After years of training in poor conditions at Pole Mountain, the Wyoming National Guard decided to establish a temporary training camp at Guernsey and in June of 1938, accommodated its first of 80 “summer camps” at what is now an internationally known military training facility.
The Pole Mountain Camp, between Laramie and Cheyenne, was established in 1924 as a temporary National Guard camp, but the War Department would not fund the state for permanent improvements as it was deemed unsuitable for year-round and mobilization training.
Armed with the federal regulations and a desire to train his troops in proper conditions, Wyoming Adjutant General, Col. Rhodolph L. Esmay began lobbying the state government in 1931 to find a suitable location.
Seven years later, and a year prior to construction of any permanent buildings, a deal was worked out to surrender the Pole Mountain property in exchange for about 120 acres of state-owned land at Guernsey.
The site was attractive for its lower and warmer altitude, hilly terrain, abundant water supply, ample building materials, large areas of adjacent state-owned land and its proximity to a major railroad line. The Guard leased the area for the first camp, but already had its sights set on building it into a permanent post.
Esmay reported in April 1938, that an appropriations bill, sponsored by the War Department, was before Congress asking for $500,000 to begin construction of permanent facilities at the camp.
Meanwhile, Guard troops, under the supervision of Maj. C.G. Carroll, Quartermaster Corps and United States Property and Disbursing Officer, started building temporary facilities in preparation for the June encampment, and, as reported in the May 27 Guernsey Gazette, “had reached a point they could see over the hump. The electric light line is completed and the water system is finished.”
Long before operations security became a mantra for the military, troop movements and training schedules were available for all to see in the June 10 Gazette. “Cavalry horses will arrive today. Already some of the troop horses are here and the remainder will be on the picket line tonight. Tomorrow troops will arrive from various parts of the state. The first train will arrive Saturday morning at 8 o’clock; another at 1:50 P.M. another at 3:30 and another at 4:45.”
Some reports claimed there were upwards of 7,000 troops from other states and active units that joined the 620 Wyoming National Guard troops for mock battles during the two-week training period.
Under the command of Wyoming Gov. Leslie A. Miller, and Esmay, 31 soldiers comprised the state staff and state detachment. The staff, commanded by Carroll, included a medical officer, cavalry commanders from Laramie, Sheridan, Douglas, and Cheyenne, and a judge advocate general from Lovell. Five sergeants, four corporals and 13 privates made up the enlisted corps.
The 24th Cavalry Division and 58th Cavalry Brigade rounded out the staff with four officers, led by Col. Burke Sinclair, of Laramie.
Esmay commanded the 115th Cavalry, which was broken up into three squadrons. Troop A, from Lovell, and Troop B, from Sheridan, made up the 1st Squadron. The second included Troop E, from Torrington, and Troop F, from Laramie. The third was Troop I, from Lander. Most of the troops were led by two or three commissioned officers, and a dozen or so noncommissioned officers. The troops were rounded out with an average of 40 privates.
The troops arrived on camp June 11, and bivouacked in the area between the North Platte River and what is now the main cantonment where the Simulation Center and motor pools are today.
“The Cavalry is Camped at Guernsey,” read the headline in that week’s Gazette.
“For the first time in nearly half a century, cavalry troops are again silhouetted against the skyline on the hills near Old Fort Laramie,” the writer reported. “Riding the trails and traversing the terrain where so many years ago the cavalry carved its way while the nearby hills resounded to the warring beat of tom-toms.”
Editor’s note: Thanks to the Guernsey Gazette, Wyoming State Museum, University of Wyoming and Wikipedia for the use of materials used in this story. To retain the prevailing journalistic style, quotes used from the Guernsey Gazette are kept intact, however non-compliant they may be with Associated Press style.