Story by SGT Jeremy Dunkle on 08/26/2017Fort McClellan, located in Anniston, Alabama, opened its gates to celebrate the 100th Birthday of the post on August 26, 2017. The event combined historical exhibits with modern day displays, and hosted a variety of vendors and organizations from across the state of Alabama, highlighting the legacy and traditions of the installation's past, while telling the story of the present-day Army National Guard Fort McClellan Training Center and its partnership with the local community.
Colonel Larry B. Vaughn, Fort McClellan Garrison Commander, kicked off proceedings by introducing many former commanders and special guests in attendance, and presented them with commemorative coins to mark the occasion. Only 25 coins were given the distinct engravings.
The current Adjutant General of Alabama, Maj. Gen. Sheryl Gordon, spoke about her love for Fort McClellan and her many stops to the post, including basic training, Officer Candidate School, and two separate command positions on the installation. She was presented with Coin 001 from Vaughn, which is fitting for Gordon. Gordon has been many firsts in her career. She was the first female General Officer and the first female Maj. General in the Alabama National Guard, and on July 28, 2017 she assumed command as the first female Adjutant General in Alabama National Guard history.
The Mayor of Weaver, Alabama, Wayne Willis, was also in attendance and had an interesting take on the ties between the military and the local community. "My dad was a Command Sergeant Major, and so as a dependent I grew up living an Army life," Willis said. "When Dad said at zero-seven-hundred we were policing the neighborhood, we all knew exactly what that meant."
The Fort McClellan 100 Year Celebration was more than a few ceremonial tasks, however. It was a display in the partnership that the post has with the local community, with guests pouring in once the gates opened at 8:30 a.m. By noon, an estimated 1,000 guests had arrived to enjoy food vendors, tours, music, exhibits and displays, with a final count of over 2,000. The Historic Buckner District and many buildings from the old post that are not ordinarily open to the public were opened for the event and two bus tours.
The U.S. Army Materiel Command Band, from Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, performed during the opening ceremonies, including the Star-Spangled Banner which was highlighted when members of the Alabama Artillery Group cannon firing team set off their replica cannons at "bombs bursting in air." They were followed on the main stage by Sweet Southern Comfort, Abigail Douglas, and headlined by recording artist Tim McDonald.
The Anniston Public Library, the Alabama National Guard Heritage Preservation Management Program, and the Anniston Army Depot helped create a mini-museum inside the auditorium at the post headquarters building, with other items donated from the private collections of local author and historian Kimberly O'Dell, and the Odom Collection.
Free water was provided to guests of the event courtesy of the Fort McClellan MWR, and children from Boy Scout Troop 9, Cub Scout Pack 9, and Venture Crew 9 volunteered to help distribute it.
Guests were able to see equipment displays from the 20th Special Forces Group and the 666 Ordnance Company, as well as military vehicles from units across the state.