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Fort Custer’s Modern Role

Fort Custer’s Avenue of Flags (

Fort Custer is an Army training facility and National Guard base. In present times, the base is used to train ROTC students from all over the Midwest, as well as the 177th Regiment. Additionally, the base functions as a National Guard Armory, Cemetery, and Industrial Center.

Layout and Training Center

The layout of the base has three distinct area. The Fort Custer Training Center, The Fort Custer Recreational Park, and The Fort Custer National Cemetery. The Fort Custer Training Center is divided up in to nine sections. Sections eight and nine are used for firing ranges. Section six is an open tank ranges in order to practice training maneuvers. Section three has open clearings for helicopter landing zones, and the rest of the sections are used for infantry buildings/training courses.

The training center is used by all branches of the military for ROTC field exercises, including both day and night operations. However, the facilities are not just for ROTC students. Other regiments, law enforcement agencies, the FBI, and even local schools can take courses to practice teamwork, leadership, and problem solving. One of the courses includes different obstacle “stations” where small teams are challenged to overcome the tactical situations such as crossing broken bridges, escaping a POW camp, or climbing over walls with limited resources. These programs and courses are difficult, they require a lot of physical strength and patience. The tasks are designed for people of military level athleticism, therefore high school groups will find themselves unable to complete many of the challenges within the given time limit. However, this does not defeat the purpose of the exercise, which is to work as a team. Although failure usually means getting a little bit wet because you fell in to the water pools below.

National Park and Cemetery

The Fort Custer Recreation Park is a 3000 acre national park and campsite that is open to the public. There are over 50-miles of hiking, biking and horseback riding trails as well as cross-country skiing in the winter. Fort Custer maintains the park and uses it to set an environmental example to teach Fish and Wildlife, and Forestry management. In 2005 the base was nominated for an US Army Environmental Award for its dedication to education and conservation. There is also a large White Tailed Deer population in the national park. This gives scientists and conservationists easy access to observe and monitor the species and their behaviors. In 1970, hunting deer in recreational area was prohibited due to security risks to the base. However, in 1980, ecologists discovered that the lack of hunting caused overpopulation in the deer herd. A five day public hunt was scheduled in 1986 to control the population. Each deer killed was required to be checked in order to better understand the characteristics of the herd. This five day hunt continues every year, during which all military operations on the base are halted to maintain base security. Along with the deer, there are an estimated 815 different species of plants and fauna. Many of the areas in the recreational center have high quality naturally diverse species populations, which is rare in many national parks.

An additional 700 acre section of land is dedicated to the Fort Custer National Cemetery. Created by Congress in 1981, and the cemetery initially had 2600 grave sites. In 1997, the cemetery was expanded to hold 10,000 grave sites. The cemetery was extended more over the years to the 700 acres it is now. Among the grave sites at the cemetery, there are 31 monuments – many of which are dedicated to different military and veteran groups – and the Avenue of Flags. The Avenue of Flags consists of 152 flagpoles set along the main road plus a flag for each state at the center of the cemetery. These flags are flown from Easter until Veteran’s Day, with the state flags being flown on special occasions.

East Coast Missile Defense Project

Finally, Fort Custer is being considered as one of the sites for the East Coast Missile Defense Project. Fort Custer is one of five possible sites for the project, other sites including Fort Drum in New York or Camp Ravenna Joint Training Center in Ohio. The purpose of the site is to track and intercept any missiles launched against the United States or her allies. The site would contain multiple high powered radar and satellite connections in order to detect and track incoming hostile targets. Then the site would launch intercept missiles from under ground silos to detonate their targets outside of Earths atmosphere. The missile site would be one of the last defenses against incoming missiles. A site at Fort Custer or other possible locations would be used only if earlier defenses failed. The first defense against the missiles would be lasers mounted on ships and aircraft in order to detonate the missiles fuel as it is boosting up into the exosphere. The hope is to destroy the missile before the warhead is armed. If there are no mounted lasers in position to stop the missile, the second defense line are counter missile launchers mounted to ships patrolling in the oceans and seas. The intent behind this is to prevent the missile from entering U.S airspace where hazardous debris could potentially fall onto American soil. Finally, missile sites, like the potential one at Fort Custer, inside the United States would be the last defense. These sites would use a three stages system in order to destroy the incoming missile. At three different radii, a counter missile can be launched to intercept the incoming missile. Then, a confirmation period allows personnel at the site to check whether the incoming missile has been destroyed or not. If the missile was not destroyed, the process is repeated at the second and third radii. The third and smallest radius is the final opportunity to destroy the incoming missile without risking damage/contamination from the incoming missile’s warhead.


Primary Sources

  1.  Secretary of Defense (2005). “Fort Custer Training Center – Michigan Army National Guard – Natural Resource Conservation,FY 2005 OSD US ARMY ENVIRONMENTAL AWARDS NOMINATION
  2. Humphries, Joel T. “Balancing White-Tailed Deer Ecology with Michigan National Guard Training at Fort Custer Training Center in Augusta, Mi.” (2011). Web. 8 Nov. 2015.
  3.  Andreas Parsch. (2007). “Boeing Ground-Based Interceptor (GBI),” Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles. Appendix 4.
  4. Michigan Army National Guard, . 7th Annual – FCTC Freedom Hunt Application. N.p., 2013. Web. 8 Nov. 2015.
  5. My own experience on the base.

Secondary Sources

  1.  Andrea Shalal-Esa, Reuters. (2013). “Maine among candidates named for possible East Coast missile defense sites,” Bangor Daily News.
  2.  “Fort Custer National Cemetery,” U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs. (May 2014).
  3. Bradway, John S., and Alona E. Evans. “International Aspects of Legal Aid”. The American Journal of International Law 38.3 (1944): 462–467. Web…

Further Reading