Camp Blanding is located in Clay County which is in the north central part of Florida. The nearest city, Starke, is eight miles away. Thirty six miles to the southeast is the urban area of Jacksonville, Florida. The camp is combined use facility for training for both the Florida National Guard and the Florida Army National Guard. It also is used for the Florida Air National Guard for maneuvers and training that does not require flying. Several weather squadrons use Camp Blanding for their readiness training as well as the regular Army and Air Force civil support team. The camp serves as the main training site for most of the Florida National Guard’s military units and the combat brigade and Special Forces. Several Florida law enforcement groups also use Camp Blanding as a training center. Jacksonville University and the University of South Florida NROTC groups train at the camp for one week each year.
To accommodate all the arms training, Camp Blanding has several live fire ranges for practice on all types of weapons including exploding mortars. There are multiple small arm ranges so soldiers can earn certification on handguns. There is one crew combat range and four different ranges that will accommodate entire platoons in situations where they practice combat scenarios. The camp also has three major maneuver areas for simulating other types of combat situations. A bridge, a tunnel and several buildings have been built to so soldiers can experience fighting in a small city. The southern end of the camp has built a suitable target for training bombing and strafing and is used by the Air Force, Marine Corps and the Navy.
Camp Blanding has had an interesting history. It was originally designated as a Naval Air Station in the later part of the 1930’s because it is located on Lake Kingsley. The site the Navy really wanted was on the St. James River in Jacksonville, but the land was already designated for the Florida National Guard use. The two forces engaged in talks and a land-swap was arranged. At that time the National Guard Officers Association of Florida recommended the camp be named in honor of Lieutenant General Albert H. Blanding. Blanding was a Florida native who commanded the 2nd Florida Brigade during the Mexican Border War in 1916-17.
In 1940 the regular Army leased Camp Blanding as a training center. It became an induction center for soldiers, an infantry replacement training center and for a period of time, it was also a German prisoner of war detainee camp that held 2000 Germans. During World War II Camp Blanding had grown so much it was equal in size to the fourth largest city in Florida and was one of the largest training centers in the United States. After the war, the camp downsized and land was given back to Florida for use as a guard training site. From the end of the war until 1970 when efforts to upgrade the post began, there was little use made of Camp Blanding. In 1981 the Department of Defense designated the camp as a class A military installation and Camp Blanding has been building and growing ever since.
Camp Blanding can accommodate 3000 military members at one time. The nature of the camp is for temporary training facilities so accommodations consist of tents and barracks type buildings. A chow hall feeds the troops and Post Exchange services are done online. It is a true field experience.
Surrounding the training camp are urban areas of Jacksonville, Florida which has a municipal area population of over one million people. Starke is eight miles away with a population of 5700. There is ample available housing in both of these cities, along with all urban amenities.