Two of the U.S. Army’s longest-serving installations are located in the nation’s heartland, the state of Kansas. Although Kansas also hosts McConnell Air Force Base, the Army, with more than 13,000 personnel, provides by far the largest military presence in the Jayhawk State.
Founded in 1827, Fort Leavenworth is nearing its second century as an active military post, making it the nation’s longest serving U.S. Army post outside of Washington, D.C. Named for Colonel Henry Leavenworth of the U.S. 3rd Infantry, the installation originally served as a forwarding destination for the thousands of immigrants, laborers, land settlers, soldiers and surveyors who participated in the nation’s early to mid-19th century westward expansion along the Santa Fe Trail.
Operational services headquartered at Leavenworth include TRADOC (the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command) which oversees and maintains CAC (the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center). CAC’s responsibilities are multi-faceted and essential to the U.S. Army’s worldwide mission, critical in the areas of Army doctrine, current and future battle command, collective training and leadership development. Fort Leavenworth’s sprawling grounds are also home to the Military Corrections Complex which contains the United States Disciplinary Barracks and the Midwest Joint Regional Correctional Facility. The Disciplinary Barracks are notable for being the only maximum security prison under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Defense. Fort Leavenworth’s long and illustrious history is also notable for being the birthplace of the legendary mid-to-late 19th century Buffalo Soldiers regiment which consisted of only African-American soldiers. The regiment was instrumental during battles against Native Americans in the 1860s and 1870s.
Another crucial forwarding point for westward expansion in the mid-1800s was Fort Riley, located near Junction City, Kansas. Established in 1853 and named for Major General Bennett C. Riley, the installation served as one of the first U.S. Cavalry posts, and served as the military’s primary training facilities for ongoing cavalry practice and tactics following the Civil War. Future General George Custer served at Fort Riley and participated in several notable skirmishes with invading Native Americans during his tenure.
Over the course of Fort Riley’s century-and-a-half of active service, its primary tenants have been the 1st Infantry Division, consisting of three armored brigade combat teams, combat aviation and sustainment brigades, division headquarters and battalion and the 3rd Weather Squadron. In and around Fort Riley are several notable museums including the U.S. Cavalry Museum, the 1st Infantry Division Museum, the Custer Home, the (still-standing) building that housed the first Territorial Capitol of Kansas, and for aficionados of historic military hardware, a visit to Freedom Park, which overlooks Fort Riley, offers an M65 Atomic Cannon.