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Fort Gillem turns 62

By Ed Brock

With sweat and cake they celebrated the 62nd "birthday" of U.S. Army Garrison Fort Gillem in Forest Park.

"They" included Lt. Gen. Joseph Inge, commander of the 1st Army that is stationed at the fort, and Col. Angela M. Manos, commander of both Fort Gillem and its parent facility, Fort McPherson in Atlanta. Joining them were around 200 soldiers and civilians who came either to participate in the annual 5K Gillem Gallup or simply to cheer on the runners.

After the run Inge and Manos scooped up the two youngest "runners" in the Gallup, infant twins Myla and Jacquelyne Reardon (they spent the race being pushed in a stroller by father Myles Reardon) to cut a birthday cake for the fort.

Activated in November 1941 as the Atlanta General Depot, 1,500-acre Fort Gillem opened its doors months before America's entry in World War II. It housed the chemical, engineer, medical, quartermaster and signal supply sections of the Army Material Command and supplied troops overseas. An Ordnance Automotive School also operated at the fort during the war and several hundred soldiers were stationed there to protect the fort from saboteurs.

During the 1950s the Morris Army Airfield was built at the fort and in 1962 it was renamed the Atlanta Army Depot and put under the command of the U.S. Army Supply and Maintenance Command. It was made a sub-installation of Fort McPherson in 1974 and re-named again in memory of Lt. Gen. Alvan C. Gillem, Jr.

Today Fort Gillem is one of the largest employers in Clayton County, housing 83 organizations along with the 1st Army such as the Army and Air Force Exchange Service Atlanta Distribution Center, the Atlanta Military Entrance Processing Station, the Army's only Criminal Investigation Laboratory and the Georgia Army Guard Headquarters.

For the second year in a row Maj. Fred Eaton, an assistant professor to military science at the Georgia Military College in Milledgeville, won the 5K race with a time of 18 minutes 50 seconds. But it wasn't the same this year without his favorite competitor, Maj. Bob Dalton, to push him to succeed, Eaton said. Plus some physical kinks held him back.

"But overall it was a great day, nice weather and good turn out," Eaton said.

Dalton was out with an injury but in October both men also ran in the 19th Annual Army 10-mile Run in Washington D.C. where Eaton's group took first place in the All Comers Division.

"They gave us the Big Eagle, a nice trophy," Eaton said.

Maj. Wes Whitaker took second place this year, finishing the course in 19 minutes and 10 seconds. Whitaker ran last year also and was inspired by Eaton.

"I was keying off him. I was a lot closer this year," Whitaker said.

Maj. Sue Bozgoz with U.S. Army Reserve Command finished the course in 20 minutes and 3 seconds to take first place in the women's division. Bozgoz had been trying to beat her personal best.

"It was a very difficult course," Bozgoz said. "You can't run a personal record because of all the hills."

Bozgoz also said the race was a good one.

A 1,600-person Army Reserve Center, a new Criminal Investigations Laboratory and a new headquarters for the Army 52nd Ordnance Group are under construction at the base.