Does the Army have anything against Florida? The Army does have a footprint in the state, but when it comes to Army bases in Florida, there’s just one Camp Blanding Joint Training Center, located in Starke, Florida.
What Is the Difference Between Forts and Camps?
Forts and are permanent bases with barracks, facilities, chow halls, with tenant units assigned to them. On the other hand, camps are generally temporary, even though they may have been used for decades. A camp normally is a place where units will visit and stay for training and when training is complete, they will return to their normal duty station.
However, the Marine Corps calls their permanent bases “Camps,” which could lead to some confusion among civilians.
During the WWII buildup of full Marine Divisions, the Corps required large divisional training and maneuver areas, so Marine Corps Camps were established on both coasts. After the war, Marine Divisions were made a permanent force structure. So the wartime Marine Corps Camps were still needed and became permanent installations. Yet, the Corps decided to retain the “Camp” designation.
Camp Blanding and German POWs in Florida
Camp Blanding has been around since World War II. Infantry, Tank Destroyer, Engineer, Field Artillery, and Medical units trained there prior to deployment in Europe or the Pacific.
Nine entire divisions were trained at Camp Blanding: 1st Infantry Division (ID) (Big Red One), 29th ID (Blue & Gray), 30th ID (Old Hickory), 31st ID (Dixie), 36th ID (Texas), 43rd ID (Winged Victory), 63rd ID (Blood and Fire), 66th ID (Panther). and the 79th ID (Cross of Lorainne).
The camp had a large 2,800-bed hospital during the war (it afterward became a separation center.) Camp Blanding also housed German POWs.
Following WWII, the camp was transferred to the state of Florida’s control. It is now used as a training facility, mainly for Army Reserve and National Guard troops, although troops from all of the services have used the base.
There’s More to the Army in Florida Than Bases
The Army does have footprints in several other locations in Florida. The Army’s 7th Special Forces Group is located at Eglin Air Force Base after moving from Ft. Bragg, NC in 2011 as part of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round.
Most people will know of the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) which is headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida. The headquarters of roughly 2,500 personnel has troops from the Army and the other services. It is currently commanded by Army General Richard Clarke. SOCOM has over 70,000 troops assigned in all corners of the world.
The Army also has a presence in South Florida with the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) whose headquarters is located in Doral, Florida. The area is designated as U.S. Army Garrison-Miami and is on a 657,658 square foot — not acre — facility.
The headquarters of Special Operations Command South (SOCSOUTH) can also be found in Florida. Located at Homestead, Air Force Base in South Florida outside of Miami, SOCSOUTH has a sizable Army contingent.
SOCSOUTH was created in May of 1986 and was first located at Quarry Heights, Panama. In early 1990, after Operation Just Cause, it was moved to Corozal East, Panama, and then in June 1999, to Naval Station Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico. In April 2004, SOCSOUTH headquarters finally made it to the United States.
The Naval Air Station at Key West, Florida also houses C Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Warfare Training Group, U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center, and School. That company conducts the Special Forces Combat Diver Qualification Course (CDQC) popularly known as the Army’s Scuba School.
So, although when it comes to Army bases in Florida there’s only one, the Sunshine State is the professional home to many of our country’s soldiers.