Known as the home of Army Aviation, Fort Rucker serves as one of the primary training facilities for military helicopter pilots in the United States. This 64,000 acre facility is spread across Dale and Coffee Counties in the Wiregrass, allowing pilots a vast airspace for flight activities and training.
Named for Tennessee-born Col. Edmund Rucker (who became a prominent businessman in Birmingham following the Civil War), Camp Rucker was established in January 1942. The camp held basic training for four infantry divisions during the war and also housed German and Italian prisoners of war until 1946, when the camp was deactivated.
The Korean War saw the camp reactivated as a training center for the 47th Infantry, a National Guard unit. When the war ended, Camp Rucker again closed. The negative effects of this closure on the local economy prompted citizens to seek a permanent use for the site through congressional channels. This inquiry coincided with the Army's effort to find a new, permanent location for its aviation activities. Army officials soon made the decision to relocate the Army Aviation School from Fort Sill, Oklahoma, to Camp Rucker. In February 1955, the Army Aviation Center began operations at Camp Rucker, which became a permanent installation and was renamed Fort Rucker on October 13.
The escalation of the Vietnam War and the increasing need for Army helicopter pilots brought dramatic changes to Fort Rucker in the 1960s. Between January 1966 and December 1967 the number of pilots that Fort Rucker graduated each month multiplied about six fold. The annual output of new pilots exceeded all aviators in the Army before the buildup. Vietnam had given Army Aviation and Fort Rucker a much larger, permanent importance within the Army.
In 1957, Fort Rucker became the host site for the U.S. Army Board for Aviation Accident Research, which in 1983 would be expanded to cover all Army safety matters. It was later renamed the Army Safety Center (in 2005 it was renamed again as the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center).
Over the decades, tens of thousands of military personnel and their families have come from around the country (and from more than 60 nations around the world) to serve at Fort Rucker. Thousands of these people have chosen to return to and retire in the Wiregrass Region.
Economically, Fort Rucker continues to be one of the region's largest employers with nearly 7,000 civilian and contract employees (in addition to the 8,000 personnel in uniform). The Southeast Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission recently stated that Fort Rucker's military training mission had an annual economic impact of $2.2 billion on southeastern Alabama.
The Army Aviation Museum located at Fort Rucker is a top tourist destination in the area, as well as the home of the Aviation Branch's technical and a venue for instruction and ceremonies. Exhibits include the Army Aviation Hall of Fame and a memorial room listing the names of more than 4,000 Army Aviation soldiers killed in Vietnam.
~ From EncyclopediaofAlabama.org and The Origins of Fort Rucker by Val L. McGee
Visit Fort Rucker online here