|Clay County, near Starke, Florida|
|In use||1940 - present|
|Controlled by||Florida National Guard|
Camp Blanding Joint Training Center is the primary military reservation and training base for the Florida National Guard, both the Florida Army National Guard and certain non-flying activities of the Florida Air National Guard. The installation is located in Clay County, Florida near the city of Starke. The site measures approximately 73,000 acres (300 km²) and includes Kingsley Lake. It also hosts other Reserve, Army National Guard, Air National Guard, and some Active Component training for the U.S. Armed Forces. Additionally, the Jacksonville University NROTC Battalion and the University of South Florida NROTC Battalion continue to conduct their week-long orientation at Camp Blanding each August before the college semester starts.
Camp Blanding is the primary training site for most of the Florida National Guard's military units and the main combat arms brigade, the 53rd Infantry Brigade of the Florida Army National Guard. It is also home to the headquarters and support companies of the 3-20th Special Forces Group, the 211th Infantry Regiment, and the 2-111th Airfield Operations Battalion (AOB) Aviation Regiment.
Camp Blanding also houses several non-flying units of the Florida Air National Guard, to include the 202nd RED HORSE Squadron, 159th Weather Flight, Weather Readiness Training Center (WRTC), and the joint Army/Air Force 44th Civil Support Team. The base is also a training location for several counter-drug units and law enforcement agencies in Florida and functions as the alternate Emergency Operations Center (EOC) for the state of Florida.
Weapons ranges at Camp Blanding include: - 50 live fire ranges capable of handling all weapons systems organic to a Light Infantry Brigade to include Mortars and Artillery; - 5 Automated Ranges for small arms and handgun qualification; - a Crew Combat Range; - 4 Platoon/Squad Movement to Contact ranges (400 by 800 meters)
Training Areas include three Major Maneuver Areas with a total of 55,000 acres (220 km2) plus of varied topography—planted pine plantations, swamps, oak hammocks, desert like terrain—with minimal environmental restrictions, with the ability to support a Light Infantry Brigade plus one Battalion of aggressors. The Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT) Collective Training Facility consists of 16 Buildings and a Bridge and Tunnel Trainer.
In 2008 Camp Blanding became host to the Army's latest Air Assault course in response to the growing need for Air Assault trained individuals for the continuing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is also a bombing and strafing target for military aircraft, primarily used by the Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force, located on the southern portion of the post.
On base billeting facilities can accommodate 3000 personnel, i.e., one standard Army Brigade consisting of four Battalion Areas. Each Battalion area has company dining facilities, orderly rooms, Officer/Enlisted barracks, a supply building, and a Battalion HQ building.
Camp Blanding owes its location on the shore of Kingsley Lake to the United States Navy's desire to establish a Naval Air Station (NAS) on the banks of the St. Johns River, south of Jacksonville, in the late 1930s. The site that would eventually become Naval Air Station Jacksonville was already the location of the Florida National Guard's Camp Foster and negotiations were started for a land-swap. In mid-1939, the transaction was accomplished and the state armory board chose as compensation a tract of 30,000 acres (120 km2) in Clay County as a National Guard camp and training site. The National Guard Officers Association of Florida recommended the new camp be named in honor of Lieutenant General Albert H. Blanding. The War Department agreed and Camp Blanding's history began.
Blanding graduated from the East Florida Seminary (now the University of Florida) in 1894 and entered military service. He commanded the 2nd Florida Infantry during the Mexican Border Service in 1916 and 1917.
In 1940, Camp Blanding was leased to the United States Army as an active duty training center. The post was originally used by New England and Southern troops preparing for deployment overseas. However, during the course of the war, Camp Blanding served as an infantry replacement training center, an induction center, a German prisoner-of-war compound, and a separation center. At the height of the war, the Army leased acreage from local landowners, raising the total to 170,000 acres (690 km2). From 1940 to 1945, more than 800,000 soldiers received all or part of their training here.
At one point during the war, the camp contained the population of the fourth largest city in Florida. There were 10,000 buildings, 125 miles (201 km) of paved roads, the largest hospital in the state. It was one of the largest training bases in the country.
After the war, the state's 30,000 acres (120 km2) were returned to the armory board and by 1948, most of the buildings were sold or moved off post. In the early 1950s, the Federal Government deeded additional land to the State of Florida for use as a National Guard training facility, but until 1970, the post saw only limited use by the military.
In the 1970s, an expansion program began upgrading post facilities and in 1981, the Department of Defense redesignated Camp Blanding as a Class A military installation. The designation qualified the post for use by greater numbers of troops with more diversified training.
In 1983, the 105 mm artillery firing points were used for the first time since World War II. Tank ranges were upgraded and Tank Tables I through VI can be fired. In addition to improved facilities and ranges, a parachute drop zone and an expeditionary airfield consisting of two gravel runways capable of accommodating C-130 Hercules aircraft have expanded Camp Blanding's training capacity. The U.S. Navy also utilizes an aerial bombing and strafing target in the southern portion of the post. Upgrading of Camp Blanding's facilities and training areas continues to this day.
From 2001 until 2008, Camp Blanding was used by the Southeast Region of the Civil Air Patrol to host their South East Region Encampment for CAP Cadets. The Florida Wing of Civil Air Patrol continues to utilize Camp Blanding for their wing-level Summer Cadet Encampments.
Camp Blanding Museum and Memorial Park
Camp Blanding is also home to the Camp Blanding Museum and Memorial Park. Open to the public, the facility contains a history museum in one of Camp Blanding's restored World War II buildings, tracing the history of both Camp Blanding and the Florida National Guard. Outdoor exhibits and displays include equipment and Army, Navy and Air Force aircraft from World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War and Operation Desert Storm, including captured Soviet-manufactured Iraqi equipment from the latter conflict.
- Nowlin, Klyne (August 2011). "Historians Share Stories About FLorida in WWII". pp. 9. http://www.moaacc.org/Intercomaug11.pdf.
- Globalsecurity.org page
- Camp Blanding Museum and Memorial Park - official site
- Camp Blanding Museum - Camp Blanding Museum and Historical Associates
- U.S. Air Force 125th Fighter Wing's Camp Blanding History page
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