Fort Belvoir, VA (VIRGINIA)

 

Fort Belvoir houses the top organizations listed in the Department of Defense. Fort Belvoir is a world-renowned institution with the mission to provide logistical, intelligence and administrative support to various agencies for their many activities. It is located in Fairfax County, Virginia (the original location of the Belvoir Plantation).

The Fort Belvoir base mission and vision is parallel to the rest of the American Armys global vision. All their efforts are directed to the fulfillment the defense strategy of the country, which has a huge impact on the rest of the world.

Although an army base, Fort Belvoir still manages to be a beautiful sanctuary, with its heritage intact. Fort Belvoir still stands by its commitment to preserve the countrys beauty and maintain its standing as one of the countrys esteemed installations.To fully understand the status of Fort Belvoir, one must get a glimpse of at least a summary of its history.

Without William Fairfax, there would be no Fort Belvoir to speak of. Fairfax set foot in Virginia in the 1730s. Before that, he was a Collector of Customs for the Crown. Fairfax resided in Potomac with his wife, Deborah, from 1734 to 1741. He held the same position as the Collector of Customs. At the same time, he served as a land agent for the Sixth Lord Fairfax. Fairfax also put up a home in the area, the construction of which finished in 1741. He christened it Belvoir, which means beautiful to see in French.

The Fairfax family lived in a grandiose home, according to the historical documents regarding the Belvoir structure. The furnishings were very elegant and the place was frequented by esteemed individuals in the colony (e.g. George Washington and Thomas Sixth Lord Fairfax). The Fairfax family stayed in Belvoir for 30 years but when George William Fairfax (son of William Fairfax) left for England in 1773, the place was put up for rent. The mansion was destroyed by a fire in 10 years later.

The ownership of the Belvoir plantation was passed on from Ferdinand Fairfax (who died in 1820) to William Herbert of Alexandria, who used Belvoir as collateral for a loan. Eventually, the property was sold off at a public auction in 1838 because Herbert was unable to pay off his loans.

The start of the 20th century was also a new phase for Belvoir, as it the U.S. Army started to use Belvoir as an engineer training facility. He engineering students held activities in what was known as Camp Belvoir, such as rifle practice and constructing ponton bridges.

It was the start of the First World War in April 1917 when the first military construction was established in Virginia. It was then called Camp. A.A. Humphreys, named after Major General Andrew A. Humphreys. The severe conditions (cold temperature and snowfall) made it difficult to build camp facilities. Nonetheless, the facilities were put up in just a span of 11 months. Moreover, 5,000 soldiers and 6,000 civilians were surveyed and cleared. The farms in the area were transformed by the military. As the military acquired more land in the area, significant changes were also made. Transportation systems were improved and military schools became operational. The camp became a demobilization center by the end of the war in November 1918. However, the end of the war did not stop the camp from expanding and developing. The Engineer School in the Washington Barracks was transferred to Camp Humphreys, which eventually came to be known as the home of the Corps of Engineers. New batches of engineer officers were trained during the inter-war years. There were also forestry, mining, photography, and even cooking programs offered in the camp. In addition to that, there was a National Guard and Reserve training for aspiring officers. The camp aimed to produce well-rounded officers. There were facilitated social events to ensure that the aspiring officers would be associated only with worthy young women.

Fort Belvoirs design is very notable. The designer adopted a Georgian Colonial Revival style, as evidenced by the red bricks, symmetry, and pediments in the central pavilions. There were also infusions of the Spanish Colonial Revival style, as seen in the stucco walls and clay tile roofs. The architectural plans were created to showcase the local architectures rich history and to conform to the areas climate.

The landscape of Fort Belvoir is proof of the attempt of the Army to provide the best kind of life for its personnel. It was not only made to be functional; there were also efforts to beautify the installations. George B. Ford, then-planning adviser of the War Department in the 1920s, encouraged the architects to create a cozy environment with the use of the areas naturally beautiful landscape. Instead of clinging to the formal and rigid lines, he encouraged the use of soft and irregular lines.

Fort Belvoirs activities gained momentum again in the onset of the Second World War in Europe in 1939. It was a busy time for Fort Belvoir, since the country had a major involvement in the global conflict. Numerous draftees promoted the construction of the Engineer Replacement Training Center (ERTC). The training center gave out basic military engineering instruction to the draftees. Specialized courses in weaponry were also introduced because of the influx of weapons like anti-aircraft guns and flamethrowers. All in all, 147,000 engineer troops were trained during the Second World War.

One of the most significant military training contributions was born in Fort Belvoir. Brig. Gen. William Hoge invented the obstacle course to train the recruits and give them a feel of the real field situation. The trainees had to climb over walls, jump over barb wires, and crawl through ditches and pipes. It was replaced by a stricter regimen, courtesy of Major Lewis Prentiss. The obstacle course is still considered an effective training routine throughout the country.

Fort Belvoir became a demobilization facility again when the Second World War ended in 1945. It was time to bring back the normalcy of civilian life and move away from military life. The Engineer Replacement Training Center and the Engineer Officer Candidate School were taken out briefly in 1945. However, the conflict involving Korea prompted its reactivation in the 1950s and the Vietnam War that erupted in the 1960s.

There were some changes in Fort Belvoir. From mere training, Fort Belvoir facilities expanded to research and development. There were investments in experimentation as well. Fort Belvoir is active in experimentation and research.

Fort Belvoirs Engineer School eventually closed down in 1988 to relocate in Missouri. Even with the facility gone, Fort Belvoir is still fully functional because it operates like a city. It has its own land plan, building codes, ordinances, educational institutions and even recreational facilities.

As you can see, surveying the history is very important in understanding what makes Fort Belvoir a prestigious institution. More than that, it is an enduring one because it has adapted with times.

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