Camp Blanding, one hour outside of Jacksonville in Clay County, is the military’s primary reservation and training base for the National Guard in Florida. Located on 73,000 acres on the shore of Kingsley Lake, it is one of the biggest military bases in the South.
“It’s a state-of-the-art, army-run, training facility. Members of state and federal agencies train there,” Justin Phillips, public affairs officer Florida National Guard, said. “A lot of law enforcement use the facilities from time to time.”
The base houses around 3,000 personnel and has recently became a location for units to receive their pre-mobilization training. The training consists of a 21-day period of preparation for mobilization in support of the global war on terror and involves weapons training and other special qualifications. Twenty-three units conducted their pre-mobilization training at Camp Blanding from 2007 to 2011 before being stationed overseas.
“Primarily, people are there for a limited amount of time,” Phillips said. “There are some units stationed there, but mostly personnel go through training and leave.”
The base also includes the Florida Air National Guard and has sent 200 airmen to Europe for the theater security package, the first National Guard unit to participate in it.
“It’s an extremely big deal for Jacksonville and Florida,” Phillips said. “Large-scale exercises in Europe are taking place.”
The 3,000 personnel on base are split into four battalions. Each has company dining facilities, orderly rooms, barracks, a supply building and a battalion headquarters building. There are three major training areas with 55,000 acres of varying landscape for different purposes. They include planted pine plantations, swamps, oak hammocks and desert-like terrain. It contains 50 live fire ranges capable of handling any type of weapon system.
Camp Blanding also houses the Camp Blanding Museum and Memorial, which includes monuments that honor nine Army Infantry divisions and the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment. The museum is in a restored WWII building and other outdoor exhibits honor the Korean War, Vietnam War, Cold War and Operation Desert Storm.
Currently it is home to the 3-20th Special Forces Group, the 211th Infantry Regiment, and the 2-111th Airfield Operations Battalion Aviation Regiment. In March, Major General Michael Calhoun took over command of the Florida National Guard during a ceremony at the base that also served as the retirement for Major General Emmett Titshaw Jr.