The area located next to Lakewood’s Tillicum neighborhood has a military history that predates its largest sibling, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, by an entire generation. Camp Murray was in use during the Indian War of 1855 as a spot for military training associated with Fort Steilacoom.
The location was officially commissioned as a National Guard Base in 1889, beating out Fort Lewis by a generation. Camp Murray became the National Guard's state headquarters in 1922.
During its storied history, guardsmen assigned to the camp have seen a wide range of missions. They include disaster relief efforts, the Mexican Border campaign against Poncho Via, both World Wars, the Korean War, the Berlin crisis, the Vietnam War, the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980 and most recently the war on terror in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The Old Arsenal Museum at Camp Murray tells the story of the Washington National Guard gate entrance where you can see a collection of vehicles, from a M-47 tank to an F-101 jet fighter. The distance between the tank and the jet, approximately 134 feet, represents the number of years between the camp's use by the U.S. military in 1855 and Washington's Centennial in 1989. Other distances represent the number of guardsmen mobilized, injured or killed in various campaigns around the globe.
The Washington Military Department's is also home to the Emergency Operations Center, the state’s headquarters for emergency responses.
Camp Murray has been in the news recently, not about the mission of its guardsmen, but by plans to relocate its main gate. The Tillicum community has protested the gate relocation, sparking controversy.
(Click for Patch coverage of the gate relocation.)
The Washington Military Department wants to reroute traffic around its front gate. over fears of safety and increased traffic through the neighborhood. Camp Murray has been asked to resubmit a right-of-way permit application.
The city and Camp Murray officials are now working on ways to move forward with whatever plans spin out of the application process.