Fort Sam Houston

Fort Sam Houston, familiarly known as "Fort Sam" is considered to be the home of Army medicine, and has been, ever since training of Army medical personnel was consolidated there at the end of World War Two. All medical military training by the Navy and Air Force are scheduled to be moved to Fort Sam in 2011 - just another mission for a hundred and fifty year old Army base that once was the headquarters and logistical supply base in the trans-Mississippi west, back in the days of the Indian wars.

The sprawling military base north-east of downtown San Antonio began as a single structure called the Quadrangle, a range of two-story buildings around an open courtyard adored at one end with an ornate clock tower. It was established as a supply depot and intended to replace the various existing warehouses around the Alamo. Curiously, but logically, the old mission of San Antonio de Valero had been used for that purpose by various armies ever since being repurposed as a military garrison early in the 1800s by the Spanish army, who then held Mexico and Texas as colonies. By the mid 1870s, the needs of several subsequent armies had outgrown the crumbling adobe and stone structures around Alamo Plaza. The city had also spread far enough to surround the old mission/presidio and considerably cramp military operations. The Army suggested closing the post to save money, and so the city fathers donated 92 acres of land on the low hills north of town and well outside the-then city limits.

For the Army it was a chance to start afresh, building exactly what they needed; generous warehouse space to store Army supplies brought up from Galveston and other coastal ports, offices for the supply sergeants and officers to work in, and spanking brand-new barracks and quarters built to very modern specifications. There was room for marshalling yards for wagons, water and pasturage for those teams of draft horses who hauled those supplies to their eventual destination - those Army forts on the far frontier. There was room for a massive parade ground, which eventually would serve as the birthplace of military aviation, when then-Lieutenant Benjamin Foulois took off from the parade ground in a 1909 Wright Flyer, dubbed "Army Airplane #1" for a series of demonstration flights in 1910.

The Quadrangle also served as an open-air prison in 1886. Geronimo, the last of the fighting Apache chiefs and some of his warrior band were held in the quadrangle for 40 days, while the federal government decided what to do with him. It's only a legend that the small herd of deer which currently live in the Quadrangle are those descended from a herd provided to Geronimo's band as part of their ration issue.

By the last quarter of the 19th century, Ft Sam Houston was the second largest military post in the United States. Practically every Army officer serving between the 1880 through World War II passed through Fort Sam. Teddy Roosevelt's "Rough Riders" rendezvoused and trained there before shipping to Cuba to charge up San Juan Hill. Fort Sam also supplied the men and material for General John "Black Jack" Pershing's expedition into Mexico, chasing after Pancho Villa in 1916. Dwight Eisenhower met and married his wife, Mamie Dowd while stationed at Fort Sam as a young lieutenant. General Billy Mitchell was assigned to Fort Sam after being court-martialed and demoted.

Many of the approximately 900 historical structures on Fort Sam are still in use, as officer and NCO family quarters, barracks and administrative buildings, only the Quadrangle is open to the general public. But there are two museums, also open to the public, and between them give a very good idea of the scope of Fort Sam's history and present missions: The Fort Sam Houston Museum, and the US Army Medical Department Museum. In addition to serving as headquarters for Army Medical Command, Headquarters for US Army South and US Army North, Fort Sam also hosts Brooke Army Medical Center - the showplace for Army medicine.

Currently, Fort Sam Houston occupies over 3,000 acres, roughly paralleling the eastern side of IH 35. Significant roadways such as Rittiman and Harry Wurzbach, and North New Braunfels adjoin or cross portions of the fort. It is also adjacent to the San Antonio Country Club, Mahncke Park, the San Antonio Botanical Garden, and surrounded by well-established suburbs such as Terrell Hills, Tobin Hill and Government Hill. Government Hill, which contains many distinctive late 19th and early 20th century houses and bungalows in run-down condition, has been designated a historic area, and is considered by many to be in the early stages of gentrification. The Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery is also adjacent to the post.

Ironically, just as the Army needed to move from downtown San Antonio to expanded facilities at Fort Sam in order to meet mission requirements, in turn Fort Sam's training needs soon expanded beyond what could be offered on post. In 1917, Camp Bullis was established to conduct combat training for the American Expeditionary Force, out among 12,000 acres of hills, streams and thick brush thickets northwest of San Antonio, along present-day IH-10. Used after WWI as maneuver area, and as a rifle and pistol range, Camp Bullis did not actually have a permanent party assigned there for many years. Construction on permanent facilities began in 1918, and proceeded at a leisurely pace all during the 1920's and 1930's. Curiously enough, for the movie Wings, which filmed there in 1826, a ‘French' village and extensive trenchworks were constructed - with US Army troops serving as extras in ground combat scenes. Camp Bullis continues as a field training location for Army medical personnel, and for the Air Forces' Security Police. Camp Bullis is convenient to outlaying San Antonio suburbs such as the Dominion, Fair Oaks Ranch, Timberwood Park and Bulverde.

Current Tenant Commands and Units at Ft. Sam include:

Army Commands (3 ACOMs)
• Forces Command (FORSCOM)
• 591th Med Logistics Co.
• 418th Med Logistics Co.
• 79th Ord Bn (EOD)

Army Service Component Commands
(2 of 9 ASCCs)
• USARNORTH Fifth US Army
• USARSOUTH Sixth US Army

DOD and Other Service Tenants
• Defense Automated Printing Service
• Defense Commissary Service
• Defense Contract Audit Agency
• Defense Finance & Accounting Office
• Defense Medical Readiness Training Institute
• Defense Military Pay Office
• Defense Reutilization & Marketing Office
• Office of Complaint Investigations
• Army/Air Force Exchange Service
• Joint Regional Medical Planning Office
• Army Frequency Management Office-CONUS (AFMO-CONUS)
• SA Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS)
• Tri-Service Infrastructure Management Program
• Army Audit Agency
• Mission and Installation Contracting Command (MICC)
• Army Frequency Management Office
• Army Materiel Command Logistics Support Team (AMC LST)
• 5th Recruiting Brigade
• HQ 5th USACC ROTC
• 4th Marine Reconnaissance Bn., 4th MARDIV
• USMC Recruiting Station
• Marine Corps Reserve Center
• US Navy Recruiting District San Antonio
• Navy Medicine Training Center
• Naval Reserve Center
• Detachment 1, 381st Training Squadron

Direct Reporting Units (7 of 11 DRUs)
• US Army Network Enterprise & Technology Cmd
• US Army Medical Command (MEDCOM)
• Dental Cmd & Veterinary Cmd
• Medical Information Technology Center
• Army Medical Dept Center & School
• Great Plains Regional Medical Cmd (GPRMC)
• Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) /

San Antonio Military Medical Center (SAMMC)
• Institute of Surgical Research
• Army Intelligence & Security Command (INSCOM)
• 32d Medical Brigade
• 106th Signal Brigade
• 440th Blood Support Detachment
• 470th MI Bde
• US Army Criminal Investigation Cmd (USACIDC)
• 25th MP Det
• Resident Agency (Det), 11th MP Bn
• US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)
• Fort Sam Houston Resident Office
• US Army Reserve Command (USARC)
• 90th Regional Readiness Group
• 5501st US Army Hospital
• 2d Bde, 75 Div
• Installation Management Command (IMCOM)
• West Region Office