Fort Chaffee Army National Guard
Maneuver Training Center
Fort Smith Blvd Building 1370 Fort Chaffee, AR 72905
Fort Chaffee, Arkansas is located in the northern part of the state and serves as a training installation for Army Reserve soldiers and National Guard. Aside from the reserve soldiers, it occasionally hosts active soldiers, but for small amounts of time.
The camp construction began in September, 1941. The camp was not in the general plan of the government. Instead, it was built as a response to the high needs of the US government for more troops before the inevitable involvement in World War II. The place was initially called Camp Chaffee. In 1956, the government decided it should be a permanent base and renamed it Fort Chaffee.
The general objectives of the camp during World War II were not just to train soldiers, but also to host the war prisoners and the refugees. It hosted over 3,000 German prisoners during World War II. As a refugee camp, the fort played a major role during the Vietnam and Cambodia wars, hosting around 51,000 refugees from 1975 to 1976. In 1980, it was the home of 23,000 Cuban refugees, after the Cuban government allowed the American boats to pick up the refugees from a local port.
The camp is named after Adna R. Chaffee Jr., a hero of World War l and the first soldiers arrived on December 7, 1941 – the day of the Pearl Harbor attack. After the end of the war, the camp hosted the Fifth Armored Division, until 1957.
The base is more famous for the few days Elvis Presley spent here for basic training in 1958.
On 27 September 1997 a change of command ceremony closed an era at Fort Chaffee. That day, official command and control of the installation passed from the U.S. Army to the Arkansas Army National Guard when the U.S. Army Garrison was inactivated. The installation officially became known as the Fort Chaffee Maneuver Training Center.
Arriving at Fort Chaffee
Fort Chaffee is just outside Fort Smith (Sebastian County) and Barling (Sebastian County) on Arkansas Highway 22, one mile southeast of Fort Smith Regional Airport.
The Arkansas River flows eastward along its northern border and Interstate 40 is five miles to the north on the opposite side of the river.
The Arkansas National Guard has been using 66,000 acres as a training facility. The State of Arkansas received 6000 acres, about half of which have been redeveloped as of 2014.