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JBLM to celebrate Centennial Anniversary

The 9th Infantry Division (motorized) celebrates an organizational day in the 1980s. Ranger Newspaper photo

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Joint Base Lewis-McChord is the site of two important 100th anniversary celebrations.  With 10 decades of service and training under its belt, the joint base celebrates all who have lived and served on base with family-friendly events open to Department of Defense ID card holders and the general public. It's a chance to celebrate the vast history of the South Sound's largest organization.

Aug. 18

To honor its many moments of growth, it's set to host an entire afternoon of fun and events, including formations put together by Airmen and Soldiers in a patriotic showing.

Be there to kick off the event at 3 p.m. at Lewis Main, located at North 3rd and Pendleton at Watkins Field. This "Day in the Life" celebration will come with activities for the entire family and guests of all ages, including giveaways, vehicle displays, food (it's free), information about the base's current happenings and historic events, service, on-stage entertainment as well as a beer and wine tent for adults.

Officials said the anniversary event is meant for longstanding base members, as well as those new to the installation -- all are welcome for this centennial event.

Next comes additional activities, such as units joining on Watkins Field and a formal military ceremony. This program is open to the public and all persons are invited to attend.

Sept. 2

As the base celebrates its centennial, the Lewis Army Museum is also celebrating a grand re-opening with a special bus tour of the base.

The tour will offer an overview of the base, departing from the Lewis Army Museum, museum staff will guide attendees on a 60 to 90-minute tour around JBLM, highlighting historical buildings around the base that were part of Camp Lewis and Fort Lewis. The tour will end at the Lewis Army Museum, which re-opens on Aug. 31 with a new look.

If you are interested in participating on the tour, please RSVP to the following email address:

There will be four tours on Sept. 2 -- 10 a.m., noon, 2 and 4 p.m.

JBLM History

The joint base's history began in January 1917, three months before the United States joined World War I. At this time, Pierce County put roughly 70,000 acres of land together for a $2 million bond. This area near American Lake was organized with the intent of military use.

In April of that year, the land was surveyed as a military camp, with construction set to start that June. Throughout the next four months (until September), a massive overhaul was done on the future fort, which was named for the famous explorer of Lewis and Clark, Captain Meriwether Lewis. During construction, more than 1,700 buildings were erected, and more than 400 structures. This was planned to house and support close to 45,000 Soldiers.

The entire efforts was completed for roughly $7 million, in record time and on budget; it was the lowest funded military camp to-date.

By mid-August, officers were arriving to the base, effectively forming the Army's 91st Division. Then, by September, enlisted and drafted Soldiers began arriving for basic training, before eventually deploying to France during WWI.

In 1927, more land was bonded to create McChord Field, north of Fort Lewis. Originally Tacoma Airfield, the location was transferred to the federal government in 1938, and renamed in 1940. McChord Field then became an active training force for World War II.

The two locations ran in tandem with one another, albeit separately, for decades, until 2010. As a part of the 2005 effort to consolidate and save tax dollars, the two were joined to the collective Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

To learn more about this centennial event or how you can help celebrate with JBLM, head to their website at

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