In February 1877, Col. August V. Kautz, commander of the Department of Arizona, ordered Capt. Samuel Marmaduke Whitside to set up a cavalry camp protecting settlement and travel in southeastern Arizona’s San Pedro Valley. The site he chose on March 3, 1877, is Fort Huachuca today. With its fresh running water, an abundance of trees, excellent observation in three directions and protective high ground essential for security, Camp Huachuca was a superb location for the mission, leading the Army to make it a permanent fort in 1882. In 1886, Gen. Nelson A. Miles used the Fort as his advance headquarters and forward supply base during the Army’s final Arizona campaigns. Following this, the Army would close more than 50 garrisons in the Arizona Territory, leaving Fort Huachuca as its sole active post.
Fort Huachuca’s strategic location continued to make it an effective guard for the restive border areas and its troops the best protection for the mining, transportation and ranching enterprises growing nearby. Twenty years of patrolling, shootouts with outlaws and gunrunners, and general peace-keeping efforts followed, establishing the post as the federal government’s principal presence and protection for the settlements growing throughout the region.
In 1913, the 10th Cavalry "Buffalo Soldiers" became Fort Huachuca’s garrison regiment, remaining until 1933. The 10th Cavalry would win honors during Gen. John J. Pershing’s 1916 Mexican Expedition and secure a vast stretch of the border region from German infiltration during World War I. In 1933, another Buffalo Soldier unit, the 25th Infantry Regiment, took over and performed similar duties until 1942 when it was absorbed into the 93rd Infantry Division. When the 93rd departed for the Pacific in 1943, the 92nd Infantry Division arrived at the Fort for training and subsequent assignment to the European Theater. More than 30,000 Black Soldiers, men and women, passed through Fort Huachuca on their way to service in every theater of the War between 1941 and 1945.
At war's end, the Fort was declared surplus and closed briefly. It was reactivated in 1950 as a training area for Army Engineers. In 1954, Fort Huachuca emerged as a key national defense asset when the Electronic Proving Ground began testing electronic and communications equipment, along with pilotless planes carrying photographic equipment for reconnaissance missions. This new role continues to grow and now includes the Joint Interoperability Test Command and resulted in the establishment of the Buffalo Soldier Electronic Test Range consisting of 2,500 square miles of electromagnetically quiet, high-altitude bowl to conduct full-frequency, full-power jamming as part of the DoD’s cyber warfare testing. From "pilotless planes" to today's Unmanned Aircraft Systems, the Fort is home to the world's largest UAS training center with over 125,000 square feet of training space, four hangars and three runways.
In 1967, Fort Huachuca became the headquarters of the U.S. Army Strategic Communications Command. The Strategic Communications Command became the U.S. Army Communications Command in 1973, subsequently changing to the U.S. Army Information Systems Command in 1984 and then to the U.S. Army Signal Command in 1997. On Oct. 1, 2002, the U.S. Army Signal Command was renamed the U.S. Army's Network Enterprise Technology Command.
Meanwhile, in 1971, the Military Intelligence Corps relocated to the post, establishing the U.S. Army Intelligence Center and School thereby consolidating all military intelligence training at Fort Huachuca. In October 1990, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command became the new host command of the installation.
Today, Installation Management Command operates the post with a Garrison team responsible for delivering superior base support to enable readiness and the highest quality of life for Soldiers, Families and Civilians. Fort Huachuca remains the largest military installation and economic engine in Arizona serving a prominent role in national defense missions.
The post sits at the base of the Huachuca Mountains, a name originating from an obscure local American Indian language which, when loosely translated, describes a "place of thunder. Thunder Mountain is the nickname of choice among locals, and it's accurate as well, depending on the time of year. The sight of dark clouds cascading down the mountainside while lightning, thunder and rain fill the air can be as awesome to modern man as it must have been to early American Indians. The name must have referred to the visual spectacle rather than its frequency, because Thunder Mountaineers enjoy some of the mildest and best weather found in Arizona. The original Fort Huachuca cantonment was declared a National Historical Landmark in March 1977, during a four-day centennial celebration. A rustic wooden sign sits on the northeast corner of Brown Parade Field, the center of post life during the days of horse Soldiers. Surrounding buildings and homes are maintained with the appearance and flavor of the old days.
When Whitside led his column from the 6th Cavalry into southern Arizona and into the annals of history, he could scarcely be aware that the temporary post he was ordered to establish in the foothills of the Huachuca Mountains would survive to play a major role in the drama of the western United States. This fascinating history of the U.S. Army in the Southwest, as well as the history of the Southwest itself, unfolds at the Fort Huachuca Historical Museum. Opened in 1960, the museum has grown rapidly and now houses one of the most representative collections in the state. The museum has been accredited by the American Association of Museums. The Fort Huachuca Historical Museum endeavors to introduce the military community and general public to a heightened awareness of and an increased appreciation for the colorful history of the Southwest - especially the prominent part played by the U.S. Army. The exhibits are instructive, entertaining and aesthetically satisfying. Some of the U.S. Army manuscripts and documents, dating back as far as 1861, can tell the viewer a great deal about the way of life on a rugged frontier. The museum, in Building 41401, is open to the public without charge. Civilian visitors are welcome. A leisurely walk through the museum has proven to be an enriching and stimulating experience for the thousands of guests who visit each month. A Museum Annex across the street from the Fort Huachuca Historical Museum was officially opened in 1982, adding much-needed space to display some of the artifacts belonging to the museum. The renovation and reconstruction of the building, formerly a theater, took approximately two years to complete. The Military Intelligence (MI) Museum was recently renovated and relocated to Building 62723 on Hatfield Street near the MI Library. The newly named MI Soldier Heritage Learning Center opened June 26, 2015; and is intended to provide training and education for Soldiers in the military intelligence branch but remains open to the public. The new Learning Center features exhibits highlighting the contributions of Soldiers to the MI profession throughout our nation's history, beginning with the Revolutionary War and continuing to the present and beyond. The exhibits are Soldier-focused, recounting the actions of Soldiers serving in intelligence fields and providing an overview of MI history. History comes alive in exhibits dedicated to the Army's major combat operations and featuring iconic imagery, focused learning objectives, artifacts, interactive multi-media topics and individual Soldier stories. Themes of the individual exhibits explore how MI as a profession evolved through that era, showcasing the development of specific disciplines and capabilities. The MI Soldier Heritage Learning Center utilizes technology and interactive features, expanding beyond the one-dimensional feel of a traditional museum.
For further information on the museums, donations of historical articles or contributions to the museum fund, call 520.533.3638 or visit the Fort Huachuca Museum & Annex or the Military Intelligence Soldier Heritage Learning Center.