Camp Dodge is located in Johnston, Iowa, which is near the capital of Iowa where the Iowa National Guard resides. Throughout the US military history, bases have opened and closed depending on the need. Like most of the military bases still open in the US, Camp Dodge was opened at time of World War I in 1917. It was built as a training facility for the National Guard, which is the oldest military organization in the US. Camp Dodge is apart of that history as it was a training facility for the expanding US Army in World War I and would later lead to the development of the Iowa National Guard.
Construction began on Camp Dodge in 1907 and would provide training for the expanding National Guard units. However, the site was originally used for training the Iowa Militia. The installation was transferred to national authorities and expanded even more so that it could train troops going to World War I. The 163rd Depot Brigade was first to form at Camp Dodge. This base unit for the 88th Division would process all of the new drafted soldiers and control basic training for troops. The brigade also sent troops to various divisions.
Barracks would be added to the structure in 1917, which were each two stories, 140 feet long, 43 feet wide and provided housing for 150 men. All barracks had one mess hall and an assembly hall. There were also two headquarters buildings and a 3,000-seat auditorium as well as a base hospital, three fire stations, post offices, libraries and railroad depots. Eight YMCA halls were also built including an auditorium and Hostess House. Buildings were also created for the Knights of Columbus, Lutheran Brotherhood and Jewish Welfare Services. There were 40,000 people living at the base at one time.
At the end of World War I, Camp Dodge was reduced in size and turned over to the state. However, it would assume its original size as war efforts ramped up for World War II. The post would only be used for induction to new service members for this new war effort as Camp Dodge was officially a Guard and Reserve installation by the end of World War II.
The camp was named for Brigadier General Grenville M. Dodge, who was responsible for organizing the Iowa National Guard in 1856. While he was not native to Iowa, he was well-known for his military success and had lived within Iowa for most of his life. He also served as a US Congressman representing the state later in life.
There were numerous National Guard units located at Camp Dodge. It was home to the National Maintenance Training Center, emergency operations center for Iowa, MEPS installation, State Police Academy and Joint Forces Headquarters. It is also the home of the Iowa Gold Star Military Museum, which has exhibited many photographs and memorabilia from the early days of Camp Dodge.
By the end of World War II, Camp Dodge spanned over 6,400 acres and provided military training for draftees and volunteers from Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.
Camp Dodge has always remained open throughout the 1900s providing training for the State Police and Iowa National Guard. With the 1990s, new construction built the US Army National Maintenance Training Center and a $16 million State Area Command (STARC) Armory complex. Facilities were also built for direct support maintenance and company training in addition to a physical fitness center, 640-soldier battalion support complex, armory, regional equipment paint facility and post exchange.
The 185th Regiment is located at Camp Dodge. The camp also has the Regional Training Institute. Training is provided for officer candidates here. The 2nd Brigade Combat team and 34th Infantry Division is also located at Camp Dodge.
The Iowa Counterdrug Task Force has equipment, facilities and employees at Camp Dodge that help local law enforcement as part of a National Guard counterdrug program. The Midwest Counterdrug Training Center also provides the best training to fight against drug trafficking and substance abuse in the US. The training center is located at Camp Dodge, but they also operate a mobile team available on request for the local authorities.
Various historical artifacts, memorabilia and other materials can be found at the Gold Star Museum located at Camp Dodge. The museum’s mission to honor the military experience of Iowa citizens dating back to late 1800s and start of World War I. The museum collects all kinds of materials that tell the story of the Iowa National Guard and military presence in the past and present.
Multiple events are hosted through the Gold Star Museum like veteran memorials, parades, festivals and exhibitions. Veterans receive a lot of support from the museum, which seeks out to provide information on all veterans from Iowa. The Veteran’s Day Parade celebrates Iowa veterans and all those who have fought for the US in the past.
The name for the museum comes from President Woodrow Wilson. In 1918 as World War I raged on, Wilson suggested that the Women’s Committee of National Defenses recommend to American women that they were a black band with a gold star on the upper left arm. The stars represented family members who had given their lives to protect their country. This led to the formation of a group known as the “American Gold Star Mothers, Inc., which became a non-profit incorporated organization in 1929. The tradition continued, and in 1984, the Gold Star Mothers received a Federal Charter. The last Sunday of September is also recognized as Gold Star Mothers Day. It was with this in mind that the Gold Star Museum was constructed and continues to provide the history of the US military In Iowa.
The museum has several services including a research center and group tours. The museum offers tours and is open daily from Monday to Saturday. The museum also has free admission.