Fort Rucker, Alabama
Fort Rucker covers about 63,100 acres of southeast Alabama countryside in an area known as the Wiregrass, named for a wild grass peculiar to the region.
Fort Rucker became Army Aviation’s centerpiece when flight training was consolidated here in 1973. U.S. Air Force helicopter pilots have also trained here since 1971. Fort Rucker instructors teach U.S. and foreign aviators everything from initial rotary-wing courses to advanced courses in aviation safety.
Much of the main post is in Dale County, with the remaining government-owned and leased acreage in Coffee, Geneva and Houston counties. Most of the countryside is rolling and wooded. An abundance of lakes and streams and proximity to the Gulf of Mexico make this area a fisherman’s paradise.
To carry out its mission, Fort Rucker supports a daytime population of about 13,885, including about 5,800 people in uniform, 7,600 civilian and contract employees and 3,300 military Family member residents.
Fort Rucker is about 80 miles south of Montgomery, the Alabama state capital. It is just 20 miles northwest of the city of Dothan, home of the National Peanut Festival. Fort Rucker is surrounded by the communities of Enterprise, Daleville and Ozark that have long, warm and strong ties to the post.
The Residential Communities Initiative (RCI) has already brought much needed improvements to housing. New homes have increased the square footage from an average of 1,200 to 2,000, even providing office space, something the old homes did not have.
Since privatization began in April of 2006, Picerne Military Housing, has completed nearly 500 minor home renovations, nearly 80 major renovations and about 100 new homes. The very first neighborhood center in Allen Heights should be completed in 2009.
A new housing area, Silver Wings, adjacent to Silver Wings Golf Course (SWGC), broke ground in November 2008. The SWGC’s pro shop and Divots Restaurant and Grille also underwent a significant facelift during 2008, offering an upscale resort-like atmosphere.
During World War II, America conducted a manpower mobilization unprecedented in its history in terms of total numbers; the United States put into uniform more than 16 million men (one-sixth of the total male population) and also approximately 333,000 women. This mobilization called for the creation of new training camps and military bases, including Camp Rucker.
The original name of the post was Ozark Triangular Division Camp, but before the camp was officially opened on 1 May 1942, the War Department named it Camp Rucker. The post was named in honor of Colonel Edmund W. Rucker, a Civil War Confederate officer, who was given the honorary title of “General,” and who became an industrial leader in Birmingham after the war. In September 1942, 1,259 additional acres south of Daleville were acquired for the construction of an airfield to support the training camp. It was known as Ozark Army Airfield until January 1959, when the name was changed to Cairns Army Airfield.
The first troops to train at Camp Rucker were those of the 81st (Wildcat) Infantry Division; the 81st Division left Rucker for action in the Pacific Theater in March 1943. Three other infantry divisions received training at Camp Rucker during World War II -- the 35th, the 98th, and the 66th. The 66th (Panther) Division left for the European Theater in October 1944.
Camp Rucker was also used to train dozens of units of less than division size; these included tank, infantry replacement, and Women’s Army Corps units. During the latter part of World War II, several hundred German and a few Italian prisoners-of-war were housed in stockades near the railroad east of the warehouse area, on the southern edge of the post. Camp Rucker was inactive from March 1946 until August 1950, between WWII and the Korean conflict.
The principal Army unit operating at Rucker during the Korean conflict was the 47th Infantry Division, which trained replacement troops for combat in Korea. The post again became inactive in June 1954, after an armistice was signed.
Camp Rucker reopened in August of that year, however, when the Army Aviation School began moving to Camp Rucker from Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
On Feb. 1, 1955, the Army Aviation Center was officially established at Rucker. In October of that year, the post was given permanent status with the name change from Camp Rucker to Fort Rucker.
Before the mid 1950s, the Army Air Forces-U.S. Air Force had provided primary training for Army Aviation pilots and mechanics. In 1956, DOD gave the Army control over all of its own training. Gary and Wolters Air Force bases in Texas, where the Air Force had been conducting this training, were also transferred to the Army.
Lacking adequate facilities at Fort Rucker, Army Aviation continued primary fixed-wing training at Camp Gary until 1959 and primary rotary-wing training at Fort Wolters until 1973.
In 1956, the Army Aviation Center began assembling and testing weapons on helicopters. These tests, conducted while the Air Force still theoretically had exclusive responsibility for aerial fire support, led to the development of armament systems for Army helicopters.
The first armed helicopter company was activated in Okinawa in 1962. It was deployed to Thailand and then to Vietnam, where it flew escort for lift helicopters. The Department of Defense did not abolish mission restrictions on the Army’s rotary-wing aircraft, thereby technically authorizing the Army to arm helicopters until 1966.
The “Howze Board,” or “Tactical Mobility Requirements Board,” was established in 1962 to develop and test the concept of air mobility. After test exercises, war games, and concentrated study and analysis, the Howze Board recommended that the Army commit itself to organic air mobility -- later known as air assault. The Howze Board recommended the extensive use of helicopters to transport infantry troops, artillery, and supplies, as well as to provide local aerial fire support.
These recommendations were tested by the 11th Air Assault Division (Test) from 1963 to 1965. In 1965, the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) was organized and sent to Vietnam, where it repeatedly demonstrated the validity of the airmobile concept in actual combat.