City of Columbus, Fort Benning celebrate centennial at Georgia Capitol Feb. 7
By Bryan Gatchell, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning Public Affairs
ATLANTA (Feb. 9, 2018) – Local officials from the city of Columbus, Georgia, and Army leadership from Fort Benning visited the Georgia Capitol in Atlanta Feb. 7.
As part of the visit, both the state house of representatives and senate passed the resolutions to “recognize February 7, 2018, as Columbus Day at the state capitol” (S.R. 615 and H.R. 996) and to “recognize and honor the establishment of Fort Benning on its centennial anniversary” (S.R. 616 and H.R. 998).
Both the Columbus mayor, Teresa Tomlinson, and U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning commander, Maj. Gen. Eric J. Wesley, spoke on the chamber floors during the occasion.
Tomlinson touted many of the features that make Columbus a unique city – the companies that are located here, the longest urban white-water rafting route – as well as the military installation whose centennial celebration is currently underway.
“We are home to the world’s greatest military training base, the Fort Benning Maneuver Center of Excellence,” said Tomlinson.
Wesley claimed the longevity of the relationship between the installation and the community has more to do with the people of Columbus’s “vision and strategic leadership.” Wesley recounted that because of World War I, the people of Columbus set about to have a military camp established there.
Senate Resolution 616 as background gives a brief history of Camp Benning’s creation starting with President Woodrow Wilson’s declaration of war against Germany April 4, 1917. A committee of the Columbus Chamber of Commerce went to Washington to have the camp placed at Columbus. Though that effort did not seem fruitful for the “Encampment Committee” when they returned to Columbus in 1918, Columbus was chosen as a prospective site for the Infantry School of Arms. Infantry School staff and Soldiers from Fort Sill, Oklahoma arrived Oct. 1, an 84-acre farm on Macon Road was chosen as the site, a detachment arrived Oct. 7, and the new site was named Camp Benning Oct. 19, 1918.
“It has less to do with the United States Army than it has to do with the people of Georgia,” said Wesley.
As a result of Camp Benning’s creation, according to Wesley, Columbus has helped shaped the world through the military leaders it has helped shape.
“Any leader of notoriety over the last hundred years of the United States military has been raised up by the people of Columbus,” he said.
While the event was meant to celebrate Columbus as well as its 100 years of partnership with the U.S. Army, Wesley emphasized that there was yet more to happen on the world stage, which Columbus is likely to take part in.
“The world is changing again,” said Wesley. “As a military officer, I can tell you that we are at a strategic turning point, and one of the major installations that influenced the Army is housed right here in Georgia.
“The United States Army, the United States government, is going to be investing in Fort Benning,” continued Wesley. “With Mayor Tomlinson and the president of the chamber, Brian Anderson, you see that same strategic vision, and they are now partnering with the Army in order to bring capacity and business into Columbus, that will enable national security.”
In addition to Tomlinson and Wesley, the group from Columbus included Col. Clinton W. Cox, U.S. Army Garrison Fort Benning commander; Command Sgt. Maj. Scott A. Brzak, MCoE and Fort Benning command sergeant major; Joel Ames, director of marketing, public relations and corporate communications at Columbus Regional Health; Brian D. Anderson, president and CEO of the Greater Columbus Georgia Chamber of Commerce; and Joseph Brannan, assistant general manager at PMB Broadcasting, LLC.
The group also met with Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, held a luncheon at the Commerce Club, witnessed the swearing-in of Ben Land to Superior Court judge in the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit, met with Dr. Steve Wrigley, chancellor of the University System of Georgia, and met with Brian Kemp, Georgia secretary of state. Following their meetings downtown in Atlanta, the group held a Columbus Day at the Capitol reception at the Atlanta Freight Depot.
Senate resolutions 615 and 616 were sponsored by senators Ed Harbison of District 15 and Joshua McKoon of District 29, and house resolutions 996 and 998 were sponsored by representatives Debbie Buckner of District 137, Carolyn Hugley of District 136, John Pezold of District 133, Richard H. Smith of District 134, and Calvin Smyre of District 135.
For more on the Fort Benning Centennial celebration, visit www.benning.army.mil/100.