Fort Bliss

Fort Bliss

Fort Bliss was the home of the Air Defense Artillery Center of Excellence and was responsible for air defense artillery training of U.S. soldiers and various allied nation soldiers until the BRAC 2005 Commission recommended the Center's relocation to Fort Sill, OK. It also the home of seven Forces Command warfighting units - the 32d Army Air and Missile Defense Command, 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, 31st Air Defense Artillery Brigade, the 108th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, the 204th MI Battalion, and the 978th Military Police Company. Over its distinguished history, Fort Bliss has served as an infantry post, a cavalry post, and the premier Air Defense Center of Excellence. With 1.1 million acres, this post is bigger than the state of Rhode Island and can accommodate every weapon system in the Army. Excellent ranges and training area, coupled with the third longest runway in the nation, make Fort Bliss a premiere facility for training, mobilization and deploying combat forces.

The U.S. Army’s Air Defense and Artillery Center and Fort Bliss (USAADACENFB) is a U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) installation. It is the only U.S. Army traininginstallation in the continental U.S. capable of firing long-range Air Defense Artillery missiles, such as Patriot, HAWK and eventually the Theater High Altitude Air Defense (THAAD) System.

Fort Bliss, a U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) installation, is comprised of approximately 1.12 million acres of land in Texas and New Mexico. The Main Cantonment Area of Fort Bliss is located adjacent to El Paso, Texas. The installation also includes McGregor Range (which is the subject of this LEIS) and Doña Ana Range–North Training Areas in New Mexico, and the South Training Areas in Texas.

Fort Bliss is one of 16 installations under the management of TRADOC. It was the home of the U.S. Army Air Defense Artillery Center and Fort Bliss (USAADACENFB), the U.S. Army Air Defense Artillery (ADA) School, and over 30 partner units and organizations. It is the second largest Armypost, and is the only troop training installation in the U.S. capable of supporting long-range overland missile firings. Activities supported by Fort Bliss include troop and equipment training, as well as air defense and air-to-ground training, and ground maneuver training.

Fort Bliss is the largest installation in TRADOC (1.1 Million Acres), and the second largest in the Army (WSMR is the largest and is adjacent to Ft. Bliss). Ft. Bliss is the largest Maneuver Area in the Army, at 550 square miles, which is three times the size of the National Training Center. It provides the largest contiguous tract of virtually unrestricted airspace in the Continental United States (1500 Square Miles).

Over 90% of Fort Bliss training areas are located in New Mexico. Many of New Mexico NationalGuard (NMNG) units perform their two weeks of annual training at Fort Bliss, as well as weekend Field Training Exercises. In accordance with the National Total Force Policy, combined with a shrinking operations and training budget throughout DoD, it is only reasonable that Fort Bliss and the NMNG work in a spirit of cooperation to find cost effective ways to train. Therefore the NMNG and Fort Bliss established an Interagency Support Agreement (ISA) for ITAM support to NMNG when training on Fort Bliss or in the NMNG training areas. This ISA provides both Fort Bliss and NMNG a means to enhance training through use of the Training Management Support resources of Fort Bliss.

Fort Bliss is comprised of a complex of facilities, training areas, and ranges to support training and test activities of the Army and other organizations, including the Main Cantonment Area, and the Fort Bliss Training Complex: McGregor Range, Doña Ana Range–North Training Areas, and South Training Areas.

Currently, four air-defense brigades assigned to the U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM) are stationed at Fort Bliss. These units utilize McGregor Range to support firing of Patriot missiles, unit FTXs, and individual training at the Meyer Range Complex. The U.S. Army Combined Arms Support Battalion (USACASB) provides the management, control, maintenance, and operation of the Fort Bliss field training areas, including McGregor Range. The organization’s responsibilities also include scheduling and controlling the overlying airspace (Restricted Area R-5103), range camps, and associated facilities and equipment.

The ADA School educates and trains U.S. military students (active duty and reserve components), civilians, and students of selected allied forces, in air defense artillery and other subjects that support the air defense mission. The 6th ADA Brigade supports the ADA School through advanced individual training, and supports training of U.S. Army, Army National Guard, Army Reserves, Marine Corps, allies, and other students. The 6th ADA Brigade operates in a semi-classroom environment on McGregor Range with limited field exercises. The 6th ADA Brigade uses McGregor Range for training with Bradley Linebacker, Avenger, and man-portable Stinger missiles.

Ft. Bliss will continue to be a valuable training ground for U.S. and allied military units. Future use and development of the ranges will be driven by the mission of the installation. First and foremost, Ft. Bliss' mission underscores the necessity to be prepared for combat operations with trained and ready forces which can deploy rapidly to areas of crisis. This includes active duty (FORSCOM) ADA brigades stationed at Ft. Bliss and reserve components which will activate and mobilize during an emergency.

The Ft. Bliss Training Complex (FBTC) consist of three major areas -- McGregor Ranges, Dona Ana Ranges, and the North and South Training Areas. McGregor Ranges include McGregor Range, Meyer Small Arms Range, SHORAD Range, and Orogrande Range. Each of the ranges has an appropriate complement of range support facilities. Within the FBTC, there are three base camps (McGregor, Dona Ana, and Orogrande).

The training activities occurring on these ranges are extremely diverse and are dependent on the unique characteristics of the terrain of each area. The type of training varies from small unit ground troop maneuvers, to aerial training missions including parachute drops, helicopter and other aircraft operations, live artillery fire, combat vehicle maneuvering, and high altitude missile firings. Ft. Bliss supports the training requirements of a variety of U.S. and allied military units as well as other federal agencies.

The natural environmental setting and diversity of the Ft. Bliss Training Complex are unique among U.S. military installations. The combined ranges and training areas encompass more than 1 million acres, approximately 70 miles from north to south and approximately 30 miles from east to west. Elevations range from 3,900 feet near the South Training Area to 8,600 feet in the Organ Mountains. Within its boundaries are grazing, forest, and remote areas that support hunting and other forms of public outdoor recreation. These lands also contain sensitive ecosystems, and protected cultural and historic resources.

In 1849, after a year of reconnaissance, seven companies of the Third Infantry were ordered to the vital mountain pass, El Paso del Norte, which originally was a settlement divided by the Rio Grande. In time, the settlement became two separate cities, today's El Paso and Ciudad Juarez. The troops came 673 miles from San Antonio, through hostile Indian country. Three months later they had established a military post on the banks north of the Rio Grande in an area north of today's Union Depot. In 1854, the Army post was named Fort Bliss in honor of Lieutenant Colonel W. W. S. Bliss, a scholar who was an aide to General Zachary Taylor.

During the first few decades of its existence, Fort Bliss was moved five times, twice abandoned as excess to military needs, and once, during the Civil War, flew the Confederate flag. Permanent buildings, of which a few still stand, were constructed at the post in 1892. From 1902 on through World War I, Fort Bliss was one of the nation's foremost cavalry posts. In 1914, General John J. Pershing assumed command of Fort Bliss and its 60,000 troops. Early Signal Corps aircraft were stationed there and the First Cavalry Division made its headquarters there from 1921 until departing for duty in the South Pacific during World War II. Before the end of World War II, Fort Bliss became an antiaircraft artillery center and became fully mechanized.

The Mescalero Apache have lands within the Fort Bliss Military Reservation where there are four known sacred peaks and some additional sites presently kept secret by the people. The four known locations are Guadalupe Peak, Organ Mountain, Three Sisters and Oscura Peak. All indications are that these peaks are part of the ancient history of the people, places where ceremonies were revealed, and sites which require continual ceremonial caretaking. Great care must be taken in making contact with traditional Mescaleros. The tribe is split along conservative/progressive lines because of a desire by the tribal government to accept an atomic waste treatment project and this business is viewed as anathema by traditional people.

BRAC 2005

Secretary of Defense Recommendation: Realign Fort Bliss, TX, by relocating air defense artillery units to Fort Sill and relocating 1st Armored Division and various echelons above division units from Germany and Korea to Fort Bliss, TX. Realign Fort Sill by relocating an artillery (Fires) brigade to Fort Bliss. Realign Fort Hood, TX, by relocating maneuver battalions, a support battalion, and aviation units to Fort Bliss, TX. Realign Fort Riley, KS, by inactivating various units, activating a Brigade Combat Team (BCT) and relocating 1st Infantry Division units and various echelons above division units from Germany and Korea to Fort Riley, KS. Realign Fort Campbell, KY, by relocating an attack aviation battalion to Fort Riley, KS.

Additional Recommendations: Relocating the units listed in this recommendation to Fort Bliss, Fort Riley, and Fort Sill would take advantage of available infrastructure and training land. DoD estimated that Fort Bliss was capable of training modular formations, both mounted and dismounted, at home station with sufficient land and facilities to test, simulate, or fire all organic weapon systems. Relocating 1st Armored Division units and echelons above division (EAD) units to Fort Bliss would transform it from an institutional training installation into a major mounted maneuver training installation. This would avoid overcrowding and overuse at other installations by stationing them at one of the installations with the greatest capacity. It also would create a potential opportunity for enhanced Operational Testing due to the close proximity of Fort Bliss to White Sands Missile Range. Relocating the Artillery (Fires) Brigade to Fort Bliss would collocate the artillery with the maneuver units at Fort Bliss and would vacate space at Fort Sill for the ADA unit. The Army obtained approval to temporarily station a BCT at Fort Hood in 2005 and another BCT at Fort Bliss in 2006. This recommendation would validate the stationing of that BCT at Fort Bliss and would relocate two maneuver battalions, an armored reconnaissance squadron and a support battalion from Fort Hood to support the activation at Fort Bliss. Relocating these battalions would provide the assets necessary to accomplish the activation.

DoD's review of community infrastructure attributes revealed some issues regarding the ability of the communities to support forces, missions, and personnel. The City of El Paso, TX (Fort Bliss) and the City of Manhattan, KS (Fort Riley) would have to cooperate fully and quickly to assess requirements and implement them, especially in the areas of housing and schools. When moving activities from Fort Hood to Fort Bliss, DoD estimated that four attributes would improve (Housing, Medical Health, Safety, and Population Center) and one (Employment) would not be as robust. When moving activities from Fort Bliss to Fort Sill, DoD estimated that two attributes would improve (Cost of Living, and Employment) and six (Housing, Education, Medical Health, Safety Population Center and Utilities) would not be as robust.

Environmentally, An Air Conformity determination and New Source Review and permitting effort would be required at Fort Bliss. To preserve cultural and archeological resources, training restrictions might be imposed and increased operational delays and costs would be possible at Fort Bliss and tribal consultations might be required. Further analysis would be required to determine the extent of new noise impacts at Bliss. This recommendation would result in significant additional water demands for the Fort Bliss region and therefore the installation would likely have to purchase or develop new potable water sources if groundwater sources were not sufficient. Further analysis would be required to assess long-term regional water impacts.

In another recommendation, DoD would realign Fort Bliss, TX, by relocating the Air Defense Artillery (ADA) Center & School to Fort Sill, OK. This would consolidate the Air Defense Artillery Center & School with the Field Artillery Center & School at Fort Sill to establish a Net Fires Center. This recommendation would consolidate Net Fires training and doctrine development at a single location. The moves would advance the Maneuver Support Center (MANSCEN) model, currently in place at Ft. Leonard Wood, which consolidated the Military Police, Engineer, and Chemical Centers and Schools. This recommendation would improve the MANSCEN concept by consolidating functionally related Branch Centers & Schools, which would foster consistency, standardization, and training proficiency. It would also facilitate task force stabilization, by combining operational forces with institutional training. In addition, it would consolidate both ADA and Field Artillery skill level I courses at one location, which would allow the Army to reduce the total number of Military Occupational Skills training locations (reducing the TRADOC footprint). Assuming no economic recovery, this recommendation could result in a maximum potential reduction of 6,020 jobs (3,369 direct jobs and 2,651 indirect jobs) over the 2006-2011 period in the El Paso, TX, metropolitan economic area (1.9 percent).

In another recommendation, DoD would realign Ft. Huachuca, AZ, by relocating all mobilization processing functions to Ft Bliss, TX, designating it as Joint Pre-Deployment/Mobilization Site Bliss/Holloman. This recommendation was part of a larger recommendation to consolidate mobilization funcitons at several other sites. This recommendation would realign eight lower threshold mobilization sites to four existing large capacity sites and transforms them into Joint Pre-Deployment/ Mobilization Platforms. This action would be expected to have the long-term effect of creating pre- deployment/mobilization centers of excellence, leverage economies of scale, reduce costs, and improve service to mobilized service members. These joint platforms would not effect any of the services units that a have specific unit personnel/equipment requirements necessitating their mobilization from a specified installation. This recommendation specifically targeted four of the larger capacity mobilization centers located in higher density Reserve Component (RC) personnel areas. These platforms had the added military value of strategic location, Power Projection Platform (PPP) and deployment capabilities. The gaining bases all had an adjoining installation from another service(s), thereby gaining the opportunity to increase partnership and enhance existing joint service facilities and capabilities. These new joint regional predeployment/redeployment mobilization processing sites, Fort Dix, Fort Lewis, Fort Bliss and Fort Bragg had the capability to adequately prepare, train and deploy members from all services while reducing overall mobilization processing site manpower and facilities requirements. Numerous other intangible savings would be expected to result from transformation opportunities by consolidating all services’ mobilization operations and optimizing existing and future personnel requirements. Additional opportunities for savings would also be expecte from the establishment of a single space mobilization site capable of supporting pre-deployment/mobilization operations from centralized facilities and infrastructure.

Secretary of Defense Justification: This proposal ensures the Army has sufficient infrastructure, training land and ranges to meet the requirements to transform the Operational Army as identified in the Twenty Year Force Structure Plan. It also ensures the Army maintains adequate surge capacity. As part of the modular force transformation, the Army is activating 10 new combat arms brigades for a total of 43 active component brigade combat teams (BCTs). Including the results of the Integrated Global Presence and Basing Strategy (IGPBS), the number of BCTs stationed in the United States will rise from twenty-six to forty. Relocating the units listed in this recommendation to Fort Bliss, Fort Riley, and Fort Sill takes advantage of available infrastructure and training land. Fort Bliss and Fort Riley are installations capable of training modular formations, both mounted and dismounted, at home station with sufficient land and facilities to test, simulate, or fire all organic weapon systems. This recommendation enhances home station training and readiness of the units at all installations.

Relocating 1st Armored Division units and echelons above division (EAD) units to Fort Bliss will transform it from an institutional training installation into a major mounted maneuver training installation. This avoids overcrowding and overuse at other installations by stationing them at one of the installations with the greatest capacity. It also creates a potential opportunity for enhanced Operational Testing due to the close proximity of Fort Bliss to White Sands Missile Range.

Relocating an Air Defense Artillery (ADA) unit to Fort Sill supports the establishment of the Net Fires Center, combining the Artillery and ADA schools at Fort Sill and provides a force stabilization opportunity for soldiers in this unit. Relocating the Artillery (Fires) Brigade to Fort Bliss collocates the artillery with the maneuver units at Fort Bliss and vacates space at Fort Sill for the ADA unit.

Realigning Fort Riley by inactivating an Engineer Brigade Headquarters, two other engineer units, two maneuver battalions and other smaller units beginning in FY 06 directly supports the Army’s modular force transformation. It also facilitates activating a BCT in FY 06, and relocating 1st Infantry Division Headquarters, the Division Support Command Headquarters, Aviation Brigade units and other units returning from overseas to Fort Riley. The relocation of an attack aviation battalion from Fort Campbell to Fort Riley supports the formation of a multifunctional aviation brigade at Fort Riley.

The Army obtained approval to temporarily station a BCT at Fort Hood in 2005 and another BCT at Fort Bliss in 2006. This recommendation validates the stationing of that BCT at Fort Bliss and relocates two maneuver battalions, an armored reconnaissance squadron and a support battalion from Fort Hood to support the activation at Fort Bliss. Relocating these battalions will provide the assets necessary to accomplish the activation. Relocating aviation units from Fort Hood supports the activation of a multifunctional aviation brigade.

While this recommendation does not in BRAC terms save money, the costs are mitigated by the non-BRAC savings that will accrue to the Department from the closure or realignment of the overseas locations from which these units come. Those non-BRAC savings amount to $4,400M during the 6-year period and approximately $20,000M of 20-year net present value savings.

Community Concerns: Fort Bliss, TX was the only installation to express community issues to the Commission concerning the relocation of an operational air defense artillery (ADA) brigade to Fort Sill, OK. The Fort Bliss community argued relocating an operational ADA brigade to Fort Sill does not sufficiently consider the brigade’s strategic deployment and training requirements. The community also believed that the certified data undervalued the airspace capacity at Fort Bliss. They urged the Commission to retain the ADA missile brigade at Fort Bliss and reject this DoD recommendation.

Commission Findings: The Commission found that realignments associated with this recommendation were consistent with the DoD justification.

The Commission conducted an independent and in-depth review of the requirements for training and live-fire of these systems. Fort Sill has 42,000 maneuver acres compared with 992,000 maneuver acres at Fort Bliss. While Fort Sill ranges cannot support live fire, and they are not compatible with tank or mechanized infantry unit maneuver requirements, they are compatible with the movement and positioning of artillery units. Field artillery units have trained at Fort Sill successfully for years, and the air defense artillery brigade will be able to accomplish its maneuver training at Fort Sill as well. The Commission’s analysis confirmed that ADA units at Fort Sill will have to deploy to Fort Bliss to live-fire. The Avenger system requirement is to live-fire one missile per platoon every six months. Therefore, this will require additional simulation and deployments to Fort Bliss to meet the requirement. However, the Patriot system live-fire requirement is infrequent, with one missile launch per battery every other year, and only if missiles are available. This can be satisfied through simulation and deployments to Fort Bliss in conjunction with other joint exercises, to include Roving Sands.

The Commission found that relocating this brigade was not optimal, but it was suitable and did not rise to the level of a substantial deviation. It enabled the Net Fires center and concepts at Fort Sill through the collocation of an operational ADA brigade with an institutional ADA brigade, thus creating synergies and force stabilization opportunities between the units.

Commission Recommendations: The Commission found the Secretary’s recommendation consistent with the final selection criteria and force structure plan. Therefore, the Commission approved the recommendation of the Secretary.

Fort Bliss is a United States Army post in the U.S. states of New Mexico andTexas. With an area of about 1,700 square miles (4,400 km2), it is the Army's second-largest installation behind the adjacent White Sands Missile Range. It isFORSCOM's largest installation, and has the Army's largest Maneuver Area (992,000 maneuver acres for practicing military maneuvers) behind the National Training Center. Part of the fort in El Paso County, Texas, is a census-designated place (CDP); it had a population of 8,264 at the 2000 census. Fort Bliss also provides the largest contiguous tract (1,500 sq mi, 3,900 km2) of virtually unrestricted airspace in the Continental United States; the airspace is used for missile and artillery training and testing .[3]

Fort Bliss maintains and trains several U.S. Patriot Missile Battalions. Between 2008 and 2011, elements of the U.S. 1st Armored Division will arrive at Fort Bliss to replace Air Defense Artillery (ADA) Brigades moving to Fort Sill, transforming Fort Bliss to a Heavy Armor Training post.

The headquarters for the El Paso Intelligence Center, a federal tactical operational intelligence center, is hosted at Fort Bliss, located at Biggs Army Airfield; its DoDcounterpart, Joint Task Force North is also at Biggs Field. Biggs Field is designated a military power projection platform.[4]

Fort Bliss National Cemetery is also located on the post. The fort is named forMexican-American War soldier William Wallace Smith Bliss.




Early locations
Fort Bliss 100th Anniversary Issue of 1948
Replica of Old Fort Bliss' Magoffinsville site, dedicated on the 100th anniversary, 1948. Located next to the Parade Ground.
  • Magoffinsville: When the Smith's Ranch post was abandoned in 1854, a new post was established at Magoffinsville.[7] There it remained for the next 14 years, serving as a base for troops guarding the area against Apache attacks. Until 1861 most of these troops were units of the 8th Infantry.[8] At the outbreak of the American Civil Warthe Commander of the Department of Texas ordered the garrison tosurrender Fort Bliss to the Confederacy. Confederate forces held the post in 1861, and used the post as a platform to launch attacks into New Mexico and Arizona in an effort to force the Union garrisons still in these states to surrender. Initially the Confederate Army had success in their attempts to gain control of New Mexico, but following the Battle of Glorieta Pass Confederate soldiers were forced to retreat. The Confederate garrison abandoned Fort Bliss without a fight the next year when a Federal column of 2,350 men under the command of Colonel James H. Carlton advanced from California. The Californians maintained an irregular garrison at Fort Bliss until 1865 when 5th Infantry units arrived to reestablish the post.[5]
  • Camp Concordia (1868–1876):[6] After 1868 Rio Grande flooding seriously damaged the Magoffinsville post, Fort Bliss was moved to a site called Camp Concordia in March 1868. Camp Concordia's location was immediately south of what is now Interstate 10, across from Concordia Cemetery in El Paso. The Rio Grande was about a mile south of the camp at that time; water was hauled daily by mule team to the camp. In 1869 the old name of Fort Bliss was resumed. Water, heating, and sanitation facilities were at a minimum in the adobebuildings of the fort; records reveal that troops suffered severely from dysentery and malaria and that supplies arrived irregularly over theSanta Fe Trail by wagon train. The Concordia post was abandoned in December, 1876, and after troops left in January, El Paso was without a garrison for more than a year. By that time, the town and its environs on the north side of the river had swelled to a population of almost 800.
  • Hart's Mill (1878–1893): In 1878, Fort Bliss was established as a permanent post; the Buffalo Soldiers of the Ninth Cavalry were sent to Fort Bliss to prevent further trouble over the salt beds and the usage of Rio Grande water for irrigation purposes. Prior to this date, the government had had a policy of simply leasing property for its military installations. Now, however, a tract of 135 acres (0.55 km2) was purchased at Hart's Mill on the river's edge in the Pass, near what is today the UTEP. With a $40,000 appropriation, a building program was begun. The first railroad arrived in 1881, and tracks were laid across the military reservation, thereby solving the supply problems for the fort and the rapidly-growing town of El Paso. By 1890, Hart's Mill had outlived its usefulness, and Congress appropriated $150,000 for construction of a military installation on the mesa approximately 5 miles (8.0 km) east of El Paso's 1890 city limits. Although no money was appropriated for the land, $8,250 was easily raised by the local residents, who realized the economic benefit to the area.[9]
Ruhlen's 1893 buildings (currently offices) still stand at Fort Bliss, as do the officer's quarters.
  • Present site (1893-today): The present site of Fort Bliss on La Noria mesa,[10] was laid out by Captain John Ruhlen from 1891 to 1892 and was first occupied by four companies of the 18th Infantry in October 1893.[11] New construction for the additional Brigade Combat Teams of theFirst Armored Division is currently underway in East Fort Bliss, which lies inside the northeast corner of Loop 375.

[edit]The Pershing Expedition

In January 1914, John J. Pershing arrived[12] in El Paso to take command of the Army 8th Brigadethat was stationed at Fort Bliss. At the time, the Mexican Revolution was underway in Mexico, and the 8th Brigade had been assigned the task of securing the U.S.-Mexico border. In March 1915, under the command of General Frederick Funston, Pershing led the 8th Brigade on the failed 1916–1917 Punitive Expedition into Mexico in search of the outlaw Pancho Villa.[13]

Parade Ground of Fort Bliss. Franklin Mountains in the background.

[edit]World War I and World War II

As American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) commander (1917–1918), John J. Pershing transferred to Fort Bliss and was responsible for the organization, training, and supply of an inexperienced force that eventually grew from 27,000 men to over 2,000,000—the National Army of World War I.

From December 10, 1917-May 12, 1918, the wartime 15th Cavalry Division existed at Fort Bliss. Similarly, the Headquarters, 2nd Cavalry Brigade was initially activated at Fort Bliss on December 10, 1917 and then deactivated in July 1919, but then reactivated at Fort Bliss on August 31, 1920. Predominantly a cavalry post since 1912, Fort Bliss acquired three light armored cars, eight medium armored cars, two motorcycles, and two trucks on November 8, 1928.[5]

During World War II, Fort Bliss focused on training anti-aircraft artillery battalions (AAA). In September 1940 the 6 ADA COA.gifCoast Artillery's anti-aircraft training center was established, and in 1941 the 1st Tow Target Squadron arrived to fly target drones[5] (the 6th, 19th, & 27th Tow Target Squadrons were at the nearby Biggs Field). On August 3, 1944, the Anti-Aircraft Artillery School was ordered from Camp Davis to Fort Bliss to make the training of anti-aircraft gunners easier, and they became the dominant force at Fort Bliss following the departure of the U.S. 1st Cavalry Division.[5]

Group of 104 Operation Papercliprocket scientists in 1946 at Fort Bliss (35 were at White Sands Proving Grounds)[14]

By February 1946, over 100 Operation Paperclip scientists had arrived to develop rockets and were attached to the Office of the Chief of Ordnance Corps, Research and Development Service, Suboffice (Rocket), headed by Major James P. Hamill.[15] Although the scientists were initially “pretty much kept on ice” (resulting in the nickname "Operation Icebox"),[15] they were subsequently divided into a research group and a group who assisted with V-2 test launches at White Sands Proving Grounds.[16] German families began arriving in December 1946,[15] and by the spring of 1948, the number of German rocket specialists (nicknamed "Prisoners of Peace") in the US was 127.[15] Fort Bliss rocket launches included firings of the Private missile at the Hueco Range in April 1945.[17] In 1953, funding cuts caused the cancellation of work on the Hermes B2 ramjet work that had begun at Fort Bliss.[18]

In late 1953 after troops had been trained at the Ft Bliss Guided Missile School, field-firing operations of the MGM-5 Corporal were underway at Red Canyon Range Camp, WSPG.[19]:263 In April 1950, the 1st Guided Missile Group named the Republic-Ford JB-2 the ARMY LOON.[19]:249

[edit]The Cold War

Fort Bliss trained thousands of U.S. Soldiers during the Cold War. As the United States gradually came to master the art of building and operating missiles, Fort Bliss and White Sands Missile Range became more and more important to the country, and were expanded accordingly. On 1 July 1957 the U.S. Army Air Defense Center was established at Fort Bliss. Located at this Center, in addition to Center Headquarters, are the U.S. Army Air Defense School; Air Defense; the 6th Artillery Group (Air Defense); the 61st Ordnance Group; and other supporting elements.[20][21] In 1957 Fort Bliss and its anti-aircraft personnel began using Nike AjaxNike HerculesHawkSprint, Chaparrel, and Redeye missiles.[5][22] Fort Bliss took on the important role of providing a large area for troops to conduct live fire exercises with the missiles.

Because of the large number of Army personnel enrolled in the air defense school, Fort Bliss saw two large rounds of construction in 1954 and 1958. The former was aimed at creating more barracks facilities, while the latter was aimed at building new classrooms, materials labs, a radar park, and a missile laboratory.[5] Between 1953 and 1957 the Army also expanded McGregor Range in an effort to accommodate live fire exercises of the new missile systems.[5] Throughout the Cold War Fort Bliss remained a premier site for testing anti-aircraft equipment.

Fort Bliss was used as the Desert Stage of the Ranger School training course to prepare Ranger School graduates for operations in the deserts of the Middle East. From 1983 to 1987, Fort Bliss was home to the Ranger School's newly formed 4th (Desert Ranger) Training Company. This unit was later expanded in 1987 to form the newly-created Ranger Training Brigade's short-lived 7th Ranger Training Battalion, which was then transferred to the Dugway Proving Grounds in Utah. The deserts of Utah proved to be unsuitable so the 7th Ranger Training Battalion was returned to Fort Bliss from 1991 until the Ranger School's Desert Phase was discontinued in 1995.

While the United States Army Air Defense Artillery School develops doctrine and tactics, training current and future soldiers has always been its core mission. Until 1990 the post was used for Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training (AIT), under the 1/56 ADA Regiment, part of 6th ADA. Before 1989, 1/56 had three basic training companies and two AIT batteries. After 1990, 1/56 dropped basic training, that mission assumed by Fort Sill. The unit now had four enlisted batteries for enlisted AIT, one battery for the Officer's Basic Course and Captain's Career Course (added in 2004) and one company that trained army truck drivers (MOS 88M). As of 2005, the AIT portion of the school hasundergone significant changes.

A U.S. Patriot Missile fires from its launch canister.

[edit]Base Realignment and Closure

In 1995, the Department of Defense recommended that the 3CavRegtDUI.PNGU.S. 3d Armored Cavalry Regimentbe relocated to Fort CarsonColorado. Efforts to consolidate units from another post with those units that remained at Fort Bliss were overruled by the Base Realignment and Closing Commission, leaving Fort Bliss without any armored vehicles. Units operating the US Army’s MIM-104 Patriot Missile Defense System relocated to Fort Bliss during the 1990s. The Patriot system played an important role in the Persian Gulf War/Operation Desert Storm in 1991. In commemoration, the US 54 expressway in northeast El Paso was designated the Patriot Freeway.

[edit]The War on Terror

After the September 11, 2001 attacks, Fort Bliss provided ADA Battalions for US and NATO use in Afghanistan and Iraq, and has served as one of the major deployment centers for troops bound forIraq and Afghanistan. This mission is accomplished via nearby Biggs Army Airfield, which is included in the installation's supporting areas. Following the U.S. Liberation of Afghanistan in 2001 Fort Bliss began training Afghan security forces at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy at Fort Bliss, with the hope that these newly trained soldiers would eventually be able to take control of their own national security.

[edit]Base Realignment and Closure, 2005

In 2005, the Pentagon recommended transforming Fort Bliss into a heavy armor training post, to include approximately 11,500 new troops from the U.S. 1st Armored Division currently stationed in Germany, as well as units from Fort Sill and Fort Hood.[23] An estimated 15,918 military jobs and 384 civilian jobs would be transferred to Fort Bliss, bringing the total number of troops stationed at Fort Bliss under this alignment to a total of 35,000 by 2011. Officials from Fort Bliss and the City of El Paso were thrilled with the decision; the general mood of the city government was perfectly captured by the May 14 edition of the El Paso Times, which boldly proclaimed "BLISS WINS BIG".[24]

According to Senator Eliot Shapleigh, the BRAC commission considered three primary factors to make its decision: The military value of Fort Bliss, the potential for other branches of the armed service to use a post as large as Fort Bliss, and the lack of urban encroachment around Fort Bliss that would otherwise hinder its growth.[23] The arrival of the 11,500 troops from the 1st Armored Division is also expected to create some 20,196 direct and indirect military and civilian jobs in El Paso. According to the Department of Defense, this is the largest net gain in the United States tied to the Base Realignment and Closure recommendations. Of the 20,196 new jobs expected to come to El Paso as a result of Bliss’ realignment 9,000 would be indirect civilian jobs created by the influx of soldiers to the "Sun City". When the BRAC commission recommendations were released Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison’s spokesman reported that El Paso was the only area that came out with a major gain of forces.[25]

The news that El Paso had been selected to receive major elements of the 1st Armored Division was met with joy, but at the same time many expressed surprise at the panel's recommendation to transfer the Air Defense Artillery School, 6th ADA Brigade, and its accompanying equipment (including the MIM-104 Patriot Missile Anti-Aircraft/Anti Missile defense system) to Fort Sill.[24] On August 25 officials representing Fort Bliss went before the BRAC Commission to plead their case for maintaining the ADA school and its accompanying equipment at Fort Bliss, citing among other thing the size of Fort Bliss and the history of the ADA school in the region.[3] The BRAC Commission ultimately ruled against Fort Bliss,[26] and the roughly 4,500 affected soldiers have begun their transfer to Fort Sill. The entire transfer of soldiers to and from Fort Bliss must be completed no later than 15 September 2011.[3]

Building 500 area of Fort Bliss today.


Among Fort Bliss' missions:

  • Provide anti-aircraft and missile defense capabilities.
  • Conduct live fire exercises of nearly every type of Army weapon.
  • Host joint military exercises with other U.S. and foreign units,
  • Be home to many maintenance crews and supply units.
  • Be one of the Army's premier bases for test-driving tanks and other equipment.
  • House thousands of military vehicles, including all the equipment needed to set up Patriot missile sites.
  • Hosted the USAADCEN Air Defense Artillery Center from 1942-2010. USAADCEN has almost completed its transfer to Fort Sill. Concomitantly, the German Air Force Air Defense school is in the process of transferring its its last cohort to Fort Sill.
  • Monitor missile launches conducted by White Sands Missile Range, located 70 miles (110 km) to the north, in New Mexico.
  • Host Exercise Roving Sands, a multinational air and missile defense exercise that tests the interoperability of joint forces air component command (JFACC), joint missile defense command and air area defense command.[27] Since its inception in 1989, Roving Sands has been an annual exercise, but is held as a full-scale event every other year due in large part to budget constraints and real-world missions.[27] Roving Sands typically takes place in June after the March, April, and May "Windy Season".[citation needed]

Most of Fort Bliss lies in New Mexico, but the main facilities are next to the city limits of El Paso, Texas. According to the city zoning map, the post officially resides in Central El Paso.[28] On post, railroads move vehicles and some personnel.

On June 25, 2009, authority over the post was shifted from TRADOC to FORSCOM.[29]

Separate from the main post are the William Beaumont Army Medical Center and a Veterans Administration center at the eastern base of the Franklin Mountains. Training missions are supported by the McGregor Range Complex, located some 25 miles (40 km) to the northeast, in the New Mexico desert. All of these supporting missions serve the military and retired-military population here, including having served General Omar N. Bradley in his last days.

The installation is also close to the El Paso Airport (with easy access from the post via Robert E. Lee Road), Highway 54, and Interstate 10. There is a replica of the original Fort Bliss on the post simulating the adobe style of construction.[31] Other items of interest include the Buffalo Soldier memorial statue on Robert E. Lee Road, and a missile museum on Pleasanton Road.

The walls of the old Fort Bliss Officers Club contains adobe bricks that are more than a century old, but now hosts a Family Readiness Group.

[edit]Local impact of Fort Bliss

Fort Bliss soldier running up McKelligon Canyon for his daily PT.

As of 2005, the base contributed about $1.7 billion[25] to the economy of Central El Paso andNortheast El Paso, and many businesses in the region serve the post's troops. When troops are transferred to other posts or called up for service overseas, the economic fallout can be felt throughout the city. Following the departure of the 3rd Cavalry Regiment in 1995, many businesses in the Central and Northeast parts of the city closed or moved.[citation needed]Conversely, the expected influx of troops from the 1st Armored Division has led to a housing and schools construction boom in the Central and Northeast areas of El Paso.[specify]

Fort Bliss has also assisted El Paso during local disasters. In 1897, and again in 1925, the fort provided food and housing to those displaced by flood waters.[5] Following the 2006 flooding Fort Bliss dispatched troops to the flood-affected areas to help with cleanup, to monitor and secure the Rio Grande, and to tow vehicles stuck in standing water to safety.[citation needed]

As of July 2010, electric power consumption at Fort Bliss had been reduced by three megawatts as the base continues to work towards becoming a "net zero" energy installation.[32]

A joint study by Fort Bliss and El Paso-area city governments found that desalination was a viable method for increasing El Paso's water supply by 25%.[33] The Kay Bailey Hutchison Desalination Plant, on Montana Avenue, is located on Fort Bliss property, and desalinates the groundwater of the Hueco Bolson for use by El Paso and Fort Bliss. This reverse-osmosis plant protects the fresh groundwater supplies from invasion by more brackish water.[34] This plant is currently the largest non-seawater desalination plant in the world.


Location of the CDP in El Paso County.

The Fort Bliss CDP is located at 31°48′7″N 106°25′29″W (31.801847, -106.424608).[35]According to the United States Census Bureau, the CDP has a total area of 6.2 square miles (16.0 km²), all of it land. In terms of its United States physiographic region, it is a southern part of the Basin and Range Province.


As of the census[36] of 2000, there were 8,264 people, 1,527 households, and 1,444 families residing on the post. The population density was 1,340.1 people per square mile (517.1/km²). There were 2,309 housing units at an average density of 374.4/sq mi (144.5/km²). The racial makeup of the post was 58.11% White, 25.11% African American, 2.35% Asian, 1.33% Native American, 0.69% Pacific Islander, 8.93% from other races, and 3.48% from two or more races.Hispanic or Latino of any race were 19.31% of the population.

There were 1,527 households out of which 80.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 84.5% were married couples living together, 8.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 5.4% were non-families. 4.9% of all households were made up of individuals and none had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.54 and the average family size was 3.62.

On the post the population was spread out with 29.3% under the age of 18, 33.6% from 18 to 24, 34.7% from 25 to 44, 2.3% from 45 to 64, and 0.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 22 years. For every 100 females there were 167.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 204.8 males.

The median income for a household on the post was $35,970, and the median income for a family was $34,679. Males had a median income of $19,920 versus $17,227 for females. The per capita income for the post was $13,201. About 9.5% of families and 11.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 12.5% of those under age 18 and none of those age 65 or over.

[edit]References In Pop Culture

Fort Bliss is mentioned in Anna Nalick's 2005 single "Breathe (2 AM)". [37] The desert scenes in the Pauly Shore film In the Army Now were filmed around Fort Bliss. The secret ECOMCON of Seven Days in May was located outside of Fort Bliss.

[edit]See also