News: 364th ESC Leaves Fort Lawton
Story by Capt. Michael Meyer
SEATTLE -- The 364th Expeditionary Sustainment Command solemnly cased the American flag for the last time at Fort Lawton, Sept. 14, marking the end of more than 110 years of military presence at the installation.
The 364th ESC was the last military unit to depart the closing fort.
Capt. Ashleigh Fortier, commander of the 364th ESC’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company rear detachment, turned the flag over to Dwight Thompson, command executive officer of the 364th ESC.
"It’s a sad day for the Army Reserve as a major command leaves the Seattle area,” Thompson said. “Fort Lawton provided us a recruiting base for many military specialties for many, many years.”
The fort was established, Feb. 9, 1900 on 2.8 square kilometers of land donated by local government. Fort Lawton was named after Maj. Gen. Henry Ware Lawton, a veteran of the Civil War, the Indian Wars, and the Spanish American War, who was killed in action during the Philippine Insurrection in 1899.
Fort Lawton was constructed to defend Puget Sound from naval attacks and was originally manned by coast artillery and infantry units. Fort Lawton’s role changed during World War II, and it became an active base engaged in the processing, training, and deployment of troops.
During the war, Fort Lawton was the second-largest deployment site on the West Coast, training and deploying nearly one million troops overseas. Fort Lawton also held more than 1,100 German prisoners of war, and sent more than 5,000 Italian POWs to Hawaii.
Fort Lawton continued to operate as a processing center during the Korean War, and the fort was upgraded with Nike anti-aircraft missiles and Air Force early-warning radar in the late 1950s.
Thompson said he was privileged to have spent so much time at Fort Lawton.
“I feel fortunate to have gone the full circle of my career from second lieutenant to colonel at Fort Lawton,” he said. “It was quite the honor to hold the flag with [retired] Col. Sam Jones on closing day. He was one of the first officers to be stationed at Fort Lawton as an Army Reserve soldier.”
Jones said he has a long history with Fort Lawton. He enlisted in the Army as an infantryman in 1942 and served in combat in Italy during World War II. He worked at the fort from 1960 to 2003, and has continued to work there as a volunteer until the present day.
“I served a total of 21 years of active duty before serving another 40 years in the Army Reserve as the adjutant general for the 124th U.S. Army Reserve Command,” Jones said.
In 1968, the 124th ARCOM was activated with a headquarters on Fort Lawton.It was assigned the mission of preparing its subordinate units to mobilize and perform wartime tasks.
“I’ve worked on this fort for most of my life. It’s really kind of sad to see it go,” Jones said wistfully.
In 1964 the Secretary of Defense announced that at least 85percent of Fort Lawton land would be declared surplus, and should be given back to the community at no cost to state and local agencies.
In 1972, and several times afterward, parcels of Fort Lawton land were returned to the Seattle community; much of it became Discovery Park.
At 534 acres, Discovery Park is the largest public park in Seattle, and is a wooded parks and recreation area for the community and the site of a Native American cultural center.
“The current and future leaders of the Army Reserve of the northwestern U.S. were trained and developed at Fort Lawton,” Thompson said. “The closure of Fort Lawton closes a chapter in Army Reserve history.”
An official decommissioning ceremony will be conducted sometime in 2012. The event will complete the Base Realignment and Closure process authorized by the Defense Department in 2005 to adjust its infrastructure, increase operational readiness, and facilitate new mission requirements.
The 364th ESC is now based in Marysville, Wash. at a new $34 million,state-of-the-art facility.