation duty until November 1946, when the fort became a recruit training center. The Recruit Training Center was inactivated and the number of soldiers on post dwindled rapidly after the war. The installation was placed on inactive status on June 30, 1947. Only a small maintenance crew remained on the post.
Plans were made during 1950 to again use the area for National Guard training. The replacement training center for the Chemical Corps was activated during 1951, with Fort McClellan as its permanent home. In 1962, the name of the activity was changed from the Chemical Corps School to the U.S. Army Chemical Center and School, until it was disestablished in 1973.
The Women's Army Corps School was founded at Fort McClellan on September 25, 1952. Approximately two years later, official ceremonies were conducted to establish the post as the first permanent home of the U.S. Women's Army Corps Center. Fort McClellan remained its home until the Corps was disestablished and its flag retired in 1977. Participating in the final ceremony was Major General Mary E. Clarke, the last director of the Women's Army Corps and destined to later become the Commanding General of Fort McClellan, the first woman officer ever to command a major Army installation.
Another activity, the U.S. Army Combat Developments Command Chemical Biological-Radiological Agency, moved to Fort McClellan in 1962. It was later disestablished along with the Chemical School in 1973. To meet the requirement for the Vietnam War, an Advanced Individual Training Infantry Brigade was activated in 1966. With the mission change, the fort was renamed the U.S. Army School/Training Center and Fort McClellan. Due to continued force reductions in Vietnam, the brigade was deactivated in April 1970, after training more than 30,000 men.
Official ceremonies were held July 11, 1975, marking the move of the U.S. Army Military Police School from Fort Gordon, Georgia. A major reorganization of the post began in the fall of 1976 and was completed on May 13, 1977, when the colors of the Women's Army Corps Center and School were retired during ceremonies on Marshall Parade Field.
After reestablishment in December, 1979, the U.S. Army Chemical School relocated here from Aberdeen, Maryland, and joined the Military Police School and the Training Brigade to make Fort McClellan the only military installation in the United States with three major missions. Fort McClellan has been 'home' for an average military population of about 10,000 people, including about 5,000 who are permanently assigned and employed about 1,500 civilians.
Fort McClellan thrived during the 1970's and 1980's as a major training facility for military and civilians. The Department of Defense's (DoD) decision to consolidate training for all branches of the service brought U.S. Army, Navy, Marine, and Air Force chemical officers and non-commissioned officers, Military Police, civilian law officers, and various Government agencies to the post for training. The addition of the Department of Defense Polygraph Institute resulted in Fort McClellan evolving into an important hub for all aspects of Law Enforcement/Criminology training. The U.S. Army Chemical School continued to make important advances in chemical warfare, camouflage tactics, chemical detection, decontamination, and protection.
Fort McClellan became home to the Chemical Decontamination Training Facility (CDTF), where chemical soldiers worked with live nerve agents under controlled conditions. This facility, being the only one of it's kind in the free world, provided confidence training to chemical soldiers in proper chemical decontamination techniques. The quality and depth of training provided by the Chemical School proved to be a formidable deterrent to the use of chemical warfare by Saddam Hussein and his forces during Operation Desert Storm. The CDTF operated for almost a decade, training thousands of U. S. soldiers, and hundreds of chemical soldiers from various allied countries, with a flawless safety record.
The 1980s ushered in a 'new era' for the Department of Defense and America's war machine. Shrinking defense budgets and escalating costs for weapons and machinery forced the Defense Department to make some harsh decisions concerning the future of the U. S. Army. The Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) was formed for the purpose of evaluating U. S. military installations worldwide. Their task was to determine how to shrink the military and DoD civilian population, close and/or realign unnecessary and redundant bases, while maintaining the current quality of military readiness required for the defense of the United States.
The first round of BRAC recommendations were released in 1989. Fort McClellan was placed on the list of military bases to be closed. Due to Congressional objections, the BRAC recommendations were not acted upon. It was agreed to delay any BRAC actions until 1991, which saw Fort McClellan again on the BRAC closure list. Fort McClellan's presence on the BRAC list created intense debate for and against closure. Our country still had vivid memories of the chemical warfare threat presented in Operation Desert Storm, and many experts spoke out against the move of Fort McClellan's Chemical School to a new location. Many agreed that the disruption of the Chemical School's training mission to prepare for a major move would set back chemical training for 5 to 10 years. Other experts argued that the move could be carried out smoothly and a transition to a new location would cause no disruption in training and military readiness. Another point of contention was the Chemical Decontamination Training Facility's unique mission. Local community leaders argued that the economic impact of closure of one of the areas larger employers would devastate the local economy. When the final vote was taken, Fort McClellan survived.
A new round of BRAC came in 1993. Once again, Fort McClellan was placed on the closure list. But many of the arguments from the 1991 BRAC resurfaced in debates during the 1993 sessions. Again, Fort McClellan survived. 1995 saw Fort McClellan again on the list for closure. Many of the same arguments from the 91 and 93 debates were brought into the discussions of the 1995 sessions. The Department of Army's Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) had a well conceived plan for the consolidation of Fort McClellan's missions into Fort Leonard Wood's existing training. TRADOC presented the concept of a Maneuver Support Center, integrating the Chemical School, Military Police School and Fort Leonard Wood's Engineer School, all with closely related missions, which would enhance DoD's vision for moving into the 21st century. After much deliberation and debate for and against closure, the BRAC commission voted to close Fort McClellan. The vote was not unanimous and one commission member went as far as to lodge an official protest, calling for further consideration of the closure. It was evident that Fort McClellan's importance was a matter which should not be taken lightly by the BRAC Commission, the Department of Defense, or the nation as a whole.
The vote for closure stood, and the Fort McClellan military and civilian population prepared for closure in 1999. Fort McClellan began the arduous task of packing up and moving a major Army installation. The official closing ceremony was held on May 20, 1999. As closure neared, civilian employees were forced to seek employment elsewhere. This task was made easier through the many programs in place to aid displaced employees find new employment. The military population was moved to other installations to continue their dedicated service to the nation.
In the DoD's 2005 BRAC Recommendations, it recommended to Close the Faith Wing United States Army Reserve Center on Fort McClellan, Alabama and relocate units into a new Armed Forces Reserve Center on Pelham Range in Anniston, Alabama.
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