After its formation in August 1942, the 101st Airborne Division’s commander promised it would “rendezvous with destiny.” Through the following years, the Army’s sole air assault division fulfilled that prophecy over and over. As World War II raged in December 1942, the 101st led the way in the D-Day night drop prior to the Normandy invasion. The unit furthered its reputation in as many as 15 campaigns during seven years of combat in Vietnam. Today, the famous 101st continues its service in Iraq.
To support the division’s proud mission, the Army issued a challenge: Design a headquarters facility befitting the elite unit. They envisioned a building that would effectively project the division’s heritage and image to the high-level military, the thousands of annual public visitors from around the world, and the division’s soldiers and their families.
In light of the current geopolitical climate, any new facility built by the U.S. Department of Defense must meet extremely high security standards. To protect personnel safety and structural integrity, the design must meet or exceed new anti-terrorism force protection regulations (Unified Facilities Criteria [UFC] 4-010-01: DoD Minimum Anti-Terrorism Standards for Buildings). Site-specific ways of adhering to these regulations are based on a thorough, individual threat analysis by the Army’s Physical Security section, which then prescribes basic design parameters.
The final headquarters design has gone above and beyond the Army’s challenge. A sleek, one-of-a-kind structure, it will not only provide the strictest security measures, but also obscure them, using aesthetically pleasing architecture and idyllic landscaping. The V-shaped, two-level natural brick structure, built in the shape of airplane wings with an outdoor courtyard between them, avoids the stark, prison-like look some expect from a high-security military facility. Prominently placed on a grassy knoll near the main entrance to Fort Campbell, KY, the building will now house the 101st’s entire command group, whose staff members had previously been scattered throughout the base. During major incidents such as natural disasters, the facility will also serve as a regional Emergency Operations Center.
At Airborne headquarters, perimeter security encompasses two primary components: site perimeter and building perimeter. That this command center sits within Fort Campbell’s secure perimeter satisfies some, but not all, security requirements at the outset. For example, all incoming vehicles are searched at the main gate, lessening the chance of a large vehicular bomb. However, other security measures remain site-specific. Many inventive techniques unobtrusively mask the facility’s tight security features. These include setbacks, hidden bollards, drainage layout, natural barriers, and even well-placed landscaping.
Curving, concrete and natural brick walkways invite meandering throughout the grounds, which are lined with rows of manicured hedges, a throw-back to the Division’s Normandy days. Ornamental grasses, flowering trees and perennial flowers add interest in spring and fall. A three-dimensional, five-pointed star, the Army’s symbol, rises from the pavement’s surface to enhance the outdoor courtyard. Off-building terraces offer semi-secluded views into the courtyard, encouraging private reflection.
The grounds also feature a sloping, expansive lawn, an eagle statue and fountain, and other historical statues, Airborne memorials and memorabilia. Combined with contemplative areas and benches, the grounds are designed for visitors to learn about history and enjoy the outdoors.
The bucolic setting, however, belies the careful adherence to the Army Corps of Engineers’ stringent perimeter security standards. Mandatory setbacks, for instance, provide the cornerstone protective measure for this building. DoD guidelines indicate that a setback distance be provided from public roadways and parking areas to sufficiently restrict vehicular access to its buildings, thereby minimizing damage from a car or truck bomb.