Located in Bastrop County, Texas just east of Austin, Camp Swift has a population of 6,282 and spans about 12 square miles. The camp has consistently been used by the military, but it is currently still in use by the National Guard as a storage and training facility. Camp Swift has a long military history that is tied to the development and beginnings of Bastrop. Before the US joined World War II, the government decided that Camp Swift’s location would be one of 14 sites chosen for new military camps. Even though Lyndon B. Johnson stated there were a lack of funds to build all of the new camps, the bombing of Pearl Harbor created a need for new training sites like Camp Swift. The 52,000 acres located east of Austin were purchased and allocated to the construction of the new Texas military camp.
Construction began for Camp Swift in 1941. Out of flat lowlands and hilly uplands, a camp came together that would house 90,000 troops at one point. In 1942, the camp opened its doors with 2,750 buildings and accommodations for only 44,000 troops. It would become a major combat infantry training camp for World War II troops. It was named after General Eben Swift. He had led troops in World War I as a commander, and later he became a recognized author of several military books.
Training activities at Camp Swift included tank maneuvers, weapons firing, personnel and cargo air drops, small arms firing, combat engineering skills, infantry skills, helicopter operations and other types of training environments for the field.
The Army helped to construct all of the buildings at Camp Swift including warehouses, training facilities, recreational facilities, artillery ranges, barracks, gas stations, storage tanks and more.
The camp reached 90,000 troops during World War II. The 95th, 97th and 102nd Infantry Divisions; 10th Mountain Division; the 5th Headquarters; and the 116th and 120th Tank Destroyer battalions were all stationed at Camp Swift during the second World War. In doing so, it became the largest transshipment and US Army training camp in Texas. Eventually it would also house over 3,500 German prisoners of war.
Like so many other military sites after World War II, Camp Swift was returned to the former owners of the land. In 1945, soldiers were shipped back home, and Camp Swift was declared a military excess site. However, the government still owned 11,700 acres to use as a military reserve. Today, this land houses parts of the Texas National Guard, University of Cancer Research Center and a federal prison. In the 1970s, Camp Swift also became the site for environmental-impact studies and new development plans to mine multiple lignite deposits that were lying beneath the camp’s foundation.
In 2007, Camp Swift became the home of the 136th Combat Arms Training Regiment and Texas National Guard Training Center of Excellence. The camp continues to be an economic and community support force for Bastrop contributing $5,000,000 each year to the local economy.
All service men and women must go through training at Camp Swift. There are multiple educational facilities as well including classrooms for advanced courses. There is a gas chamber for training, drop zone for airborne units, pistol and rifle ranges, helicopter landing sites and navigation testing zones. There are also multiple facilities on site for equipment and weapons storage.
Camp Swift received the historically significant designation on October 29th, 1996 from the Texas Historical Commission. The camp now covers only about one-fifth of the acres that it had during World War II.
Born in 1854, Eben Swift was the son of an Army surgeon who had great military aspirations. He graduated from the US Military Academy in 1876 and quickly pursued officer rank through the 14th US Infantry and 5th US Cavalry. He would become a Regimental Adjutant in 1878 and Captain in 1893. He commanded the 2nd Cavalry in an expedition into Mexico in 1916. He organized and led the 82nd Division in World War I and was also the chief of the American Military Mission. He commanded the US forces in Italy until he retired in 1918, upon which he held the title of Major General Eben Swift.
In addition to his military leadership, he was also responsible for relief work in Puerto Rico after a hurricane swept the island killing 2,600 people.
After his military service, he went on to become an author of several military books. For his dedication to the military, Camp Swift was named in his legacy.
Camp Swift has also been involved in the Formerly Used Defense Sites program. Camp Swift was selected to be cleaned up through the FUDS program. Work was completed to clean and store part of the site in 1995. Camp Swift resides mainly in the Oak Woods part of Bastrop County and includes some of the prairies in the natural surrounding areas. The goal for the restoration of these lands is to return the area to its original state and restore some of the native plant species that have died off here. New field training exercises are reviewed to assess the potential environment impacts for the surrounding areas. This means that the camp can complete training missions while minimizing the damage to local natural resources.
Additional barracks were added to Camp Swift in 2007. The barracks took up 4,368 square feet to create modular barracks facilities at the camp. To reach billeting and housing for Camp Swift, you can contact 512-321-2497.
There are also several nearby places to stay off-base as there isn’t any visitor lodging available on base. Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn, Days Inn and Best Western are just a few of the hotels found a few miles away from the camp.