The Mountain Warrior Battalion
The Legacy of the US Army "Mountain Warrior"
The extraordinary military legacy of the "mountain warrior" is rooted in the early days of the American Revolution. After the initial fighting in 1775, Congress called for and received ten special companies of sharp- shooters gathered from the piedmont and mountains of Virginia and Pennsylvania. They were known officially as the "Corps of Rangers" but more commonly know as Morgan's Riflemen. These tough, crack-shots were, according to a British general, “the best corps of the Continental Army." Because of their skill at picking off British officers at very long range, their "uniform" of frontier fringed "hunting shirts" struck fear into the hearts of enemy troops and they were officially commended by General Washington. Morgan's riflemen played a key role during the defeat of the British Army at Saratoga and served with distinction throughout the Revolution.
In 1777 another group of "mountain warriors" from the area that now makes up Virginia, West Virginia and eastern Kentucky, marched with George Rogers Clark on an 800-mile trek through snow and ice, freezing rivers and tangled forests during the dead of winter to successfully capture British outposts which were located as far west as St. Louis. Because of their heroic efforts, the newly-formed United States was quickly able to settle these areas and add the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky.
Three years later, in 1780, the British attempted to win the Revolution with a new campaign against the southern colonies. "Mountain warriors" from the "over the mountain" settlements, located in present day Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia united against this threat. After British commander, Major Patrick Ferguson, issued an edict to the frontier towns to “completely submit to British authority or be destroyed,” over one thousand "mountain warriors"-- also known as "over-mountain men," gathered to find and defeat him.
After a grueling forced-march through the wet and snowy mountains chasing Ferguson back into South Carolina, the "mountain warriors" encircled and completely annihilated Ferguson's force in the battle of King's Mountain.
As the Revolution ended, "mountain warriors" from present day West Virginia and Kentucky, led by Daniel Boone and others, doggedly resisted British-led attacks on several frontier settlements, ensuring American control over the Appalachian Mountains and Ohio River valley.
Since the Revolution, "mountain warriors" have continued to boldly serve in every American conflict, producing a multitude of great soldiers like Sgt. Alvin York. York used his excellent hunting and shooting skills to capture 132 German soldiers by himself in one single action during World War One and was awarded the Medal of Honor.
Today the Beckley Recruiting Battalion proudly continues this historic Army legacy of selfless-service and mission accomplishment embodied by the "mountain warrior."
Beckley Recruiting Battalion Area
The U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion Beckley covers just under 50-thousand square miles, with a recruiting responsibility for 72 counties (and 30 independent cities) in Virginia, 34 counties in West Virginia and two counties of western Maryland.
The land (in the western portion) is situated mostly in the Appalachian mountain range. It is mostly rugged territory with poorly maintained road networks (except for Interstates 64, 77 and 81) some of which become impassable during the peak snow months of January through March. The eastern part of the battalion covers the metropolitan areas of Richmond, Hampton and Norfolk. Much of the land in this three-state area is devoted to coal mining and timber production with some farming in the west, central and southwest areas. Only the metro areas immediately around the cities of Hampton, Norfolk, Richmond and Roanoke can be characterized as industrial areas.
These areas offer a diverse economy which include some large chemical and refinery plants, a number of light-manufacturing plants, forest products production facilities, service-oriented businesses, building trades, numerous wholesale and retail operations, some agriculture, and a growing tourist and recreational industry (white water rafting, snow skiing, mountain climbing, hunting and fishing, beach activities, surfing, etc.).
The coal industry, mainly in the western portion of the battalion, has been depressed for a number of years and shows little hope of return to it's past levels of employment. With new technology and a growing anti-coal sentiment, few people will find any chance of gaining steady employment in that industry. In some of the coal producing counties of West Virginia and Virginia, the unemployment rate normally averages between 10 and 20 percent, far above the national average.
The battalion area contains about 5-million people (2000 census), showing a 7.5% growth over the 1990 census numbers. More than half of those inhabitants live in and around the population centers of metro Hampton, Norfolk, Richmond and Roanoke. The remaining population are scattered through the outlying rural areas.
Beckley Battalion Organizational History
Originally, the West Virginia territory was part of the First Recruiting District, Fort Meade, Maryland, under Headquarters United States Continental Army Command, Fort Monroe, VA. In September 1964, the United States Army Recruiting Command (USAREC) was activated at Fort Monroe. The Army Recruiting Main Station (RMS), Beckley, was then assigned as a part of the Second U.S. Army Recruiting District, Fort Monroe.
In the early years, the Beckley RMS covered a large portion of West Virginia and a small portion of Virginia and Maryland. During those early days the Beckley RMS had recruiting stations (to name a few) in Cumberland, MD; Harrisonburg, Lynchburg and Roanoke, VA; and Clarksburg, Elkins, Fairmont, Keyser and Morgantown, WV.
In May 1965 the Beckley RMS consisted of four officers and 44 enlisted personnel. By 1969, the structure was four officers, 58 enlisted and five civilian personnel. At that time, Beckley RMS was part of the U.S. Army Third Recruiting District, College Park, GA, and the U.S. Army Recruiting Command, Hampton, VA.
The Beckley RMS started out with offices in the building that now is the Beckley Police headquarters. Later it was moved to offices on Prince Street in the building that is referred to as the Duncan Building, which the Beckley AFEES (now MEPS) was also located at.
In order to improve the chain of command structure, a manpower realignment in 1973 changed the required grade of area commanders to captain, and the master sergeants (who were previously area commanders) became assistant area commanders.
In 1974 USAREC was reorganized. The Beckley RMS became the Army District Recruiting Command (DRC), Beckley, and the Third Recruiting District became the Southeast Regional Recruiting Command. In December 1974 the Beckley DRC moved to larger office spaces in the Kanawha Plaza building at 300 North Kanawha Street.
A realignment of the Armed Forces Examining and Entrance Command (now known as MEPS - Military Entrance and Processing Station) boundaries in 1975 required moving the Blacksburg, Danville, Lexington, Lynchburg, Martinsville, Salem, and Staunton, VA, recruiting stations and the Roanoke Recruiting Area from the Beckley DRC to the Richmond, (VA) DRC. Responsibility for the Beckley DRC's Winchester and Harrisonburg, VA, stations was transferred to the Northeast Recruiting Region and the Huntington and Logan, WV, recruiting stations were moved from the Louisville (KY) DRC into the Beckley DRC area of responsibility.
In Fiscal Year 1982, the Blacksburg Recruiting Station was reassigned to the Beckley DRC from the Richmond DRC. In FY 83 USAREC reorganized the Beckley DRC from a two-area district into three recruiting areas by gaining 12 Tennessee counties and five recruiting stations from the Nashville (TN) DRC. It included all the eastern Tennessee counties from the Virginia border to the Knox County line, and several western Virginia counties.
During the 1982 USAREC reorganization, a decision was made to redesignate all Army Recruiting unit names to use more Army-oriented terminology, resulting in the regions becoming recruiting brigades, and the recruiting areas becoming recruiting companies. The Beckley DRC then became the U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion Beckley (RB). The geographic area remained basically unchanged until July 1991, when, as a result of overall government cutbacks following the end of the Cold War, a USAREC build-down program was instituted. The Beckley RB was assigned command responsibilities for 22 North Carolina counties of the Asheville (NC) Recruiting Company (after the Charlotte RB was closed) plus 16 additional Tennessee and five additional Kentucky counties of the Knoxville (TN) Recruiting Company (following the closure of the Louisville RB and a realignment of the Nashville RB). Now with five recruiting companies, the Beckley RB became the largest geographic-area battalion in 2nd Recruiting Brigade, with over 45-thousand square miles of recruiting territory in five states, stretching from the Ohio border to the Georgia border.
Change came once again in FY 93, as the Roanoke Recruiting Company was assigned to the Beckley Battalion following the closure of the Richmond Battalion. The Knoxville Company was transferred back to the Nashville Battalion and the Asheville Company was transferred to the Columbia (SC) Battalion, thereby making the Beckley Battalion a four-company, 41,358-square mile recruiting area in the four states of West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky.
Effective September 27, 1994, the Beckley Recruiting Battalion came under the control of the First Recruiting Brigade, Fort Meade, MD. At that time, the battalion was reorganized to five companies with the inclusion of the Richmond Recruiting Company (from the Baltimore RB); and the inclusion of the Parkersburg, (WV) Recruiting Station (from the Columbus, Ohio RB), bringing the battalion's total facilities up to 36 Regular Army and Army Reserve recruiting stations and two nurse recruiting stations. (Control of the two nurse recruiting stations, Huntington (WV) and Richmond (VA) were transferred 1 October 95 to the newly-created Army Medical Detachment.)
During a national transformation in 2008, the Beckley Battalion lost two Companies along with the Kentucky and Tennessee recruiting stations as well as those in the western part of West Virginia. One of the two Kentucky stations and all of the Tennessee stations were transferred to the Nashville RB and the remaining Kentucky station and all stations in the western part of West Virginia (including Charleston, Huntington, Logan, and Parkersburg) were transferred to the Columbus Battalion. During this transformation, the Beckley Battalion gained three new recruiting companies, the Fairmont (WV) Company (from the Pittsburgh RB) and the James River (Hampton, VA) and Norfolk (VA) companies from the Baltimore RB.
Under the FY-08 Recruiter Market Alignment the battalion was divided into these six company areas:
- Blacksburg (WV) Recruiting Company,
- Lynchburg (VA) Recruiting Company,
- Richmond (VA) Recruiting Company,
- Fairmont (WV) Recruiting Company
- James River (Hampton) (VA) Recruiting Company and
- Norfolk (VA) Recruiting Company
It was further subdivided into 38 recruiting stations that cover
- as far north as the Ohio-Pennsylvania border (plus a small part of Maryland),
- as far south as the Virginia-North Carolina border,
- as far west as the Virginia/Kentucky/Tennessee borders, and
- as far east as the Atlantic Ocean.
USAREC began another reorganization in FY-11 with the intention of instituting the newly created Pinacle program across the command. Under Pinacle most of the one-two man stations (mostly in smaller towns or rural areas) would be closed and larger, regional Recruiting Centers would be created in cities with larger population than where the one-two man stations were previously located. While funding has still not allowed a complete conversion to the Pinacle program, the Beckley Battalion was reorganized from the 38 Recruiting Station alignment, to 15 Recruiting Centers, eight Forward Engagement Centers (FEC) and 15 Temporary Forward Locations (TFL) and is the current alignment as of September 2013. Once funding permits further Pinacle implementation, the TFL stations will be closed and the Recruiting Centers will be responsible for a much larger geographic area than they were previously. In Dec 2013 additional changes were made and the latest information is below.
The current Recruiting Companies, Recruiting Centers, Forward Engagement Centers and Temporary Forward Locations are:
- Beckley, WV Center; Princeton, WV FEC; and Lewisburg, WV TFL
- Christiansburg, VA Center; Wytheville, VA FEC
- Roanoke, VA Center; Martinsville, VA FEC
- Lynchburg, VA Center; Danville, VA FEC
- Charlottesville Center; Harrisonburg, VA FEC; Staunton, VA TFL
- Richmond-West Center; Mechanicsville, VA TFL
- Richmond-East Center
- Colonial Heights Center; South Hill, VA TFL
- Chesterfield Center; Ironbridge TFL
- Clarksburg, WV Center
- Elkins, WV Station
- Morgantown, WV Center
- Wheeling, WV Station
- LaVale, MD Station
- James River (Hampton, VA) Company:
- Newport News, VA Center; Denbigh (Newport News) TFL
- Williamsburg, VA Center; Yorktown, VA TFL; and Gloucester, VA TFL
- Virginia Beach, VA (Lynnhaven) Center; Va Beach TFL
- Chesapeake, VA Center; Suffolk, VA TFL; Portsmouth, VA TFL
- Norfolk, VA Center; Little Creek, VA TFL
The RB also supports over 90 Army Reserve units located in reserve centers in Virginia and West Virginia. Until the Hampton-Norfolk areas were annexed, Fort Lee (near Richmond) was the only military installation in the battalion area, but its highly-patriotic citizens served in the military at levels (per capita) much greater than most other states. In citizens serving in the military, West Virginia ranked:
- number five during World War II;
- number one during the Korean War;
- number two during the Vietnam War;
- number eight during Desert Shield and Desert Storm; and
- number eight in personnel deployments during Operation Iraqi Freedom,
thereby, effectively demonstrating their high level of patriotism and service to country.