Today Fort Benning is no longer just the home of the Infantry. A few years back the Army shut down Fort Knox and moved the Armor school to Benning. Fort Benning is now the home of the 'Maneuver Center of Excellence'. A very pretentious name. (Hey Mother Army, can you tell me where the 'Second-rate Maneuver Center' is located?) Still, this move met a crying need. Since before WWII the Army has realized that Armor and Infantry must operate together as a mutually supporting combined force. An Armor/Infantry task force is a formidable opponent, but an unsupported Armor task force is a sitting duck. Armor needs Infantry because only Infantry can seize and hold terrain and defend Armor against dismounted infantry attacks. It's been proven time and again, from Kasserine Pass to Fallujah.
The problem was that the officers and NCOs of both disciplines trained seperately - the Armor at Fort Knox and the Infantry at Fort Benning - and only came together to train as a team once they left the schools and were assigned to Armor or Infantry divisions. I know the Army has wanted to combine these schools for decades, but money, wars and politics prevented it until about 2006 when the Department of Defense under Donald Rumsfeld announced the move under the Base Realignment and Closure study.
This triggered a huge infusion of cash into Fort Benning and the Columbus area. The old, familiar Home of the Infantry started to undergo dramatic change as old buildings were torn down to make space for new facilities to support the expanding school. Perhaps the most dramatic change was the tear-down and reconstruction of the old Infantry Hall (Building 4). This building was viewed as the symbolic home of the Infantry by the hundreds of thousands of Infantry officers and NCOs that passed through its classrooms since it opened in 1964. It was rebuilt as the new Maneuver Center school and now shares space with the Armor school. Omar Bradley must be spinning in his grave.
Scott and I started our day at the National Infantry Museum. If you have never been to the new National Infantry Museum you need to carve out the time to go. It is inspiring. The display galleries are divided up by historical period. For us the centerpiece was the WWII gallery, which covered the build-up to war and the eventual world-wide commitment of the Army. Two period galleries are unfinished - early America and the Civil War and westward expansion (the museum needs more funding to finish out these galleries, so if you visit give generously).
After the museum we toured the post, having a look at the new Maneuver Center building and the old Airborne field with the 34' and 250' towers, sawdust pits, swing landing trainers, the Airborne training company barracks and the static displays at the graduation area. It's interesting how little has changed in 35 years.
But this is a blog about knives, so let's look at a few from an unconventional perspective.
|The famous Infantry 'Follow Me' statue in front of the Maneuver Center. |
This is a copy of the original, which used to stand at the
entrance of the original Infantry Hall.
The original now stands at the entrance of the National Infantry Museum.
Can you spot the knife? Hint - it's stuck on the end of the rifle.
|The new Cavalry Trooper statue stands at the opposite side of the|
main entrance to the Maneuver Center, representing the Armor branch.
This is the new Cavalry Trooper statue at the main entrance to the Maneuver Center. It's well done, depicting a charging trooper holding a Colt Single Action Army revolver, a Sharps carbine slung across his chest. But where's the knife?
There it is, the cavalry saber.
It was a great day. Stay sharp!