Camp Mission in Transition

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Gov. Haley Barbour says it was hard work by the Mississippi National Guard and not political arm-twisting that landed Camp Shelby a designation as a Department of Defense mobilization center for troops heading to Iraq and other points.

About 6,500 troops from Tennessee and New York will report to Camp Shelby over five months, beginning with several hundred in May, for training, classification and deployment.

"Camp Shelby also has the potential to do big things for Mississippi's economy, while at the same time serving our national security and serving the cause of the War on Terror," Barbour said.

About 17,000 National Guard and reserve troops normally train at Camp Shelby each year, and many of these units will now shift to other facilities, including the Guard's Camp McCain near Grenada.

Barbour described the state's military training camps as the “economic jewels” of Mississippi because they generated jobs and revenue for nearby towns.

Brigadier General James "Ike'' Pylant says a spinoff for Fort McCain will be a dramatically larger training force. He said 600 to 900 trainers will relocate to the Grenada area to help with the increased workload.

Camp Shelby is scheduled to complete a $24 million range complex next month where tanks and helicopters can test artillery.

Pylant said the 1st Army contacted him in January about making Camp Shelby a mobilization center. He says Camp Roberts in California had also been in the running for the designation.

Camp Shelby opened in 1917 and was named for Isaac Shelby, the first governor of Kentucky, by the 38th Division.

The camp was closed after World War I and was reactivated in 1940.