Vancouver military era comes to end

U.S. Army ends its presence in city’s downtown after 162 years, moves to new reserve center in east Clark County

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter




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1848: Secretary of war sets aside 10 square miles for Fort Vancouver military reservation; soldiers arrive.

1849: Capt. Ulysses S. Grant arrives as regimental quartermaster.

1853: Post reduced to 1 square mile between what is now Fourth Plain Boulevard and Columbia River.

1860s: Troops fight in the Civil War.

1879: Name changed to Vancouver Barracks.

1906: Construction of Barnes Hospital, forerunner of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and Camp Hatheway, on current site of Clark College.

1917: World War I brings in 30,000 soldiers for training, deployment.

1945: 30,000 military personnel come and go from barracks, a hub for soldiers returning from World War II.

1986: Lt. Col. Royce Pollard takes command of barracks.

2000: Last four active-duty Army officers and six civilians pull out of Vancouver Barracks, leaving Reserve and National Guard units.

2004: Many troops with Vancouver ties deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan.

2006: The Army Reserve’s 104th Division remains in Vancouver, while another 300 prepare for deployment to Iraq. Members of the Washington National Guard’s 790th Chemical Company and the 396th Combat Support Hospital also are deployed.

2008: Col. Daniel L. York assumes command.

2009: York is promoted to brigadier general; the Army announces plans to build a training center at Fourth Plain Boulevard and Ward Road.

2010: The 104th Division relocates to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, south of Tacoma.

2011: Military operations cease at Vancouver Barracks on Sept. 14, as soldiers complete the move to the new Armed Forces Reserve Center.

An era ended in September when military operations ceased at Vancouver Barracks.

After 162 years as a U.S. Army post during some defining periods of American history, the barracks site is destined to become part of the National Park Service.

The local military presence, meanwhile, has moved northeast, to the new Armed Forces Reserve Center in Sifton.

The transition was part of the Defense Department’s Base Realignment and Closure program.

The new center cost about $30 million. Three buildings serve almost 1,000 members of the Army Reserve and Washington Army National Guard.

While they’re no longer based in Vancouver’s historic core, the service personnel will continue the tradition of some distinguished soldiers. They include Ulysses S. Grant, who served here as a quartermaster before he was elected president after the Civil War. Others include Union Gen. O.O. Howard, who was awarded a Medal of Honor during the Civil War; Gen. George Marshall, the only career soldier to win the Nobel Peace Prize; Gen. Thomas Anderson, the first general to lead U.S. troops in combat overseas, in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War; and Joseph K. Barnes, who became surgeon general of the U.S. Army in 1864 and attended President Abraham Lincoln after he was shot.

While the new center, 15005 N.E. 65th St., doesn’t offer the same echoes of history, the 18.5-acre campus provides much more as a training facility and administrative center. Units that occupy the reserve center include the Washington Army National Guard’s 790th Chemical Company, which is able to respond to domestic emergencies.

The center’s Army Reserve occupants include the 1st Logistics Support Battalion, 413th Regiment; the 204th Army Band; the 2nd Brigade, 95th Division; the 3rd Battalion, 354th Regiment; the 396th Combat Support Hospital; the 852nd Minimal Care Detachment; and the 915th Forward Surgical Team.

The new site also houses the Soldier Readiness Processing Center; the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System office; retention/recruiter offices; and the Family Programs Support Office.

The U.S. Army has been in Vancouver since 1849. It took over Fort Vancouver from the British Hudson’s Bay Company, which arrived in 1825 to oversee the fur trade. Vancouver Barracks, which grew out of the old fort, swarmed with soldiers through World War II.

Many local service personnel have seen action in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Another sizable contingent of local military personnel are based just across the Columbia River, with the Oregon Air National Guard’s 142nd Fighter Wing. The 142nd has almost 1,200 members, and up to half of them live in Clark County.

Heading into the end of 2011, at least 20 soldiers, Marines and civilian contractors with local ties had been killed in the war on terrorism since 2003.