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What’s inside Camp Murray?

Grounds house a sterling museum and stellar beachfront

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The headquarters of the Washington National Guard, located at Camp Murray, is in our backyard. Yet, most of us don't know much about it. The Washington State Military Department has four major operational divisions - the Army National Guard, the Air National Guard, the Emergency Management Division, and State Services. All are housed on Camp Murray.

Though there are no residences on Camp Murray, close to 500 personnel work there full-time during the week. There is even a back gate that connects to Joint Base Lewis-McChord North Monday through Friday, so the additional services and facilities of the larger base are accessible to National Guard staff. Luckily, the recent addition of Vic's Coffee Shop has given the installation's staff a close and convenient place to grab caffeine or a snack.

Aside from the day in, day out business, the camp has more to offer to all military personnel and Department of Defense civilians with base access.

There are two armories, which are both just under 1,000 square feet, available to be rented for events ranging from theatrical debuts to sporting events to business conferences or family parties. The facilities are equipped with on-site kitchens and have ample parking.

Camp Murray has its own side of American Lake, which it shares with JBLM North. At the Camp Murray Beach you can rent a space to camp, whether in your RV or tent, for up to 14 days at a time. There are 30 spaces for RVs, many of which are waterfront, and the cost, which includes water and power hook-ups, is $14 per night. A tent camping site is even less at just $5.

The area is ideal for fishing and barbecuing and has a small boat launch. There is also a 3.6-mile trail that runs all around the installation and provides great views of the lake and all of the grounds. It has been repaved recently and is perfect for hiking and running. Alcohol is permitted inside of the camping vehicles, but open containers are not allowed around the lake and campsites. Also, any form of hunting is strictly prohibited.

The National Guard Association of Washington, which handles the campgrounds, stresses that campsite reservations are essential - especially as the summer weather arrives.

The Arsenal Museum, which is run by volunteers from the Washington National Guard State Historical Society, is ideal for anyone interested in history. The collection, which houses World War I and World War II artifacts such as postcards and combat patches, has been donated by past guardsmen and their families for decades. The chronological tour shows the uniforms from each era, which sometimes are recreated by staff, and includes authentic weaponry, diaries and personal photos.

The displays and knowledgeable tour guides also provide insight into defining moments in military history, such as the story behind the expression "Goodbye dear, see you in a year." It was coined in 1940 by guardsmen heading out for a yearlong deployment.

The museum is open on Wednesdays and the first Saturday of each month from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

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