Fort Bliss, a US Army post in the state of New Mexico and Texas, encompasses an area of about 1,700 square miles. As the second largest military installation of the US Army, a part of Fort Bliss also serves as a census designated place with a population of over 8,200. It also has the biggest contiguous tract of unrestricted airspace in United States, which is mainly used for artillery training and missile testing. The fort was named after William Wallace Smith Bliss, a Mexican-American war soldier.
History of Fort Bliss
Fort Bliss was first established as the site of Smith’s Ranch, along with Fort Selden and other Southwest outposts. Due to constant Indian raids, garrisons were frequently removed to meet shifting threats. Two military troops that were stationed in El Paso were then moved 40 mile north of Fort Fillmore. For over two years, no garrison was built opposite El Paso del Norte. When the troops abandoned Smith’s Ranch post in 1854, a new post was also established in Magoffinsville. It remained in service for over 14 years and served as a base for military troops protecting the area against Apache attacks.
During the outbreak of the American Civil War, the Department of Texas ordered the garrison to surrender Fort Bliss to the Confederacy. Since then, confederate forces held the post and used it as a platform for launching attacks into Arizona and New Mexico. The Confederate Army succeeded in their attempt to gain control of New Mexico but its soldiers were forced to retreat after the Battle of Glorieta Pass. A year after the war, the Confederate garrison decided to abandon Fort Bliss without putting up a fight when 2,350 men under the command of Col. James Carlton arrived from California.
An irregular garrison was maintained at Fort Bliss until the 5th Infantry units arrived to re-establish the military post. In 1868, the Rio Grande flooding caused serious damages to the Magoffinsville post so Fort Bliss was moved to Camp Concordia. Its new location is south to what is now known as Interstate 10, which I across from El Paso’s Concordia Cemetery. In 1869, the old name of Fort Bliss was used once more. Sanitation, water, and heating facilities were at a minimum in the fort, with records revealing that troops suffered from severe cases of malaria and dysentery. The troops abandoned the Concordia post in December of 1876.
In 1878, Fort Bliss was finally established as a permanent military post. The Ninth Calvary was sent to Fort Bliss in order to prevent further trouble that salt beds may cause. Prior to this day, the government also implemented a policy that allowed the leasing of properties in military installations. When the government purchased 135 acres of Hart’s Mill, it allocated $140,000 for a building program. The first railroad was constructed in 1881, with its tracks laid across the military reservation. This solved the supply problems of the Fort Bliss and the growing town of El Paso. When Hart’s Mill outlived its usefulness, a new military installation was constructed.
Today, the present location of Fort Bliss is on La Noria mesa. Captain John Ruhlen picked this location and laid out the construction of the camp from 1891 to 1892. Four companies of the 18th Infantry occupied the new military camp in October of 1893. For the additional First Armored Division and Brigade Combat Teams, a new construction project was developed. It is currently underway in East Fort Bliss, which lies inside the Northeast region of Loop 375. In 1995, a BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) was implemented so the units residing in Fort Bliss were forced to leave the base without any armored vehicle.
Fort Bliss vision and mission
As with other US Army post, Fort Bliss also has its own vision and mission. Among its missions include the need to provide the US Army with missile and anti-aircraft defense capabilities. It also aims to conduct live fire exercises for nearly every type of Army weapon available. Fort Bliss will also host joint military exercises with foreign and US units, while serving as a home to many supply units and maintenance crews at the same time. Its main goal is to become the US Army’s premier base for test-driving tanks and other important military equipment. For this reason, Fort Bliss continues to house thousands of military vehicles.
Fort Bliss also monitors many of the missile launches conducted by the White Sands Missile Range, which is seventy miles north of New Mexico. The McGregor Range Complex, which is 25 miles away from the main post, supports the training missions. In line with its vision and mission, Fort Bliss hosted the USAADCEN Air Defense Artillery Center from 1942 to 2010. Upon its completion, its transfer to Fort Sill is currently being planned. Once Fort Bliss has achieved its goals, it is expected to become a premiere military base of the US Army.
Fort Bliss facts and figures
Located in Central El Paso, Texas, Fort Bliss serves as the home to the 1st Armored Division. It encompasses over 1.12 million acres of land in New Mexico and Texas. Its main Cantonment Area is located adjacent to El Paso. The BRAC Commission commanded the relocation of air defense artillery units and the 1st Armored Division from Korea and Germany to Fort Bliss. Surprisingly, the cost of living in Fort Bliss is lower than the average for all of the major cities in the United States. Its population comprises of 38,589 active duty soldiers, 39,422 family members, 13,079 civilians, and 1,253 reservists.
Fort Bliss has three child development centers that offer hourly and weekly childcare for kindergarten students. It has one high school and four elementary schools run by the El Paso Independent School District. People who are living off-post should also be aware that eight other school districts are located in the area of El Paso. Fort Bliss also has a Youthplex, which houses the Middle School and Teen programs. It has a foosball, game room with billiards, a music room, a computer laboratory, and a lounge with a big flat screen television. Overall, Fort Bliss seems to have all the amenities that soldiers, retirees, military families will ever need.