Big 99

10/20/2016  |  Robert Timmons and Demetria Mosley Fort Jackson Leader
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Soldiers in Training form up after the run preparing to hear Maj. Gen. Roger Cloutier, Fort Jackson commander, speak about the post’s birthday. After a brief speech, Cloutier led the troops in singing “Happy Birthday” to post. Photo by Robert Timmons, Fort Jackson Leader

FORT JACKSON, S.C. — Victory has started on Fort Jackson for nearly a century.

The post that trains nearly 60 percent of incoming Soldiers inched closer to the beginning of its centennial celebration June 2 with a post-wide run and a cake cutting.

Soldiers across post gathered near sunrise on Hilton Field before following Fort Jackson leaders run across post in a warm South Carolina morning to be welcomed by cannon fire at Darby Field.

A single cannon shot announced each unit was near the end of the run route while Maj. Gen. Roger Cloutier, Fort Jackson commander, enthusiastically welcomed the Soldiers to the last mile of the course.

We are here celebrating the 99th birthday of Fort Jackson, he said. “Next year will be the centennial, 100 years Fort Jackson has been here. We anticipate by the end of 2017, 5 million American Soldiers will have trained on this installation. Five millions Americans who have gone to war to defend this idea called America.”

Col. Milford Beagle, commander of the 193rd Infantry Brigade, leads his Soldiers during the post run June 2 celebrating Fort Jackson’s 99th birthday. The run, and a cake cutting later in the day, honored the history of the installation that trains the majority of the Army’s Soldiers. Photo by Robert Timmons, Fort Jackson Leader

That evening during dinner services for Echo Company, 3rd Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment in the Quad Dining Facility, Cloutier and the youngest and oldest active-duty Soldiers on post sliced Fort Jackson’s birthday cake with three sabers.

“It’s an honor to be here for the 99th year celebration and to be in this room looking at the future of the Army,” said Chaplin (Maj.) Nils Palma, who at 61 is the oldest active-duty Soldier.

Pvt. Jelani Robinson, who’s currently in the red phase of basic training, is 17. He said he was nervous about cutting the cake and happy to be here.

Palma held a saber to represent the past, Cloutier and Command Sgt. Maj. Lamont Christian held the second to represent the present and Robinson held the last saber to represent the future.

“We are passing the baton to you and expecting you to be great Soldiers,” Cloutier told the Soldiers in Training. “We are expecting you to defend our country. We are counting on you.”

To pay tribute to the history of Fort Jackson during its 99th birthday celebration, Chaplin Major Nils Palma as the oldest active duty solider held a sword for the past, (left to right), Command Sgt. Maj. Lamont Christian and Major Gen. Roger Cloutier Jr. held swords to represent the present and Pvt. Jelani Robinson, who’s the youngest, held a sword for the past. Photo by Demetria Mosley, Fort Jackson Leader

In early 1917, the Columbia Chamber of Commerce petitioned Army Maj. Gen. Leonard Wood to build an Army post near the city. When the United States declared war on Germany April 6 of that year, new impetus was formed to create more Army installations. The building of Camp Jackson was officially approved June 2, 1917.

Cloutier lauded the Soldiers for volunteering to defend more than just themselves.

“This is no longer about you,” he said. “This is no longer about me. It is about us. We have all volunteered to put our lives on the line to defend not only our Families but our Nation.”

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