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A turbulent decade for the post

Secretary of the Army Stanley R. Resco welcomes back from Vietnam members of the 9th Infantry Division July 10, 1969. The 9th processed back here in 1969, then returned permanently to Fort Lewis in 1972. U.S. Army photo

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Home wasn't much more than a stopover between maneuvers for many 4th Division soldiers during the early 1960s. Division troops were involved in joint exercises with the Navy and Air Force and spent their share of time spitting out sand in the Mojave and Yakima deserts.  In 1960 alone, division soldiers were involved in 16 major exercises away from the Evergreen Post.

Following the building of the Berlin Wall in June 1961, President Kennedy ordered a military buildup of Reserve units.  Here, the Red Arrow Division, the 32nd from Wisconsin, reported for duty, as did four smaller Guard units from Washington, Utah, South Dakota and California - 19,000 troops in all.  They stayed a year.

In 1965, the need for 235,000 more active Army soldiers than the overall troop population the year prior saw the 4th Division expand from five infantry battalions to eight.  The unit began receiving basic trainees direct to the unit in a program called "In-Unit Basic Training."  By March 1966, 7,000 of these trainees had graduated and remained in the ranks bringing division strength to 15,000.

That population boom, however, pales in comparison to the infantry training center and personnel center established here.  Beginning in 1966, at first, Fort Lewis handled only troops headed back and forth to Alaska and Korea, but as the conflict in Vietnam escalated, the center was soon processing 600,000 personnel bound to and from Asia each year.  When this center closed in 1972, roughly 2.3 million servicemembers processed through Fort Lewis, half of them to Vietnam.

In June 1966, a basic training center was also opened here with two brigades that grew to three, two months later.  This camp schooled 25,000 basic trainees in the first six months.  Two hundred drill sergeants were assigned, plus that same year, a drill sergeant school was opened, graduating 350 to 400 drill sergeants annually.  

Finally, during this period, Fort Lewis also opened an advanced infantry training school on North Fort, graduating 1,900 men a week.

Rumors that the 4th Division would leave for Vietnam were true - the 2nd Brigade was airlifted to Vietnam in August 1966.  A month later, the 4th's other two brigades were gone, too.  The 4th Division never returned to Fort Lewis.


Early 1968 brought the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) closer to the Evergreen Post.  Participating in a program called Reforger, the post accepted specific units which had stored their equipment and weapons in Europe.  Had a conflict arose in Europe, the plan was for those units to deploy quickly.  In total, 6,000 Reforger troops stayed here from the 212th Artillery Group and the 3rd Armor Cavalry.  That same year, Madigan received the 62nd Medical Group which is still here today as the 62nd Medical Brigade.  


In 1963, the 62nd Wing (Heavy) was responsible for the transport of nuclear weapons and equipment worldwide until early 1971.

In 1968, McChord AFB was relieved of its assignment from the renamed Aerospace Defense Command and was reassigned to Military Airlift Command (MAC) as one of three MAC bases in the western United States operating the C-141A Starlifter, which was piloted by the 8th Military Airlift Squadron.

(The U.S. Air Force contributed to this report)

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