Fort Bliss, Texas
The city of El Paso, Texas, originally known as El Paso del Norte (the Pass of the North), takes its name from the pass through the Franklin Mountains on the American side of the Rio Grande and the Sierra Madre on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande. The pass, located near a convenient ford, has been of tremendous geographical and strategic importance since the 1500s. Onate and his conquistadors crossed the Rio Grande at what was later to become El Paso del Norte in 1560 on their way to conquer the Pueblo Indian villages on the upper Rio Grande in what is today New Mexico. El Paso del Norte grew up on the south bank of the Rio Grande and served as an important stopover for supply caravans traveling from the interior of New Spain to Santa Fe for centuries.
El Paso del Norte was a cultural crossroads for the westward expansion of the United States. Some significant historical acknowledgement has to be made to the Buffalo Soldier, Texas Rangers and prominent businessmen and pioneers that helped to tame the wild wild west making this region the military stronghold it is today.
In November 1848 the War Department ordered the establishment of a post at El Paso del Norte. The first U.S. troops to arrive consisted of six rifle companies of the 3rd Infantry Regiment. These troops established a military post known simply as "The Post Opposite El Paso." After closing and relocating the post, the Army officially renamed the post Fort Bliss on March 8, 1854, in honor of Lt. Col. William Wallace Smith Bliss, an Army assistant adjutant general during the Mexican War (1846-1848).
The Army rebuilt and moved Fort Bliss several more times in the 1860s and 1870s. In the 1880s the arrival of the railroad contributed to the development of El Paso and the importance of Fort Bliss. By 1890 five American and two Mexican railroads converged at El Paso, making the city a vitally important commercial distribution center. In 1889, as part of a consolidation effort, the Army decided to make Fort Bliss the major fort in the region. With the help of an El Paso citizen's association that purchased and donated land, the Army relocated Fort Bliss to 1,266 acres on Lanoria (La Noria) Mesa, its present-day site.
The Seventh and Eight Cavalry Regiments were stationed at Fort Bliss in 1919 in response to unrest related to the Mexican Revolution (1910-1921). A part of the Seventh Cavalry cantonment remains northwest of Noel Field. The Eight Cavalry cantonment, long since demolished, was situated north of the parade ground. In 1921 the War Department incorporated the Seventh and Eight Cavalry Regiments into the newly formed First Cavalry Division at Fort Bliss. The formation of the First Cavalry Division made Fort Bliss the nation's premier cavalry installation. First Cavalry Division troops of Fort Bliss continued to use horse cavalry as the most effective means of patrolling the U.S. Mexican border through the 1930s.
1998 was a monumental year for Fort Bliss as the original orders to bring troops to the El Paso area were signed 150 years earlier on Nov. 7, 1848. Throughout the year, many events were held to celebrate Fort Bliss' Sesquicentennial.
Although history shows that Fort Bliss has had several names and has even been located in six different areas, it has always been the military post at El Paso. Each Fort Bliss site was commemorated, noteworthy events honored, and Soldiers, civilians, family members and visitors were invited to join the celebration of our Sesquicen-tennial.
On Dec. 27, 1846, Col. Alexander W. Doniphan and his 1st Missouri Mounted Volunteers rode to Paso del Norte (now Juarez) – the first U.S. Army troops to visit the area since Zebulon Pike came through 39 years before, under guard.
Although Doniphan and his men had just two days earlier battled with and defeated the crack Vera Cruz Dragoons of the Mexican Army at Brazitos, some 25 miles to the north, they were welcomed and treated royally by the Mexican populace.
They found the area to be rich in well-irrigated orchards and vineyards, and the people to be friendly and hospitable. Doniphan stayed only 42 days, pressing on to Chihuahua.
Meanwhile, the Mexican War had pro-ven to be a golden opportunity for marauding Apaches to raid American and Mexican ranches alike. U.S. troops occupying conquered territory found themselves chasing Indians all around the countryside. One such pursuing column, a detachment of the 1st Dragoons headed by Maj. Benjamin Beall, crossed the Hueco Mountains in November of 1847, and camped at Ponce de Leon's Ranch, on what is now the site of El Paso, across the river from old Paso del Norte. No effort was made to set up a permanent garrison, but it could be said that this was the beginning of Fort Bliss.
On Nov. 7, 1848, the War Department issued General Order No. 58, directing the establishment of a post at El Paso. But not until September 1849, did the troops arrive – six companies of the 3rd U.S. Infantry under command of Brevet Maj. Jefferson Van Horne. Companies I and K and a Howitzer Battery were assigned to San Elizario, and Companies A, B, C, E and the Regimental Staff came on to what is now “downtown El Paso.”
The post was established on the Coons Smith Ranch (current site of the Civic Center) and remained there until 1851, when it was abandoned. It was known as the “Post of El Paso” or, more properly, the post opposite Paso del Norte, Mexico (renamed Juarez in 1888).
At that time a chain of forts was being established between Santa Fe and San Antonio, and the El Paso garrison, save for a handful of men, was transferred to Fort Fillmore, about eight miles southeast of Las Cruces, N.M.
The Indians were glad to see them go. On reasonably good behavior while Van Horne's troops were on hand, they began raiding right up to the edge of Magoffins-ville once the Army moved out. For example, Apaches stole 40 mules from Magoffin's ranch, and the slow-moving infantry had no chance to overtake them.
Such raids, plus the fact that stage routes (the Butterfield Overland Stage, for instance) ran through the area, prompted reestablishment of the El Paso post.
The 8th Infantry moved into Magoffins-ville (near present Magoffin and Willow Streets) in December 1853, again establishing the Military Post of El Paso, a name by which the post was known until March 8, 1854, when it was renamed Fort Bliss in honor of William Wallace Smith Bliss, a veteran of the Florida Indian War and the Mexican War, later private secretary to President Zachary Taylor, and finally adjutant general of the Western Division.
His death in 1853 at the age of 38 cut short a highly promising career, but his name lives on in the fort at El Paso. Fort Bliss became a well-established post. It gained a reputation as a highly desirable station. Luxury it may have lacked, but there were dances and ranch parties and plenty of social life, for both officers and enlisted men.
The countryside was a bit different then. Grama grass grew in abundance on the mesa, and game abounded near the garrison. The Rio Grande was narrow, but full of water.
Grain was processed by nearby Hart's Mill. News – sometimes delayed as much as six weeks – was brought in by travelers, some of whom, according to their reports, were entertained at the fort with “delightful courtesies.” And so it went until the Civil War came – a war that saw many of Fort Bliss' officers go separate ways, with some, like James Longstreet and George Pickett, winning fame in the Confederate Army.
As “delightful” as Fort Bliss may have been in a social way, there was grim business at hand, too, during those years preceding the Civil War. Indians were on the move throughout the territory, and troops from Fort Bliss participated in many actions against them. In 1855, for example, they rendezvoused in the Guadalupe Mountains with the 1st Dragoons, for action against Mescalero Indians.
In 1856, a cavalry detachment was sent to San Elizario because of Indian thievery, and in 1857, infantry and cavalry participated in a campaign against the Gila Indians. (That same year Fort Bliss saw pass through El Paso the famed Army Camel Train, en route from Camp Verde, Texas, to Fort Tejon, Calif.)
Perhaps typical of action seen by Fort Bliss troops was the Dog Canyon fight in the Sacramento Mountains in February 1859. Indians had stolen cattle and mules from a ranch near San Elizario, and Lt. Henry M. Lazelle of the 8th Infantry took 30 men of the Mounted Rifles (today's 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment) in pursuit.
The trail led southeast, then north to Dog Canyon, some 12 miles south of Alamogordo. Part of the march was dry, the Indians having taken all the water. Cornered in the canyon, the Indians first denied the theft, then displayed hides to prove the animals were dead.
A fight ensued, with three troopers killed and five badly wounded, while Indians lost at least nine dead, the rest of their number escaping.
It would be pleasant to report that Fort Bliss played an important role in the Civil War, but such was not the case. On March 31, 1861, all Texas posts, including Fort Bliss, were surrendered to the Confederacy, by order of Maj. Gen. David E. Twiggs, who commanded the Department of Texas.
The post served as headquarters for Confederate campaigns which swept the Mesilla Valley, until the California Column – the First California (Union) Cavalry, under Col. J. H. Carleton – reached the area on Aug. 20, 1862, and drove the Confederate units out. But in retreat, the Confederates burned the fort's buildings and emptied the storehouses, so the Union forces made no attempt to garrison the post until the war had ended.
But the war did provide one interesting episode. Lt. Col. John Baylor, in charge of the Confederate troops at Fort Bliss, decided to move against the Union forces at Fort Fillmore in the Mesilla Valley. His plans were given away by a northern sympathizer who deserted his ranks, so Baylor seized the town of Mesilla instead.
Maj. Issac Lynde of the Union forces made a futile attack on Mesilla, was repelled, then decided to march his men to Fort Stanton, 154 miles northeast. Unfortunately, his men reportedly had filled their canteens with brandy instead of water and were somewhat dehydrated and unable to fight when Baylor caught up with them at San Augustin Pass, and soundly defeated the Union forces, capturing many Soldiers and much equipment.
omewhat dehydrated and unable to fight when Baylor caught up with them at San Augustin Pass, and soundly defeated the Union forces, capturing many Soldiers and much equipment.
Searching for a permanent site
With the Civil War ended, Fort Bliss was reoccupied by the U.S. Army on Oct. 16, 1865. Indians had been on the rampage while the troops were absent, and El Paso's population had shrunk to 23 Americans and about 150 Mexicans when the Army moved back in. The frontier community was wild and woolly. And Fort Bliss, now occupied by the 5th Infantry, was wet.
The post was on the banks of the Rio Grande, which, in those days, followed a different course than it does today.
After passing Hart's Mill it curved close to the base of Franklin Mountain, about three blocks south of what is now San Antonio Avenue. Full and swift, it gnawed at its banks, including that section where Fort Bliss was located.
By February of 1868, the river had turned the parade ground into a morass and was eating away at the foundation of the barracks. It was time for Fort Bliss to move.
So a new site of 300 acres was chosen about three miles east of the old post, and on the Stephenson Ranch. It was well back from the river, and near the present Concordia Cemetery.
The name Fort Bliss was dropped for a time and the name Camp Concordia was adopted. Two barracks were constructed, holding 200 men each, and six adobe quarters for officers were built. Things looked quite permanent.
Camp Concordia, with its new buildings and tree-lined parade ground, held that name until March 23, 1869, when orders were issued restoring the name to Fort Bliss. Along with other forts in West Texas, it kept the peace on the frontier so well that eventually Indians “went that-a-way” to the north. By 1876 things were so quiet in the El Paso area that troops at Fort Bliss were ordered north to where the action was.
The few remaining at the garrison – mostly camp followers, ailing Soldiers, and dependents – were sent southeastward to Fort Davis. In 1877, Fort Bliss was abandoned.
But security went with the troops. Business ground to a halt in El Paso. A rowdy element moved in from across the river and from all parts of the West. Gunfights, gambling and riotous living became the order of the day. Cattle rustling flourished to the point where the decent folks of the area needed protection more from those of their own race than from the Indians.
Similar circumstances existed across the Rio Grande in Paso del Norte. The culmination was the El Paso Salt War.
The situation grew bad enough that Congress called for an investigation. And finally, the Army was ordered back in. Elements of the 9th Cavalry and the 15th Infantry arrived in El Paso on Jan. 1, 1878. They found the old Concordia post in ruins, and rented quarters in town, south and east of the original site on Coons Ranch, and they used the Public Square (now San Jacinto Plaza) as a parade ground.
With Concordia useless, a board of officers selected a site for a new Fort Bliss and settled on land at the west edge of town on a bluff overlooking the Rio Grande. The property was bought Feb. 4, 1879, from heirs of Simeon Hart, and construction began in September. The new post, near the site of old Hart's Mill, was occupied the following year. Fort Bliss was back in business, at the fifth site in its history.
It was to be a permanent location, but alas, Congress and the railroads spoiled things. Those were days when the railroad magnates controlled the nation's legislators. What they asked for they got… and among other things they asked for a right of way through the Fort Bliss Military Reservation.
On Feb. 17, 1881, Congress gave its approval for the Rio Grande and El Paso Railroad Company (an affiliate of A.T. & S.F.) to lay tracks where they wished; the engineers chose to lay them across the parade grounds.
It was time for Fort Bliss to move again. In March of 1890, the Secretary of War was authorized to sell the property on the river and buy a new site, within 10 miles of the city limits, occupying not less than 1,000 acres, and to build there the necessary buildings and quarters.
La Noria Mesa is a rise of land overlooking the valley leading northeast from El Paso, and it was here that the present Fort Bliss was built in a wasteland of sand and cactus.
October 27, 1893, the post was occupied by a battalion of the 18th Infantry, led by Captain William H. McLaughlin. Col. Henry M. Lazelle was the 18th Infantry's commander, but he was on sick leave in Minnesota at the time; thus Capt. McLaughlin had the distinction of being the first commander actually present at the new site of Fort Bliss. New construction included an administrative building, mess hall, two barracks for enlisted men, a power plant on the east side of the main parade ground, 14 two-story quarters for officers, three two-story quarters for noncommissioned officers, supply buildings, a guardhouse and a corral on the west side.
Most of these buildings are still in use today. But the post was not always active. During the Spanish-American War in 1898, the infantry moved out, leaving the post for several months in the hands of one lieutenant, a chaplain, a doctor and five troopers of a transient cavalry unit.
Elements of other infantry and cavalry groups came and went, and the garrison at the turn of the century varied in the number of personnel from as little as seven to as much as a battalion of infantry.
Thereafter, however, the post settled down and began to grow. Much construction was undertaken during the early 1900s, including a large set of quarters for the commanding officer and considerable building of new roads and approaches. In 1911, a major ceremony at Fort Bliss marked the coming admission of New Mexico and Arizona to statehood.
In Mexico in 1910, Dr. Francisco I. Madero, Jr., led a rebellion that forced the resignation of President Porfirio Diaz. Juarez was one of the cities captured by Madero in 1911, after which he became the provisional president. Madero was assassinated in 1913, and General Victoriano Huerta named himself provisional president, but Venustiano Carranza refused to recognize him, and the U.S. supported Carranza.
One of Carranza's followers was a stocky military genius named Pancho Villa. But after Caranza seized power, Villa repudiated him and began a series of raids on cities and garrisons in northern Mexico. Then, on March 9, 1916, Villa and a horde of his bandits attacked the town of Columbus, N.M., at that time garrisoned by the 13th Cavalry. Both civilians and cavalrymen were slain. Many of Villa's followers were killed in the battle and the immediate pursuit that followed.
Gen. John J. Pershing, at Fort Bliss, was ordered to take punitive action against Villa. Six days after the raid, Pershing led his forces across the border, and for 11 months Villa hid from the U.S. troops. Villa never was caught. The expedition ended in February of 1917. Villa eventually was pardoned by the Mexican government, but assassinated on July 20, 1923, by some of his Mexican enemies, who ambushed him at Parral, Chihuahua.
In 1919, the 5th Cavalry was relieved by the 8th Cavalry at Fort Bliss, and the 11th and 13th Cavalry departed. Maj. Gen. Robert L. Howze, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for gallantry against the Sioux Indians, commanded the post from 1919 until 1925.
Howze then became instrumental in organizing the 1st Cavalry Division which was activated as a regular Army division on Sept.12, 1921. The 1st and 5th Cavalry of the 1st Cav. Bde. were stationed at Camp Marfa and Fort Clark.
The remainder of the division, Division Headquarters, Special Troops, 2nd Cav. Bde., 7th and 8th Cav., 82nd Field Artillery Bn., Horse, 8th Mounted Engineers, 1st Medical Squadron, 1st Armored Car Troop, 1st Signal Troops and the Division Pack Trains were stationed at Fort Bliss.
With the advent of United States' entry into the World War I, Fort Bliss was garrisoned by a Provisional Cavalry Division and became a training ground for men soon to take their place on the front lines.
It became famed not only for producing some of the Army's best trained and best disciplined units, but was also sometimes called the “training ground of generals.” Four chiefs of staff were produced by Fort Bliss – Hugh L. Scott, Peyton C. March, John J. Pershing and John Leonard Hines.
Much of Pershing's success in France probably could be attributed to the stern lessons he learned in organizing and directing the punitive expedition into Mexico in pursuit of Pancho Villa. When the war ended, Fort Bliss became the key center for border defense and control. New construction was ordered, including four airplane hangars on the original “Biggs Field,” on the main post. In 1926, the field was relocated and later grew into Biggs Air Force Base. It was named after local World War I flyer James “Buster” Biggs, who was killed in France.
Another major piece of construction during the post war years was William Beaumont General Hospital, one of the finest military hospitals in the Southwest.
Despite the presence of planes, artillery and engineers, Fort Bliss, those years immediately after World War I, was primarily a cavalry post. The horse still played an important role in the Army, but its time was becoming more and more limited.
There still was action along the border, and much of it centered around El Paso and neighboring Juarez. In 1919, Villa's forces assembled near the Juarez Race Track, and the U.S. Army was called on to drive them out of the area. The 82nd Field Artillery participated in the action, lobbing shells into the track's paddock and grandstand while the 24th Infantry advanced across the Santa Fe Street International Bridge, and the 5th and 7th Cavalry forded the Rio Grande south of Juarez.
As the major Mexican city on the border, Juarez was often the scene of fighting. As late as 1929, during a revolution led by Gen. Jose Escobar, the U.S. Cavalry units were deployed from El Paso to Douglas, Az., to protect the border. Mexican forces battled in the streets of Juarez, and bullets whizzed across the border to fall into El Paso until the Fort Bliss Commander, Gen. George Moseley, went to Juarez and persuaded the commander of the Federal Forces to surrender the city. Mexican Federals were interned at Fort Bliss for a month thereafter, until they could be safely sent back to Mexico.
And so it went, always maneuvers and sometimes action, for the men at Fort Bliss. In 1940, a new branch of service was brought to the old post. The Army's Anti-aircraft Training Center was established to train men in the handling of anti-aircraft guns – a preview of things to come. World War II had already begun in Europe and airpower was beginning to play an important role in the life of military men.
Fort Bliss had its beginning as an infantry post. Little by little, the infantry was superseded by cavalry. But there was no place in World War II for horsemen. In 1937, Fort Bliss troops engaged in Provisional Infantry Division exercises and later in Provisional Cavalry Division tests. When, in February 1943, the Fort Bliss division was alerted for overseas duty, horses and horse equipment were turned in. The day of the horse-mounted cavalry was ended.
While war raged in Europe and in the Pacific Theater of Operations, Fort Bliss continued to train and turn out troops; again as in World War I, to win reputations among the best trained and disciplined in the Army. Anti-aircraft artillery was in full command at the post, and Fort Bliss became the Army's Anti-aircraft Replace-ment Training Center in April of 1944.
The war also brought another change to Fort Bliss. In March of 1943, the first detachment of personnel of the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps (later known as the Women's Army Corps) arrived at El Paso.
In November 1945, the Anti-aircraft Replacement Training Center was inactivated but a new unit came into being – the 1st Anti-aircraft and Guided Missile Battalion, the first of its kind in the U.S. Army. Earlier that year a portentous event had taken place about 100 miles to the north – the world's first atomic explosion.
The old-time Fort Bliss cavalryman wouldn't believe his eyes if he saw Fort Bliss today. Weapons he never dreamed of leap skyward from the desert sands and streak through the heavens. The hand-to-hand combat of an earlier day, when Indians skulked through the mountains, has given way to a system of warfare that permits attack on an ocean far away. Even the cavalry has been unhorsed, and now rides tanks or flies helicopters into battle. Yet the arrival of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment in 1972 closed a 29-year period without cavalry, and provided a link to past history.
For the defense of the United States, great missiles have been deployed to strike down attacking forces miles from their target. The first U.S. air defense missile was conceived at Fort Bliss late in 1944, when air defense artillery officers drew up requirements for a “radio-controlled aerial torpedo.”
From the day airplanes came into prominence as a weapon of war, defense against them has rested on guns capable of hurling a projectile into their path. But the ability of guns to reach high enough speed to achieve real accuracy lagged behind the development of aircraft in speed and altitude capabilities.
The age of the missile has arrived, and it is at Fort Bliss and its ranges that men are trained in the use of this new weapon of war. The Nike Ajax missile system changed the concept of defense against air attack. It was geared to guide a missile to its target with power enough to go higher and faster than any plane.
Many technological advances have been made since the introduction of Nike Ajax into the Army's air defense inventory. The follow-on to Ajax was Nike Hercules, which was the strategic backbone of the now defunct Army Air Defense Command, a defensive organization whose defense stretched from the east to west coasts.
Since then, Army air defense has redirected its emphasis toward the defense of the combat division.
The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System, currently under development with two successful hits this year, is designed to intercept theater ballistic missiles beyond or just inside the atmosphere. THAAD will operate above Patriot and MEADS to provide a near-leakproof defense of vital military assets.
Patriot is currently the cornerstone weapon system of Army air defense. The Patriot, deployed in Europe, continues to be upgraded to include air defense from tactical ballistic missiles.
Together, these complementary systems provide commanders the freedom of action they need to accomplish their mission in the face of hostile air attack.
On Aug. 2, 1990, Iraq invaded and overran Kuwait. President Bush followed this act of aggression with orders for deployment of U.S. forces to the Persian Gulf on Aug. 7.
Elements of the 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade with the Patriot missile system deployed from Fort Bliss on Aug. 12 headed for the Gulf with the mission to defend ports and airfields. Following this initial phase of deployment the remainder of the 11th ADA Bde., with Stinger and Hawk missiles and other organic equipment, were deployed to the area.
By the end of October the entire 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment with its M1A1 Abrams tanks, Bradley Fighting vehicles, Blackhawk, Cobra and Kiowa helicopters, M155 Howitzers and other equipment had arrived in Saudi Arabia.
The 70th Ordnance Battalion, to include the 2-507th Medical Company (Air Ambulance) and the 978th Military Police Company, were also deployed throughout the months of August through October.
Every unit and organization at Fort Bliss, to include the 6th ADA Bde., Range Command and the 1st Support Bn. de-ployed military personnel to support the U.S. effort in the Persian Gulf.
Air attacks were launched by the U.S. and coalition forces on Jan. 17, 1991. On Jan. 18, air defense history was made when the 2nd Bn., 7th ADA of the 11th ADA Bde. launched the first Patriot missile in wartime. The missile intercepted and successfully brought down in flight a tactical ballistic missile, commonly known as the SCUD, another first.
During the attacks on Riyadh and Dhahran, the Patriot missile brought down 34 Scuds. In Israel, Patriot battalions sent from Germany with advisors from Fort Bliss units engaged and shot down 18 Scuds.
On Feb. 23 the United States and its allies launched a large-scale ground assault against Iraq. The 3rd Armored Cavalry, along with other U.S. and coalition forces, launched an attack against the elite Republican Guard in an operation called “hammer and anvil.” The mobility of the regiment helped to trap and crush the 150,000-man guard, considered to be the backbone of Saddam Hussein's power in the region.
Upon arrival in the Persian Gulf, the 70th Ordnance Bn. was dispersed throughout the region and played a major role in keeping the troops supplied with ammunition, fuel and other vital necessities.
The 2-507th Medical Co. provided air evacuation capabilities to transport ill and injured personnel to area hospitals.
Personnel assigned to the 978th MP Co. spent their third Christmas on foreign soil. The previous two years they were deployed to Central America. Their mission was to provide the needed security around established perimeters, protecting the lives of servicemembers and their equipment.
The 100-hour war ended with a cease fire on Feb. 27, and on March 8 the first contingent of Fort Bliss Soldiers from the 11th ADA Bde. returned home. Of the 12,000 Soldiers who deployed from Fort Bliss, including Guard and Reserve units, a few remained in Saudi Arabia until late 1991. Since April 1992, units continue rotating to the area for joint training.
Realignment came after the Gulf War. The 3rd Armored Cav. Regt. with nearly 6,000 Soldiers and their equipment left Fort Bliss, after 23 years, for a new home at Fort Carson, Colo. Several air defense brigades were added to the Fort Bliss community in 1996: the 108th Air Defense Artillery Brigade from Fort Polk, La., the 31st Air Defense Artillery Brigade from Fort Hood, Texas, and the 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade from Fort Lewis, Wash.
A new one-star command, the 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command, was activated to maintain command and control of all air defense assets in a theater of operations.
The 35th ADA Bde. and the 11th ADA Bde. fall under this command. With the upgrading of the Patriot System to PAC-3 and the successful testing of the THAAD System, air and missile defense plays a vital role in the nation's defense.
In the past year, Fort Bliss has continued to improve its stance as a power projection platform by beginning work on a new rail system for the deployment complex. At the same time, the post has maintained its commitment to a high quality of life for Soldiers and their families. A groundbreaking marked the beginning of construction on a brand new housing community near the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy at Biggs Army Airfield.
Fort Bliss has also played a significant role in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom since the nation's tragedy on Sept. 11. For the safety of all residents, employees and visitors, the installation has increased security, awareness and vigilance. Across the board, everyone in and around Fort Bliss is committed to safety and freedom.
Fort Bliss' growth has spanned a rich period of our nation's history. From the days when troopers at Fort Bliss guarded against attacks by warring Indians and desperadoes to today, when during any week on Fort Bliss ranges, sophisticated air defense weapons are fired during training which leads to preparedness of our air defense artillerymen worldwide.
But Fort Bliss' influence does not end with our countrymen.
Just as El Paso has blossomed into a major international city because of its location on the Rio Grande, with colorful Old Mexico across the river, Fort Bliss has also become an international community. At any one time, more than 300 allied students from any of 22 friendly nations train at the U.S. Army Air Defense Artillery School at Fort Bliss.
As one of the major installations in the United States under its parent headquarters, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command at Fort Monroe, Va., Fort Bliss continues to add to its colorful history as well as its military importance.